By: Melody Chandler

With recent knee surgeries, arthritis, hearing aid repairs, and the joys of retirement, Margie Gunter is adjusting to being 70 just like many of her peers, but Margie has added concerns that most of those in her peer group do not have.  

Gunter also has to worry about her math homework, the Pythagorean Theorem, and polynomial functions. For the last few years, Gunter has been focused on graduating with her high school diploma, a goal that the faculty and staff of Haywood Community College’s College & Career Readiness Department have been excited to help her accomplish. 

Due to a nerve damage birth defect, Gunter was born hearing impaired. Unfortunately, the nerve damage went undiagnosed until she was much older. In grade school, Gunter’s teachers mistakenly thought her inattentive and uncaring. With each passing year, Gunter became more and more discouraged. By high school, she decided to quit school and start working alongside her mother cleaning motel rooms. 

As a way to help her mother provide for her younger siblings, Gunter continued to work in housekeeping even after she was married and had moved into her own home. Though her mother and father both wanted her to get her education, it was only after her parents and husband passed away that Gunter decided to go back to school. 

Gunter enrolled in the College & Career Readiness program’s High School Equivalency (formerly GED) at HCC. She talks honestly about being overwhelmed with getting her education at this stage in her life. “Sometimes, I would want to stop coming to school, but my sister encouraged me to keep going.”  

Gunter also credits the teachers in the College & Career Readiness program for helping her.  “The teachers were all very excited about their work. Like Mrs. Lynn, she would get happy about what we were learning. That made me feel like it was even more interesting than I thought,” says Gunter. “Mrs. Carla went into more details and made samples of things for me. She helped me out a lot.”

Gunter especially related to Instructor James Robertson. “I’m so happy Mr. James Robertson came into my life. He was excited about the class, but he was most excited about us learning.” Through tears, Gunter says, “He helped me a lot. I didn’t know anything about integers or algebra before his class.” 

According to Gunter and other students, the College & Career Readiness instructors relate to their students and share their own personal education stories. Robertson’s story was especially meaningful to Gunter. “He had dropped out of school like me, and he went back like me. He got his GED; he got his college degree to be a teacher, and then he even got a PhD,” she smiles. 

Gunter was in the High School Equivalency Program, but later transferred to the Adult High School Program to gain her high school diploma. 

Gunter also credits the College & Career Readiness Lead Adult High School Instructor for helping her. “Mrs. Carroll helped me to read better and learn English, literature, and history,” she explains. “She kept telling me, ‘Read! Read! Read! And read more!’”  Gunter took Mrs. Carroll’s advice, and eventually her reading, hard work, and tenacity paid off.

Gunter is still shocked that she is a high school graduate, but she is most excited about her accomplishment because of what she knows it would mean to her parents. “Mama quit school in the sixth grade, and Daddy quit in 10th or 11th. They both wanted me to get my education,” said Gunter through tears. “Finishing high school has made me feel like I have accomplished something in my life. I have completed the goal that my Momma and Daddy started, and now I can look up to heaven and tell them that I finally made it.” 

To the students still in the program or those thinking of registering, Gunter says, “The biggest thing is to stick with it. I’m a slow learner, and I had to read and read and read. They will have a better education, a better job, and better themselves in life if they get their GED or high school diploma.” She adds, “And I met a lot of teachers and made a lot of friends.  I’m bettering myself in my mind. I can learn.” Through more tears she adds, “And I’d really like to say thanks to everyone for your help.” 

For more information about HCC’s Adult High School Diploma Program, High School Equivalency Program GED® or HiSET® test, please call 627-4700 or 627-4648.