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home : news : news June 24, 2022

4/27/2022 3:00:00 PM
Hillary Ford Among Gaston College Grads
Bessemer City woman goes back to school for better life
Hillary Ford 
Hillary Ford 

Lincoln Herald Staff

BESSEMER CITY––Gaston College’s graduation ceremonies are right around the corner.

According to the college’s marketing department, in May, Hillary Ford of Bessemer City will walk across a stage at CaroMont Health Park, surrounded by her Gaston College peers, and receive If you’d asked Ford several years ago what her future plans were, they certainly would not have included college graduation. A mother, a domestic violence survivor, an advocate and sober now for more than five years, she has overcome a lot to get to this associate of arts degree. Despite the challenges she has faced, she says they’ve made her stronger and led her to Gaston College.

Wanting a better life for herself and her daughter is what inspired Ford to return to the classroom as an adult, following 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 as if 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.”

Ford started her journey at Gaston College two years ago. She says her younger self would not believe the student she is today. In high school, she was not a good pupil 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,” she said, adding that she’s emphasizing to her daughter that “she can do anything she wants to. And even if she stopped at high school, she can always go back to school.” 

Considering that school was hard for her in the past, Ford was nervous to give college a shot. But her nerves pushed her to be a better student. She says her success and her graduation are both down to Gaston College’s TRiO Student Support Services (a federally-funded program that helps students finish community college and go on to four-year institutions), specifically her adviser, Adele Earls. With support from TRiO, Ford was able to secure a grant that helped make her studies possible. She says Earls guided her through the process of applying for grants and scholarships and even helped her plan her steps for after graduation. 

Following graduation, Ford intends to take Internet-based courses through Kansas-based Fort Hays State University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology and then a master’s degree. She had a tough time finding a four-year institution that was right for her, and that’s when Earls stepped in to help, finding Fort Hays.

While Ford 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,” she said, “and let them know that they can overcome things, too and that they’re not alone.”

When Ford looks to 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. She 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. 

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