In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness month, Haywood Community College’s Adult Education Department is celebrating GED Instructor, Ernest Lee, for his nomination to represent Haywood County as an example of outstanding determination and success for his work with Haywood Vocational Opportunities (HVO).    

As part of the Employment First Initiative in North Carolina, a series of employment success stories have been collected from across the state to promote the idea that people with disabilities can and do work—and also contribute a great deal to their chosen vocations and employers. 

After working for more than 20 years at the local paper mill, Lee was forced to give up his hard-earned career after a severe car accident. The accident left him with a lifelong disabling condition with in turn led to a battle with depression and low self-esteem.

Lee sought the services of the NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation who referred him to Haywood Vocational Opportunities. Through working with an Employment Specialists, he was able to improve work tolerance levels.

As a result, Lee became a valuable employee for HCC as a GED instructor. “I thoroughly enjoy my new job, and to be able to help students continue their education to become positive contributors to society and the community,” Lee explains.

Lee first began at HCC as a volunteer tutor. Over the years, he has demonstrated a high level of dedication to students, academic expertise in multiple subjects, and contributed significantly to fostering a supportive classroom environment. 

“Ernest continues to receive praise from his students as playing a key role in their success,” says Tina Masciarelli, HCC Adult Education Recruiter. “He is a man with exceptional grace, kindness, and dedication to education.”