Brad Easter

Almost three years ago to the day, I was sitting in the same spot on the couch that I’m sitting in now typing this essay. It is only by reflecting back on that painful night three years ago that I’m able to put into words my “success story” involving my NC Community College experience.

About eight days before Christmas in 2011, I was without a job. I left my job a couple of months before to pursue the degree that I was missing in order to move up in the Business world. Unfortunately, I backed out from signing up for the upcoming Spring semester. I had convinced myself that I was worthless and would not be able to go to school after being out for almost 20 years. I had just made a phone call to my mom and my aunt to let them know that I didn’t have money to buy my two girls gifts for Christmas that year. I also had to swallow my pride and sign up for public assistance for my family in order to put food on the table. I was not only monetarily broke, but I was broke in spirit as well. To sum it up, I was a shell of myself and a broken man. In my heart, I didn’t think I would ever recover. I can’t remember a Christmas season as painful as that one.

Over the first several months of 2012, I battled many demons from inside. I tried to keep myself intact for my family, but I was empty and hopeless on the inside. My family kept bringing my college aspirations up to me, but the voice inside my head was ready to quickly battle off any thoughts of pursuing it. This internal emotional and external financial battle went on for the first half of 2012.

At the first of May 2012, I found myself at home without my wife or kids. This was very rare. My wife was going to be gone for the day with the kids and I had the whole day to myself. I’m not sure why I did this, but I put on a polo shirt and a pair of jeans and rode over to Surry Community College. I had finally made the big step……….all the way to the parking lot that is!

After at least an hour of sitting in my car, I decided to walk into the Student Services area. I avoided making eye contact with anyone because I wouldn’t know what to say if they asked me a question. At the time, I was just trying to talk myself into staying in the building. As I watched all the young men and women walk in and out, I quickly felt out of place. I sat in a chair and started flipping through a catalog making my plans to escape.

There have been many experiences at Surry Community College that have changed my life, but it all started with what I’m getting ready to tell you. As I was making my plans to leave, I heard someone say, “What can I help you with today?” I looked up and Mr. Tony Searcy was standing over me. He invited me in his office and the only words I was able to mumble out was, “I want to go to school.” Within no time at all, Mr. Searcy had helped me register and sign up for the upcoming Summer semester with all online classes in order to fit my stay at home dad responsibilities.

I believe that we can only truly measure what success is to one person if we know the story of what they have gone through to get there. What I consider a success might not be the same as the next person. I told you the back story above for a reason. Dolly Parton once said, “Don’t judge the cover because I’m a pretty good book.” I believe this to be true of my Surry Community College success story.

Fast forward almost exactly three years—I’m sitting in that same spot on the couch writing a letter for consideration for a North Carolina Community College Academic Award. I am the Vice-President of Phi Theta Kappa and the President for the National Society of Leadership and Success. I have made the President’s List for every semester during my time at SCC. I was selected to be part of the Student Leadership Development Program in Raleigh this past summer and will graduate from the program this March. I am also working now because of Surry Community College! I’m a part-time computer instructor in the Continuing Education department. I’m also working on a Monthly Leadership Luncheon for 2015 in which we will bring leaders in our area to the school for motivational/leadership training during lunch once a month. I’m also just five courses away from graduating this coming Spring with my Associate Degree in Business Administration. My kids have presents under the tree that my wife and I purchased and I’m able to hold and hug each one of them every day with the confidence that a dad should have. I also have gifts for my aunt and mom under the tree and it feels great!

I can’t think of a darker place to be than sitting in a hole without hope. Well, Surry Community College turned my life around. Sometimes we advance in life not because we believe in ourselves, but because others believe in us. When I wasn’t strong enough to believe in myself, people at SCC believed in me. I don’t put myself up on a pedestal for any of these accomplishments. It is actually quite the opposite. I am humbled by everything I have accomplished and been recognized for. I have found a strong passion for teaching others inside of me through my journey at SCC. It would be an honor to hold this prestigious Award and pass on the message of hope that North Carolina Community Colleges can offer anyone who is willing to just “walk in the door”.