PHONE: 627-4521

DATE: 8-20-04


Starting Over Leads to Academic Success and a Sense of Community Service for

HCC Graduate

By Christy McCarley

Jay Moose was at an all-time low. Unemployed after twenty years in the work force, his future was uncertain. He’d lost his job in the furniture industry. Personal problems, including partial blindness, were holding him back. He had never graduated from high school. At his age, what was the point in going back to school? Wasn’t it too late to start over?

Many people in his shoes would have shrugged their shoulders and let life pass on by. But not this 30s-something student. It’s been two years since he turned his life around, and now he’s too busy devoting his time to worthy causes to dwell on his own unhappy past. Instead of giving up, he just decided to give all.

"I’ve never been happier," says the recent HCC graduate best known on campus for dual roles as the student in charge of the campus recycling program and also as the vice-president of the Student Government Association. While in school, he earned a reputation as a campus leader and community volunteer who made himself accessible to anyone who needed him, earning SGA’s "Student of the Year" honor this year.

Completing his associate degree in forest management technology last May, Moose achieved a remarkable record of local volunteer service for someone so new to the community. He moved to the mountains only two years ago from Taylorsville. A high school dropout, he had been an upholsterer at Broyhill Furniture for thirteen years until he lost his job. He worked for a time as a landscaper and attended general education classes at Catawba Valley Community College but found he needed more focus and direction in his life. After researching colleges, he settled on HCC as the best choice for someone seeking vocational education that could lead to a new job. He wanted to work in the outdoors. "I needed a new beginning," he admits. "I knew as soon as I drove on campus and saw the millhouse, trees and the pond that this was where I should be," he said.

Vocational rehabilitation assistance helped pay his tuition. Moose qualified because of blindness in one eye. The funds made it possible for him to concentrate on his studies without undue financial woes. HCC was a good fit. He learned, for the first time, that he could succeed in academics.

The college also offered opportunities for an active and involved student like Moose to develop leadership abilities. His service in the community as a volunteer is known far and wide. He used his horticulture skills to design a fresh vegetable garden for the Open Door Kitchen, which serves meals to homeless. He organized the campus recycling program and promoted it with enthusiasm. The receptacles for aluminum, glass and plastic located around campus were donated by firms that he contacted. He joined fellow student Robert Edwards in cleanup efforts in the Richland Creek area and other waterways. Together they hauled away hundreds of trash bags filled with debris that littered and clogged lakes and streams. He takes part in the Big Sweep River Cleanup and Clean Streams Day each year and recruits dozens of volunteers to help with these efforts. Moose and Edwards also established a campus-wide volunteer group that actively supports environmental preservation efforts. Moose also volunteers in the Smokies as a spotter for wooly adelgid insect damage, reporting back to the park specialists who care for the infected hemlock trees he locates.

Last December he completed volunteer training at the Sugarlands Visitors Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There he learned the "leave no trace" method for preserving and protecting public lands. Today he is teaching this philosophy as an intern with the park service. His positive experience at HCC, coupled with his strong faith and natural inclination to lend a helping hand, have changed his life. "I asked God to pull me out of the ditch and the credit goes to Him," he said. "I’ve been very fortunate to be accepted here as a student, with classmates who are so much younger. Because of all I’ve received, I just need to give something back."