Alumni, Press Releases, Student Life

Alumni Association Spotlight: Jesse Sykes

Jesse CO 2014 #2(1)

Jesse Sykes, NCC Alumna

“I came to NCC as a freshman in high school through the Early College Program. I wanted something different, and different came in the form of the Nash-Rocky Mount Early College Program. It was one of the first in the state, and we were the pilot students chosen to see if the program could work. As such I was given the opportunity to take college level courses at the age of 14, and NCC would play a central role in my life for the next five years of my life.

My experience at Nash was both a wonderful blessing as well as a true test of just how much I could take before I broke. As it turned out, I found that I could handle so much more than I previously thought, and I am a better person as a result of that knowledge. In my early years, I had to balance one and two college classes with my high school classes, and in my later years I had to balance my high school class with four or five college classes. I also had major orthopedic surgery during this time, to deal with and recover from. In my final year, I took no less than 34 credit hours plus high school classes in order to graduate on time. Was it easy? No, it definitely was not, but it taught me something. Nothing worth having is going to be easy—you have to work for it, and there will be people there to help you achieve your dreams. I would not be where I am at today without the help of others, especially individuals at Nash Community College.

Now why did I tell all of that? The answer is that going through those experiences helped prepare me for my future. As I mentioned, it taught me to never give up despite the obstacles in my path. It also taught me that it is okay to ask for help; in fact that is almost always a key to finding success. Being at Nash also helped prepare me for my academic future in more obvious ways. It taught me how to write a good essay, how to think critically about material, how to manage time, and how to study effectively. These skills are essential in order to do well in a four-year institution. I have seen and heard so many stories of freshmen who came in, and did not know what hit them because they had been able to put in minimal effort and still do well in high school. It does not work that way in college, or at least not at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You have to hit the ground running and work hard to succeed. Thanks to my experiences at Nash, I did not underestimate how hard university level work would be and proceeded accordingly. As a result, my GPA did not drop significantly during my freshman year as others’ did. Not having that stress consequently helped me continue to perform in the following semesters.

Now the big question: where am I now? It has been four years since I graduated from NCC. I was accepted into The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010 and I am eligible to graduate in December 2014. During my time at Carolina, I have earned my Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with a History Minor. In my spare time, I have been a research assistant for an Eating Disorders and Body Image Lab and a member of several honor societies. I am also currently interning at UNC’s Nicotine Dependence Program, which works to help people quit smoking, and I am applying to Master’s Programs. I hope to become a Rehabilitation Counselor, and help individuals with physical, mental, and developmental disabilities have functional lifestyles. Hopefully, I will be accepted and be able to return to Carolina for my graduate studies.

The last thing I wish to impart is some advice for current students. First, I realize that going to school is difficult, and sometimes it does not seem possible to keep going. However, do not give up because it is worth it. I never thought I would be where I am now, yet here I am. Keep pushing; keep striving to reach greatness, because that will show you what you are capable of. And let me tell you, what you are capable of will be bigger than what you thought possible. I’m proof of that.

My second piece of advice is: do not try to do everything alone. Your educational experience will be better and more memorable if you can look back and see the people who helped you and stood behind you. That is one of the primary reasons I still love Nash even after all this time. When I look back, I do not see a set of buildings that hold classes; I see the faces and memories of the people who supported me and made Nash Community College feel like my second home.”

Contributed by Jesse Sykes, NCC Alumna