Four grandmothers graduate from Johnston Community College
Posted May 17, 2010 10:29 p.m. EDT
Updated May 17, 2010 11:37 p.m. EDT
Smithfield, N.C. — When the Eaton Corporation in Selma closed three years ago, hundreds of workers had to find new jobs. Many of those suddenly out of work were 50-plus grandmothers with only a high school education.
“When I came in that day, and they said, 'we was going to close,' my heart fell,” 52-year-old graduate Delzora Atkinson said.
Atkinson and some of her former coworkers enrolled at Johnston Community College.
“After the first six weeks I was here, I left in the parking lot crying my eyes out, (thinking) I just can't do this,” 59-year-old graduate Bonnie Adams said.
Adams said with Eaton moving its manufacturing facility to Mexico, finding a new job in the area wasn't going to be easy. She and three other grandmothers took to the books to learn the skills needed to compete in today's workforce.
“When I came here (community college) everybody was so young. I would look at myself and say, 'What am I doing here?'” 62-year-old graduate Sue Tyner said.
But each woman met their challenge head on, taking heavy class loads and finally receiving their associate degrees Monday. It took courage and plenty of support, they said.
“I had a lot of family support, with my husband, my girls, my family and the Lord up above,” 55-year-old graduate Eleanor Peedin said.
The graduates overcame their fears to become the first in their families to receive a college degree.
“I came in as a dislocated worker, but I'm going out as a college graduate, going to reach my career. Not a job, but my career,” Atkinson said.
“I am just elated. I could stand on the rooftop and shout. I am just so proud,” Adams said.
The four grandmothers, as they call themselves, are trained in office management and computers. They were among nearly 20 former Eaton employees to graduate Monday.