Photos by Carol Spags Photography. HCC’s College Career and College Readiness Program provides graduates with a fresh start. Pictured is recent graduate Makayla Putnam.

Troy Koch, pictured right with HCC President Dr. Barbara Parker, found the traditional high school setting was not a good fit for him. Determined to become a Marine, he knew he had to finish high school. Completing the Adult High School program at HCC, he is all set to enter the military.

Makayla Putnam has seen many things in her life including the inside of every high school in Haywood County, the view from the back seat of a cop’s car, her best friend dying, and what she looks like in orange, jail-issued jump suits. Recently, she took in the view that she has dreamed of as a child. This view was walking across a graduation stage with friends and family watching.

Putnam was recognized at Haywood Community College’s Career and College Readiness graduation ceremony where she earned a high school equivalency diploma. In addition, she was a speaker at the event where she shared her story not only to encourage others to get an education, but also as a tribute to her stepmom who is battling a brain tumor. “As a result of cancer,” Putnam explains, “my stepmom cannot see well. She could not see me walk across the stage, but when I gave my speech, she heard every word I said.”

Putnam’s stepmom is a big reason she decided to get sober and pursue her dreams. She grew up as an abused child, in and out of many foster homes. She turned to drugs and was kicked out of every high school in the county. “Wherever I went, the reports went with me,” she explains. “I never got a fresh start so in eleventh grade, I quit school.”

Putnam traded the classroom for jail cells. While incarcerated, she realized she was alone. “No one wanted me. One of the lowest times for me had to be when I overdosed and was found by sheriff deputies lying on the side of the road with a heartbeat of 15 per minute. “

What finally caused Putnam to turn her life around was the diagnosis of her stepmom. She got a fresh start at HCC.

“I found out that the staff at HCC was interested in me as a person,” Putnam says. “I met so many good people who encouraged me.”

In August, Putnam will start curriculum classes at HCC where she will take college transfer classes to eventually transfer to Western Carolina University. She will pursue a degree in forensic science.

According to Putnam, “I’m glad I’m here. Everything’s perfect right now. I hope hearing my story about how I was able to get an education at HCC may help others. I hope they can get a fresh start too.”

Day, evening, and online classes are available through the College and Career Readiness department. Anyone interested in obtaining a High School Equivalency Diploma may choose from two convenient options: the traditional classroom setting or online classes. The department also offers an Adult High School program for students who are age 16 and older. The Adult High School classes are taught on the main campus, Monday through Friday. Students may also choose to complete the diploma online.

For additional information about obtaining a High School Equivalency Diploma or HCC’s Adult High School or Career College Program, please call 627-4700 or visit