Photos by Carol Spags Photography. In her thirties, Erica Reid turned to HCC for a high school equivalency and recently completed an associate degree in medical assisting.  Brody Mack finished HCC with two degrees, associate in engineering and associate in science. His next step is an electronic engineering degree at North Carolina State University where he will enter as a junior. Viorica Cojocari started her life over after moving to the United States from Moldova. She received a high school equivalency at HCC and completed requirements for an associate in arts degree. She will transfer to UNC-Asheville.  

Erica Reid, 2019 Haywood Community College medical assisting graduate, was born with a condition that affects one in a million. With more than 30 surgeries, she was continuously behind in school. After failing eighth grade and giving it a second try, she decided to drop out of school.

Living in Florida, Reid tried to get a GED twice. Both times, she was handed a packet and then was on her own to do the rest. With only a middle school education, she was unsure of how to proceed. Moving to North Carolina, Reid decided to try to get a high school education again.

At HCC, she found the staff that would push her forward to be able to succeed. “The people in the College & Career Readiness Department made me feel important,” Reid says. “They were there for me.”

Now in her thirties, Reid has a high school equivalency under her belt and recently added an associate degree at the College’s curriculum graduation ceremonies. “I always knew I wanted to work in the medical field,” she explains. “With my health issues, I can understand what patients are going through.”

For Brody Mack, he finished Pisgah High School two years ago and never planned to attend college. A family friend convinced him that he really needed to continue on.

Mack came to HCC with no plan but decided to get basic classes out of the way. Knowing in high school that engineering and math were his strong suits, he figured out along the way that he wants to become an engineer. The young man who didn’t plan to go to college walked away from HCC with two degrees, associate in engineering and associate in science. His next step is an electronic engineering degree at North Carolina State University where he will enter as a junior.

Unlike Mack, Viorica Cojocari was determined to go to college. From a young age, she has dreamed of walking across the graduation stage in a cap and gown. Recently, her dream came true as her husband and baby watched her receive an associate in arts degree at HCC.

For Cojocari, she started her life over after moving to the United States from Moldova. Even though she had two years of college completed before coming here, none of the credits transferred. She had to first complete a high school equivalency before starting college classes. Her journey at HCC began with obtaining these credits.

While it is not uncommon for HCC students to face obstacles while completing their classes, Cojocari had added stressors like being in a new country and learning a new language. Perhaps one of the greatest highlights of her year was becoming a U.S. citizen in March.

“In addition to school work, I had to study for the citizenship test,” she explains. “I got used to hearing people at school speak fast and it really helped me on the test.”

While Cojocari says that everyone has his or her own story to tell, hers is truly unique. When she found out her visa to the U.S. was approved, her father was battling his final days with cancer. “I had to decide whether to leave my dad and make the move or stay with him. My dad wanted me to follow my dreams. Soon after moving to the U.S. in 2014, I got married. Three days after that, my dad passed away.”

Throughout her time at HCC when things got tough, Cojocari would remember her fathers' wishes. Next step for her is starting a bachelor’s degree at UNC-Asheville to become an elementary school teacher.

“Every experience here is new to me and it will be new experiences for students in my class,” Cojocari explains. “I want to be a teacher because children see the right thing in everything. They see positive even when things are negative. They always speak the truth.”

Registration for fall semester is now open. For more information about registration, visit haywood.edu or email hcc-advising@haywood.edu.