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A true love story: RCC Alums Artie and Fanina Stewart

Meet Artie and Fanina Stewart. They both know a lot about life and the struggles that can come with it, but they also know a lot about faith, hope, and love, of which they say the greatest is love.

The two met each other at church, a divine connection you could say. Artie had been through a divorce, and Fanina was a single mother who had never been married. The two had all but given up on finding true love, both telling God if they were to ever marry, that God would have to send them their mate.

And so, God did just that. As they say, God works in mysterious ways.

Artie gave his phone number to Fanina, saying her face turned bright red when he did. He didn’t expect her to call, and when she did, she told him she had the wrong number. But it didn’t take him long to call her back.

Fast forward to today, the two have now been married for 12 years. They have three kids, six grandchildren, and one great-grandson, and they are Nana and Papa to five foster grandchildren.

“Being married to Fanina has been the most fun I have ever had in life,” Artie said.

“I would absolutely do it again,” said Fanina. “My husband has taught me a lot about life, we lift each other up.”

Not long after they married, the two decided to go back to school to get their degrees. They chose to do so at Robeson Community College.

“I got smart and realized that the best way to a four-year degree was by attending a community college,” Artie stated. “I had started at Pembroke State University back in 1979, but I didn’t finish… but this felt better 40 years later than when I was 21, 22.”

Fanina shares a similar story, saying that she too went to Pembroke State University as well after high school, but stopped attending.

“We both stopped early… and so we decided to go back and get our degrees and finish what we started,” Fanina said.

When Artie and Fanina first arrived at RCC, they attended orientation. That’s when they met their advisor, Audra Harris.

“She didn’t know us,” Artie said. “The way orientation was you had to walk… with us both being disabled, she got a car from the school and drove us around… she just went out of her way for us and helped us.”

Artie and Fanina say that along the way, “God sent us some angels…if it had not been for them, we don’t know where we would be.”

They both mentioned instructors like George Pate, Carla Deese, and Dr. Laronda Lowery and staff members like Patricia Locklear, Rebekah Lowery, Dr. Mauney, and even then, President Dr.Kimberly Gold. They both appreciated the staff in the Learning Center, especially Becky Howell, saying they helped them get through the assignments and made getting a degree a reality.

“Being visually impaired, it was hard,” said Artie. “But I would say that the professors and the staff made it worth my while to go through all the obstacles to get my degree.”

“They really got us through,” said Artie. “All of those people were key to getting us to where we needed to be.”

Fanina mentioned that Quantitative Literacy was one of the hardest classes she had ever taken, but understood that the instructor just wanted the best for her students.

“Sometimes we don’t appreciate the value of having an instructor like that,” Artie said. “Dr. Lowery wanted us to be the best we could be.”

The two often took classes together.

“That was interesting,” Fanina said as she laughed. “It was difficult at times, being in class together and also our son was in school at the Early College as well.”

“It was competitive,” Artie said. “And stressful…But God got us through it.”

“Going back to school allowed me to realize that even though I was visually impaired, I can still do it, to never give up,” Artie said. “It allowed me to realize that you can achieve your goals and dreams… it let me know that I can work hard and see the benefit.”

“I wanted to be an example for my kids,” said Artie. “Our daughter has gone back to school and should be finishing up soon. Our oldest son will be pursuing a degree from RCC in Criminal Justice, and our youngest son is currently attending UNCP…It is a blessing to be able to go back to school, no matter what happens to you in life, you can still be able to get your degree.”

Artie says that many nights he watched his wife throw down the pen and the mouse wanting to give up, but he wouldn’t let her.

As the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor,” and Artie and Fanina are living proof of that.

Fanina finished her degree in 2017 and Artie finished a year later, walking across the stage in 2018. They both received an associate of applied science in business administration, and they both continue to motivate and support each other’s goals.

Artie has gone on to complete his bachelor’s in sociology and criminal justice at UNCP and is hopeful to earn a master’s degree from the institution as well. Fanina is looking to do the same and would like to complete her bachelor’s degree at the place she started so many years ago, UNCP.

“Go get your education and start with Robeson Community College,” Artie said. “Community College is a complete blessing.”

The Robeson County couple would like to one day start a non-profit to help young people in charting their course through life, mentioning a few of the tragic stories that have hit close to home recently.

“If they had some direction, I don’t think they would be locked up right now,” said Artie, speaking of several teenagers who were charged in a local homicide investigation. “We have got to do something about this so we can save the next generation.”

Artie and Fanina hope to work with adolescents and teens, in grades 8th through 12th.

“We want to encourage young people to prepare for college by applying for acceptance to the Robeson Early College program during the 8th-grade year. Or, attend Robeson Community College upon graduation from high school,” said Artie.

“Community College makes the pathway to a four-year degree much smoother,” said Artie. “We want to help kids prepare for high school and college…”

“And to teach young people to get all the degrees that they need to get out of the way before they start having children and having bills to pay,” said Fanina.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, and Fanina’s birthday being today, the lovely couple plan on spending time with each other this weekend and also with their children and some of their grandchildren.

Artie has plans to take Fanina to a Japanese restaurant.

“We are going to go Saturday, she has always wanted to revisit a Japanese restaurant where they cook the food in front of you, so that is what we are going to do,” said Artie.

“We’ve already got the gift we wanted for Valentine’s Day.”


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