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RCC student Anniatha McMillan, 72, works towards degree

At 72 years young, Anniatha McMillan isn’t going to let anything get her down. Throughout her life, she has had to overcome adversity, but she says the key to success is living a life that is well lived, no matter what obstacles may lay before you.

“Never give up, just pursue,” Anniatha says with a smile. “They will look at you like you lost your mind.”

In 2005, Anniatha lost her husband in a terrible horrific accident in Onslow County that almost claimed her life as well.

“There was an explosion, and I had to be pulled out of the car. They cut the top off, somehow, I made it out alive,” Anniatha said.

It was one of the scariest, saddest experiences of her life, but she says her faith in God got her through the ordeal, and she along with her sister, started what she called a Teaching and Deliverance Ministry, where people could attend church on the phone and hear God’s word.

“People criticized it,” Anniatha said. “But when COVID broke out, God began to say ‘I’m changing things, come out of the building,’ and every Sunday, we were faithful to the Lord.”

That’s partly how she met a farmer from Robeson County, “a nice deacon man” as she says, whom she would eventually marry.

“The Bible says a good man findeth a good wife,” Anniatha said with a laugh. “But I asked him to marry me.”

The couple built a new house on the farmland her husband owned and she moved to Lumberton, where she says she found more peace than she ever had before.

“I stay busy working in my flower garden,” Anniatha said. “I used to go to the doctor to complain about my knees, joints, high blood pressure and I’d go home, sit down, and got bored, I thought, I got to do something, I’m just wasting away.”

That’s when she decided to come back to school to finish her degree, one she had started so many years ago.

“I would get off work, go to school, and then I would stop,” she said of years past. “So I thought, maybe I’m not too old, I could still get my degree and so I made up my mind to go back to school.”

Her husband she says has five to six credentials from RCC, including degrees and certificates, and he recommended she start at Robeson Community College.

“You may never be encouraged to go, but I needed that push,” Anniatha said.

She started out taking developmental classes in English to help her get a firm foundation on writing, and her instructor says she has flourished.

“Age is just a number, Anniatha is such a role model to the other students,” RCC instructor Angela Lamb said. “It is important to her to have completion. She’s a good writer and a good thinker… we are excited to see her move on to the next class, which will be English 111.”

Ms. Lamb shared an essay Anniatha wrote called Happiness. Here are a few excerpts from the piece:

“There are different things that make us happy, such as being alive and well, which gives up an opportunity to smell the flowers along the way, and enjoying the sunshine while having fun at the beach can prove to be a prosperous life,” Anniatha wrote. “Happiness is an emotional state that presents feelings of joy, fulfillment, contentment, and satisfaction, which enables people to enjoy a prosperous living. For example, happiness is sitting in the sunshine and going to the beach just to enjoy the water. Happiness is going fishing… because it gives a sense of peace and tranquility.”

“I believe I match my two criteria for happiness because I am in fairly good health and I receive satisfaction from helping other people. When I sit in the sunshine, it boosts my mood and helps me feel calm and focused. Going to the beach improves my overall well-being… hearing the sounds, smelling the aromas, and seeing the landscapes relaxes me. I am much happier and the sea breeze helps me breathe better…”

In closing her essay, Anniatha says that “finding happiness is a journey, and some people may need help continuing on their journey… it is the feeling that individuals get when they know that life is good… when people are successful and safe, they feel happiness.”

“If I’ve made everyone happy, my living will not be in vain,” Anniatha stated. “I always loved English in high school, and I’m still in love with it.”

Anniatha says that she has enjoyed her classes so far and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

“I’m never going to stop,” she said.

“Writing essays has helped me, it helps broaden my mind. It makes you more conscious of what you say, and if you are saying it correctly, which is important.”

For others thinking about going back to school, Anniatha has a message.

“Try it, just take one class at a time like I’m doing,” Anniatha says. “Just take your time, there’s no hurry.”

“Whatever makes you happy, do it. Continue on your journey, go back to school, sit on the porch, work in your flower garden, whatever makes you happy – that’s what you need to do.”


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