Every student dreams of the day when the educational journey comes to an end. Well, in reality, it doesn’t actually happen like that because you never quit learning. Ask Helen McBride. She will graduate from Vol State this spring, and she is 69 years old. She is an inspiration for me every time I want to quit. When McBride’s husband of 47 years passed away in 2007, her friends thought she would fall apart, but McBride was not ready to throw in the towel. After a pep talk from her sister-in-law she decided to look at returning to school to get her GED.
“Everyone in my family had graduated high school but me,” said McBride. “I was the only one of my mother’s children that didn’t have a diploma, and, when I passed my GED, I gave it to her on Mother’s Day. Now, four years later and by the grace of God, when I graduate, I will give her my college diploma on her 91st birthday. Everybody at this school has been wonderful to me from day one, but it’s the students that have made the difference. In the past I have been late to work and things like that, but once I started school I have never been late to class. In fact, I have never missed a class, except once or twice for illness.”
Associate Professor of Communications and Journalism Clay Scott enjoys the diversity of a community college.
“Helen has overcome the obstacles she faced a young person,” said Scott. “She took advantage of an opportunity to come back to school and has made the best of it. Though there is an age difference, there is not a communication or education difference, because she wants to learn just like they do. They probably learn more from her than she does from them. Because of her lifelong experience, students can learn from her successes and mistakes. There have been times in the newsroom when she was able to offer advice to students on non-academic things, and it is really neat to see that interaction. I have had several non-traditional students, and she has seen a transition from radio, to TV, and now to digital communication. This brings perspective and something fresh and new to the class.”
McBride works for the school paper as a photographer. “I reached a stage last year where I just didn’t think I could do it,” said McBride. “But I made it through. My favorite class has been journalism with Mr. Clay Scott. At first I had a little bit of a challenge, but now I love it. The stories he tells and the things he teaches are wonderful. I have learned a lot from him.”
McBride wants to use her education to help inspire kids to go to school. She is working on a children’s book about a magic fly that inspires them to achieve their dreams by not quitting.
Volunteer State Community College