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RCC Grad Krystal Clark Named 2022 Academic Excellence Winner

When Krystal Clark started on her journey to Robeson Community College, she says she didn’t quite know what to expect, but she just knew that this was where she needed to be.

“It was a new environment for me,” said Krystal. “I was always interested in the medical field, so I said let me try nursing. Everyone always says that nursing is really hard, but I’m the type of person that really loves a challenge.”

Krystal came to RCC as a licensed practical nurse seeking more opportunities through the registered nurse credential. Although she could have opted for the bridge program at RCC, she actually wanted to start over.

“I started from the beginning and I just succeeded,” said Krystal. “I actually got into two schools, but when I looked at the statistics, I noticed that Robeson was way better, so that’s why I chose to go to Robeson.”

That single decision to attend RCC would propel her into success and bring forth excellence through her academics and stretch her to greatness, both personally and professionally.

Little did she know at the time she enrolled, that in just two years, she would be named the 2022 North Carolina Community College Academic Excellence Winner, a distinct honor that is only given to one student per year from each of the 58 community colleges in North Carolina.

“I was very surprised at first because I know a lot of people were applying to win, so I was just very ecstatic that I won. I could not stop smiling,” said Krystal. “It was the best experience I have ever been able to feel, to be recognized out of the entire graduating class and to win the award. I was nervous going on stage like I was shaking.”

“I knew that I had made my family proud.”

Getting to the finish line at graduation though wasn’t an easy task.

“I started my journey with many obstacles,” said Krystal.

“Before becoming a nurse, I was living paycheck to paycheck and it is hard. As a single parent and first-generation student, I was unsure if an education beyond high school was even an option for me. I did not know how I would be able to afford tuition, books, childcare, and other expenses associated with school. However, thanks to my advisor and other staff at RCC, I was shown that my dream could become a reality.”

“I had lost my job when I first got into the program, it was around the time COVID was really bad, so I relied on the financial aid and COVID relief funds to get me through,” Krystal stated.

Krystal realizes that losing her job was actually a blessing because as she found out, the schedule for nursing school wasn’t going to be easy. There would be Saturday classes and clinicals scheduled at different times throughout the week. She was also commuting 45 minutes one way to RCC, driving to and from Laurinburg every day, which did take a toll on her.

“It was very exhausting,” said Krystal. “It was such a long drive. I had to make sacrifices, so I missed out on so much stuff with my kids for the past two years, but I knew that becoming a nurse was going to change our family unit for the better.”

It was the small things that Krystal seemed to miss the most, like being able to take her children to school in the morning or being there for them when they got off the bus.

“I knew I had to make a sacrifice, sometimes I would cry, but in the end, it was very rewarding and I would cry happy tears. My daughter is 9 and she is so happy for me and she loved being able to go on stage to pin me at the pinning ceremony, it was just very emotional.”

Krystal says she feels it has been a positive experience for her children, saying, “I’m being a role model for them and setting an example that they can look back on when they get older and say ‘My Mom made something of herself,’ and that they can do the same thing.”

With everything Krystal has had to juggle while being in school, she credits her family with helping her keep everything together.

“My Mom, she’s helped me so much,” said Krystal. “And especially their grandma on their dad’s side, she’s been wonderful, with you know, keeping the kids and helping them get back and forth to school and to doctor’s appointments and all kinds of stuff.”

She also credits her support system at RCC.

“I just want to thank everyone that was my support group while being at RCC. Thank you to all my nursing instructors because I wouldn’t have made it without them, they were really great.”

She thanks her classmates, Roberta Gozan, Jennifer Locklear, Bryanna Xayavong, Madison Collins, and Heather Oxendine.

“We basically stuck together from the first semester until the end and studied, studied, studied for every test,” said Krystal. “I feel like without them I wouldn’t have made it this far because at times when I needed them, they were there. We just had to keep encouraging each other and making sure that we stayed on top of everything… They have really been awesome.”

Krystal says she’s had many job offers, many locally, and she has even been offered a job as far away as Augusta, Georgia.

“Before, I wasn’t really thinking outside the box, but coming to Robeson and being open to all this opportunity… it just makes me want to go forward and has changed the way I view things.”

Krystal wants to continue with her education and hopes to one day obtain a doctorate degree in nursing and become a nurse practitioner.

“I can definitely say that time brings about a change.”

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