PHONE: 627-4521

DATE: 08-24-04



When Amber Hyman, 2004 Haywood Community College nursing graduate, was asked what she thought about her middle-aged grandmother getting a degree at HCC, she said, "I am proud of her. It must have been hard for her to come back to school. It changed her life."

But it didn’t just change her grandmother’s life; HCC has changed three generations of lives in Amber’s family.

Amber’s grandmother, Juanita Ferguson, was the first woman in the family that trusted her education and future to HCC. Next came Amber’s mother, Melanie Gibson. And now a few years later, Amber is feeling the positive effects HCC has made on her own life.

Juanita decided in her mid-40s to concentrate on her own future. Both of her daughters were on their own and it was time to think of herself and her future. Juanita wanted to increase her skills and employment options, as well as to gain much-needed technology skills.

"I decided I wanted a job where profit and loss was not the bottom line," Juanita explains. "I wanted to make a positive impact on people’s lives."

After many years away from the classroom, Juanita enrolled in the Administrative Office Technology Program at HCC. At first, Juanita says she felt very intimidated. "I felt the pressure to do well because I was in classes with students that graduated with my daughters. I was finally able to relax after receiving my first test score of 110 after studying seven hours." After that, Juanita found she enjoyed learning and she never made below a "B" while at HCC.

In 1992, Juanita graduated and her part-time job at HCC became full-time. For over ten years, Juanita has worked in Student Services and has never once regretted her decision to come to HCC.

Juanita’s daughter, Melanie Gibson, feels exactly the same. Melanie had moved around with military ties and had attended many universities across the United States. When Melanie settled in Haywood County, she enrolled in the HCC nursing program.

"I learned more in one year at HCC than I did at all the other colleges I attended," Melanie says. "HCC is a higher quality school than other four-year schools. The HCC nursing program is very intense but the instructors care about the individual students and are determined for them to succeed. The instructors are more patient and career focused."

And Melanie felt success as soon as she graduated from the program in 1997. She immediately got a job at Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva, NC. Melanie is a nurse in women’s surgical and pediatrics.

"For nursing students, HCC is the best return on an educational investment," Melanie explains. "I paid for my degree within three months of employment."

That is why Melanie encouraged her daughter, Amber, to follow in her footsteps. Amber graduated from the nursing program at HCC in May. Recently, she passed the state board exams and is now a registered nurse.

Amber decided what she wanted to do in high school. She dropped off the varsity cheerleading squad to take certified nursing assistant classes through HCC’s continuing education program.

"The HCC nursing program is tough to get into, so I knew taking the classes would improve my chances," Amber said. "I knew I wanted to go to school close to home and I knew from my mom what a great nursing program HCC offered."

Amber works full-time at Harris Regional Hospital in the women’s surgical and pediatrics. Through the hospital, Amber received a scholarship to pay for her to go to HCC and was guaranteed a full-time job upon graduation.

"I would recommend the nursing program at HCC to anyone," Amber says. "The staff was fabulous and the support available was wonderful. I feel like I knew more when I finished the program than people I work with that had gone through a four year program."

Now it’s Juanita’s turn to be proud. HCC is still changing lives all around her.