GC Grad creating better life for herself and daughter
In May, Hillary Ford will walk across a stage at CaroMont Health Park surrounded by her Gaston College peers and receive an Associate of Arts degree. If you asked Hillary several years ago what her plans were for the future, she says they certainly would not have included graduating from college. A mother, domestic violence survivor and advocate, and nearly five and a half years sober, Hillary has overcome a lot to get to this point. Despite the challenges Hillary has faced, she says they have made her stronger and led her to Gaston College.
A better life for herself and her daughter — that’s what Hillary says got her back in the classroom as an adult after years of working customer service jobs. “I thought I was going to have to keep working these dead-end jobs,” she said. “Now I feel like I can actually do something with my life. I can get a house for me and my daughter and move out of my mom’s house and we can have a full life.” Hillary started her journey at Gaston College two years ago and says her younger self would not believe the student she is today. In high school, she was not a good student and would hardly go to school. Now, she is an outstanding student at Gaston College and soon to be a graduate.
“I never thought I would go back to school, have the GPA I have, and be able to help other people,” said Hillary. “I am showing my child that, even though she is on the spectrum, she can do anything she wants to and even if she stopped at high school she can always go back to school.”
With school as a challenge in the past, Hillary was nervous to give things a shot in college, but her nerves pushed her to be a better student. She says her success and the fact that she will be graduating is thanks to TRiO Student Support Services at the College, specifically her advisor Adele. With support from TRiO, Hillary was able to secure a grant that helped make her studies possible. She says Adele guided her through the process of applying for grants and scholarships and even helped her plan her steps for after graduation.
Once Hillary graduates, she plans to attend Fort Hays State University online and receive her bachelor’s degree in sociology and then go on to pursue a master’s degree. Hillary says she was having a tough time finding a four-year institution that was right for her and that’s when Adele stepped in to help and found Fort Hays. While Hillary knows she wants to help people in whatever jobs she chooses she says her goal is to become an addiction counselor. “I want to tell people my story and let them know that they can overcome things too, and that they’re not alone,” she said.
When Hillary looks into the future now, she says she sees a fulfilling life for herself and her daughter – something she was unsure of prior to attending Gaston College. Hillary hopes people who have faced or are currently facing tough times, as she did, know that there are resources out there to help and that they can overcome their challenges too.