(Franklin, VA) – “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” LaRhonda Wynne is all too familiar with the meaning of these wise words from author and lecturer Ralph Waldo Emerson. That is because the 2008 magna cum laude graduate of Paul D. Camp Community College refuses to let circumstances define her.
According to the Suffolk resident and first-generation college student, she hailed from a very diverse socioeconomic background without a strong support system in place. As the eldest of five children, she found herself taking on the roles of caretaker, provider and nurturer for her siblings.
“I dropped out of high school because of the life I was surrounded by and found myself pregnant at a young age,” she said.
Facing the realities of even the basic requirements that come along with raising another human being prompted her to look a little farther into her and her family’s future.
“I wanted more. I wanted change. I wanted to break cycles,” she said. “So, I went back to school and earned my GED in 1992.”
As a non-traditional student, Wynne knew that she was capable of achieving higher goals, but wasn’t sure how she was going to add “college student” to her roles as wife, mother of four and full-time retail worker.
“It was a struggle at times trying to juggle work, family and school,” she said. “It was difficult in the beginning to find a balance. One day, everything just fell into place.”
She discovered that she was mounding more pressure on herself to succeed, but was not alone in the pursuit of her goals. There was an entire network of support at PDCCC to help.
“I needed an institution that would allow me to attain the credentials that I desired, while giving me the flexibility to reach them,” she said. “The instructors were engaging, encouraging and empathetic to the students.”
A Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society student at PDCCC, she graduated with an associate’s degree in management-general business, an associate’s degree in management-hardware and software support, and with three career studies certificates in Bookkeeping, Computer Support Specialist and Supervision.
“When I began community college, I just wanted to finish and say, ‘I did it,’” she recalled. “I did not realize until a little later that attending PDCCC changed that. Once I saw that I could balance life, school and work, I wanted to go further.”
Wynne attained a Bachelor of Science degree in occupational and technical studies from Old Dominion University in 2011 and earned a Master of Education degree through an individualized degree program (career switchers) from Regent University in 2014.
Wynne has since come full circle at Paul D. Camp, as she was recently hired as the Tutor Coordinator for the Trio Student Support Services program at the college. She serves as an instructor for GED classes for the College and Career Academy at Pruden, currently part of the Suffolk City Public School system, and says that she recommends PDCCC to her GED students. She also has a daughter who is currently enrolled at the college.
“My desire to help students achieve their academic goals is derived from individuals willing to help me with my academic success years ago,” she said. “I became a true example of what education can do for an individual and what doors that it can open. I want students to know that I was once where they are and I have made it.”
Her advice for students just starting out in college is threefold — Don’t fret. Don’t quit. Stay focused. “The main thing is to believe that you can do it,” she emphasized.
PHOTO CUTLINE: (Submitted)
LaRhonda Wynne came full circle at Paul D. Camp after graduating from the community college in 2008 and recently becoming employed as tutor coordinator for Student Support Services at her alma mater.