Sharima Natasha Harmon overcame challenges to graduate with two degrees from Gaston College—and will return for additional studies
Positivity and determination have helped Sharima Natasha Harmon pursue her studies at Gaston College. At the end of the current school semester, she will graduate with Associate in General Education and Associate in Criminal Justice Forensics degrees.
Harmon is a full-time student carrying an overload of classes and is a single mother to a 10-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son. She was pregnant with her son when she enrolled in Gaston College in 2015, but because it was a high-risk pregnancy she eventually had to withdraw from her classes. To further complicate the situation, she was taking care of her 92-year-old great-grandmother at the same time.
In 2016, Harmon re-entered Gaston College with a continuing education class and she hoped to be accepted into the nursing program. Science class credits she had earned during previous college studies had either expired or were not transferable, but she had high hopes that eventually she would be able to get into the program. “I attempted to go back to school in summer 2017, but had to withdraw again due to childcare problems,” Harmon said. “I came to the conclusion that taking classes while my older child was attending school would probably be the best course of action. I had to refocus and come up with a master plan.”
Everything changed for the better for Harmon in fall 2018. She was back at Gaston College, and mid-way through the semester she learned about the TRiO program, which helps students meet their educational goals. “Ever since I have been focused and successful,” she said. “They told me about all the resources available to me and that is one of the reasons I have been completing all my goals.”
In addition to attending to her academic and personal responsibilities, Harmon works two part-time jobs. One of those jobs is as a PRN Tech with CaroMont Regional Medical Center. A PRN employee works when called, to fill in for an absent employee or to cover a special situation. Her other part-time job is as a work-study student with the Gaston College Financial Aid Office.
The staff at the Financial Aid Office first got to know Harmon when she would come in to submit documents and paperwork to apply for aid. They were impressed by her optimistic outlook and drive to get her education at Gaston College. They learned more about Harmon when she became their work-study student and they found that her positive attitude and willingness to help were “impeccable.”
“She always has a smile on her face and is always willing to give back to others in need,” said Ungina Perkins, Director of Financial Aid and Veteran’s Affairs. “Another thing that impressed our staff is how she assisted us in our FAO Christmas project. Each year, instead of the staff exchanging gifts with each other, we sponsor some senior citizens in Gaston County. This year we gave gifts to three people who were in nursing homes and had no families. Despite the heavy course load Sharima had during that semester, she found the time to purchase items for the seniors and add their names to individual blankets and stockings, and she visited with them at the nursing home. She also managed to finish the semester with a 4.0 GPA.”
Harmon is also a cancer survivor, and pushed herself to work, go to classes, and be positive while dealing with another recent cancer scare and biopsy. “I kept pushing through and I have to say that the only person that can hold you back is yourself,” she said. “Every day I told myself that I could do it. I couldn’t let any obstacles stop me from being the best I could be for my children.”
Harmon will be back at Gaston College in the fall, starting the Licensed Practical Nursing program. She would like to combine her forensics knowledge with nursing to pursue a career in Forensic Nursing.
Current COVID-19 measures have curtailed Harmon’s access to both of her jobs, and she looks forward to returning to work at CaroMont Regional and at Gaston College when restrictions are lifted.
About TRiO Student Success Services
TRiO Student Support Services (SSS) is a federally funded program that is designed to help students meet their educational goals, graduate from Gaston College, and/or transfer to a four-year institution. The program is open to first-generation college students, students of low income, or students with a documented disability that