Everyone’s college experience is different, and like most things in life, it heavily depends on the effort and investment people put in. Graduate Rachel Keyes truly puts the “community” in Volunteer State Community College with her involvement in her college experience.
Keyes began her journey at Vol State as a general studies major in the fall of 2013, but took a break before she finished her degree. She came back to school in 2017 and will graduate this December with an associate degree in foreign language- French.
“I was a General Studies major initially and needed a foreign language for my degree. The reason I chose French was because I had recently gotten married, and I wanted to communicate with my [then] husband's family, who spoke French and Arabic,” said Keyes, “I developed a love for it, continued taking classes, and it just became my major. I have a deep interest in language and linguistics. Studying French only deepens that love and fuels my curiosity. The marriage didn't work out, but the language thing did.”
Balancing a personal life with academic challenges- along with work duties for many students- is one of the hardest parts about getting through school. Without personal perseverance and support from others, graduation can seem impossible.
“My greatest challenge through my Vol State career was holding down all of my responsibilities and keeping my mind intact while surviving a toxic marriage. I had to hit rock bottom before I had the strength to leave for the last time,” said Keyes, “My mother is my biggest advocate, hero and angel. I've also had an incredible network of support at Vol State. So many people have had a massive, profound impact on my life. I've collected more than a few folks here that I'll hold onto for a lifetime.”
To help get through school, Keyes created her personal support group at Vol State by getting involved more on campus.
“During my first experience at Vol State, I was a DJ for WVCP. During my second, more-serious stint, I worked in Public Relations for almost two years, and within that time I spent a year as one of Dr. Faulkner's ambassadors. I was an editor of Pioneer Pen and part of the Honors Program, TRIO, and SKD,” said Keyes.
Keyes said she will walk in the graduation commencement ceremony, and afterwards, she said she plans on taking some time to finally invest in herself.
“I'm taking the time and space that I've needed to get crystal clear on the direction I want my life to keep moving in. I'm considering a few options for where I'll continue education and such. I'm a bit spontaneous, so only time will tell what I end up doing next.”
For those struggling on the path to graduation, Keyes suggested, “Trust the process of your life and allow it to unfold. Lean into yourself and allow the weight of your burdens to strengthen you to overcome them. Trust what you know to be true at the core of who you are because the truth will always prevail.”