Donna Forga, Haywood Community College’s Outstanding Alumni Award recipient for 2015, says being a District Court Judge is the best way to help other people be heard. “God has given me a chance to take everything I have gone through and use the experience to think about how best to help kids in divorce situations,” she explains.

While a student at HCC, Forga went through a divorce. “There was something compelling about the judge listening to me when I was in court that day.” It made such an impact on Forga that she made it her goal to become a judge so she could in turn make a difference to people.

Forga finished the Business Administration program at HCC in 1991 as the first in her family to get a college degree. She continued her education at UNCA where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Literature and Language. In 2000, she finished law school at Chapel Hill.

Forga was first elected as District Court Judge in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014. She is one of six rotating judges for seven counties including: Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain.

Before coming to HCC, Forga had a job in a sewing plant. She got laid off and decided to come to school through a retraining program. When the sewing plant called her back to work, she left HCC and returned to the plant. She was once again laid off. “I kept a stack of not-going-to-hire-you letters and knew to have a good paying job, I would have to return to school,” she explains. “HCC was the first step. Every journey starts with a first step. Mine was HCC.”

Forga says that HCC taught her that she could succeed and overcome obstacles. “Without coming to HCC first, I would not have continued my education to become a lawyer then a judge. HCC showed me I could make the grades and balance being a parent while going to school. There were a lot of people going to HCC that were in my shoes. They were struggling too.”

One thing Forga liked about being a student at HCC was the way instructors made learning personal and interesting. “The instructors were able to draw connections to your life during the time you was a student and for down the road.”

Forga and her family have played a big part in the Haywood County community. Both she and her father served on HCC’s Board of Trustees.

Forga enjoys quilting, canning, and spending time with her grandchildren.