Gaston College alumnus Gelena M. Royster returned to the College to earn additional credentials

Gelena M. Royster is a proud alumnus of Gaston College and is also a member of the Gaston College Class of 2020. In 2013, she earned her first associate of arts degree with a double major in Human Service Technology and At-Risk Youth. Upon graduation, she will have earned a Gerontology Certification and a Substance Abuse degree.

While at Gaston College, Royster’s academic achievements included membership on the AB Honor’s List and earning a Learn 4 Life award and a Gaston College Finish Line scholarship. She also served as the Health and Human Services Club Co-President and is an alumni member of the Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society, the Health and Human Services Club, the Student Government Association, and TRiO.

When Royster enrolled in Gaston College in 2011, she had been working in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system as a Senior Administrative Secretary in Student Behavior and Support. There she interacted with students who had various problems, such as drugs and truancy. She enjoyed building relationships with the students to earn their trust and help them improve their behavioral issues, and she expressed interest in moving into a higher position as a Behavior Modification Technician. Although having a bachelor’s degree is usually a requirement for that job, her supervisor felt that, with Royster’s 17 years of experience in the field, she could move up with an associate degree.

The Human Services program at Gaston College offered Royster the courses she needed, and she graduated in 2013 with the associate degree that qualified her for the new position she wanted. After getting the degree, she transferred to Gardner-Webb University where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services. The transfer of all the credits she had earned at Gaston College was made possible by the Discover 2+2 partnership program. “When I transferred to Gardner-Webb, I was completely prepared because of the associate degree program I had completed and the quality of teaching at Gaston College,” said Royster. “I received top notch, A-1 learning there.”

Royster had a two-fold reason for returning to Gaston College in 2019. “I wanted to attain an academic and clinical understanding of compassionate care and support not only for my aging mother in Minnesota,” she said, “but also for the almost forgotten matriarchs and patriarchs in our society. That prompted me to seek the Gerontology Certification. The degree in Substance Abuse will equip me with the same understanding of care and support for both the addicted and our troubled world of addiction.” Working alongside her husband, who is a Pastor, she also will apply her education and skills within her church and her community on the west side of Charlotte.

“Gelena is has a passion to help others, especially at-risk youth and families,” said Marlena Thomas, Program Coordinator and Instructor of Human Services Technology. “She has a bachelor’s degree from Gardner-Webb University but wanted to come back to Gaston College to obtain her Substance Abuse degree. She demonstrates excellent clinical skills in the classroom, and she is determined to learn and be the best helper possible.”

A move back to Minnesota is in the planning stage for Royster and her husband. With her degrees and over 20 years of experience, Royster will explore the possibilities of becoming a Dean of Behavioral Science at an area college when they relocate.

“I am proud to say I attended Gaston College and would recommend enrollment there to anyone that wants a good education and learning experience,” Royster said. “You’ll earn your degree and enjoy learning at the same time. Gaston College has some of the best instructors who care about their students. But most of all, they want you to succeed.”

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