North Idaho College student Charles Clemmons’ essay “A Change of Life” featuring how an NIC instructor encouraged him to succeed earned national recognition as a Top 10 finalist out of 800 entries for the Community College Week National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development Student Essay Contest.
Like many others in the construction industry, Clemmons was a victim of the downturned economy and he faced losing his home at the same time that he and his wife were welcoming a newborn baby to their family of five.
“My wife and I turned to education for salvation,” Clemmons wrote in his essay.
Clemmons had dropped out of school in the seventh grade to support himself and hadn’t been a part of the formal education system since earning his GED in his 20s. But despite his fears, at NIC Clemmons found a welcoming environment within which to pursue his dreams while receiving the support he needed to succeed. He also found Kateri Ray, NIC social work instructor.
Clemmons was drawn to the field of social work. Having battled alcohol dependency issues, he felt a calling to use his experiences to help others, a passion that Ray helped foster, even when Clemmons doubted himself.
“Throughout my academic career one haunting issue has stalked me, like a freshman stalking a keg at his first frat party, a misspent and rowdy youth continues to lurk around the corner telling me that I cannot be more than I already have been, a rowdy construction worker,” Clemmons wrote.
“Towards the end of my second semester, this fear and doubt was getting the best of me and Kateri, having picked up on this, caught me after class one day and said, ‘Charles a lot of people enter this field not suited for the work; you however, have what it takes and have a lot to offer, so don’t give up.’ Those little words of encouragement gave me the needed strength to face my fears and continue onward.”
Clemmons is now a Dean’s List student and a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for two-year colleges, at NIC. He plans to continue on toward a graduate degree and possibly even a doctorate after completing an associate’s degree at NIC.
“Charles is willing to put the work and energy into everything he is able to accomplish,” Ray said. “He is faced with challenges and works to overcome them; that’s the kind of student I like.”