Robeson Community College

RCC Grad Barbara Deal’s Fight to Achieve Her Dreams

For Barbara Deal, graduation from Robeson Community College is more than just a milestone, it is a celebration of life and of overcoming adversity to achieve her dreams.  

“I just got my GED in 2018,” she begins. “I just wanted to make something of myself, I dropped out of high school when I was 15 years old…I was just young and I was hanging out with the wrong people.”

Dropping out of high school was a decision Barbara regrets to this day, and wishes she could go back in time to change. “I tell young people, don’t give up on school, stay in school, get your education, you’ll miss out on all the good things if you drop out like me.”  

After working in different factories off and on, and raising four children, Barbara decided it was time to go back to school to fulfill a dream that she’s had since she was 14. 

“I always wanted to do something for homeless people,” Barbara said. “I want to learn how to read blueprints and build tiny houses for homeless people.” 

Immediately after earning her GED, Barbara started on her journey to earn her associate’s degree in August 2018. Things were going well for Barbara until the summer of 2019 when she started to notice a decline in her health. Doctors found a mass on her kidney and little did she know that just a few months later, her life would be changed forever.  

“I was diagnosed with stage 4 renal cancer in December 2019.”

With a devastating diagnosis, it would have been easy for Barbara to just quit, and no one would have blamed her for doing so, but she persevered and set her focus on her degree. 

“It was difficult. Some days I would feel bad, but I pushed myself and just kept going. I knew that I could feel just as bad at home, so I just acted like nothing was wrong.” 

In many ways, being in school has helped Barbara stay motivated. She loved her teachers and interacting with her classmates. It was a great opportunity for her to learn about new subjects, like astronomy, which quickly became one of her favorite classes. 

“I loved getting to learn about the stars and planets. You can see them and it is like you are right there,” Barbara said in amazement. “I loved learning about the stuff that you never really think about.” 

Throughout it all, Barbara has not missed a day of school or a day of tutoring. She has remained faithful, vigilant, and determined. She has made mostly A’s and B’s, with a few C’s here and there. Her name has been listed on the honor roll a few times, and on May 12, 2021, she will walk across the stage to receive her college degree and graduate with her associate of arts, a dream she has been waiting to come true for over 40 years.  

“You have to be a light to your children and grandchildren. I tell them, ‘Grandma is a fighter and a pusher. That’s what you have to be if you want to be somebody.’” 

Today at the age of 59, Barbara is making plans to attend North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, NC. She hopes to be enrolled this fall to major in Architecture to fulfill her ultimate dream of building houses for those in need. 

“If you’ve got goals and want to go back to school, you can do it,” Barbara said. “Is it hard? Yeah, it is, just don’t give up, don’t ever give up on your dreams.”