Second careers Graduates celebrate their accomplishments

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 26, 2006

By Michelle G. Lyerly

Kannapolis Citizen

It was an evening filled with tears of joy, sighs of relief and dreams for a brighter future in health care.

On Dec. 18, at 6 p.m. in Hamrick Theatre on the campus of NorthEast Medical Center, Cabarrus College of Health Sciences had its annual recognition ceremony for students graduating during the fall semester.

Since graduation exercises are only held once a year in May, the college seeks to “recognize students who have completed their course of study and celebrate with them,” said Chancellor Anita A. Brown, who adds that although diplomas are awarded during the recognition service, December graduates are encouraged to come back and walk with the class in May.

This year, the college awarded 35 associate of science in nursing degrees, one associate degree in medical assisting, one associate degree in surgical technology, five bachelor of science in nursing degrees and one bachelor of science in health services management. Twenty-three of 43 graduates received academic honor recognitions. A reception followed the ceremony.

“It always means a lot when a new group graduates,” said nursing instructor Wendy Newstrup, “you bond with them and know how hard they worked.”

During the ceremony, Brown reminded the candidates that although the health-care industry is rapidly changing due to emerging advances in technology, health-care professionals should never lose their passion.

“Individual passion means so much,” she said, while adding that those same technological advances can open new windows of opportunity, “Remain flexible, you may be surprised where that education takes you.”

Vice Chancellor Diane O. Snyder challenged the graduates with three requests: commit to learning every day, work hard with passion and courage, and have confidence in yourself.

Speaking on behalf of the college, Snyder added, “Your success is our success.”

Graduating cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in health services management, Paula J. Ernst of Concord, who returned to school after 30 years, is impressed with the “multiple specialties” the college has to offer. “It makes it possible for people in the area to pursue a higher education at a reputable school. Because of the size, it’s more personal,” Ernst said.

For J. Brady Melvin of Kannapolis, father of three, receiving his associate of science in nursing “means no more working and going to school both. It gives me more time with family,” he said. Melvin’s youngest child is 12 weeks old.

Garland Coley, uncle of Phi Theta Kappa graduate Katherine Himes Taylor of Cleveland, finds inspiration in seeing his niece graduate with her associate of science degree in nursing. “Hopefully I’ll be there in two to three years,” the student at Central Piedmont Community College said.

This year’s class features three extraordinary graduates, all examples of overcoming the odds.

Cherelle R. Horton Eddleman of Concord knows what it truly means to be all things to all people: a pastor’s wife, youth director, dance team leader, political activist, business manager and mother of 10.

Adding to her list of accomplishments, she graduates with her associate of science degree in nursing. “I’m glad to be finished. It’s been a long road; glad that road’s come to an end, although it is just the beginning,” Eddleman said.

Her oldest child, Deon Eddleman, 25, couldn’t be happier for his mother. “I’m very excited for her. She really wanted it bad. I’m really proud of her. I’ve got nothing but respect for her. She’s strong,” said Deon Eddleman.

“It has been very challenging and busy,” said Cherelle Eddleman, who was 41 when she re-entered college after 20 years of working and raising children.

With a 3.9 GPA in her previous associate of science program and after having been inducted into the honor society, Cherelle Eddleman applied to the associate of science in nursing program at NorthEast in the fall of 2003. She began studies in the spring of 2004.

“It’s unbelievable!” exclaimed her husband, the Rev. William Eddleman, pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Concord. “To accomplish this after 20 years away (from school) and 10 kids. The amount of study, time, reading and memorization. … I knew she had an amazing mind, but to accomplish this after 20 years is unfathomable.”

Ruth S. Johnson is excited for her daughter. “I’m very happy for her. I’m glad she has completed her nurse’s training and I just hope the best for her in the future.”

Also receiving associate of science in nursing degree are husband and wife team Janet L. Snider James and Robert I. James of Locust. The Phi Theta Kappa graduates are another example of overcoming the odds after 20 years in the textile industry.

At the time, the couple worked for S&D Hosiery Mill, and just like that, the company “laid them off and said goodbye,” said Dean of Academic and Student Services Thomas F. Connelly Jr. prior to the ceremony.

The displaced couple decided that it was time for a career change, and together they enrolled in CCHS. “They have accomplished a major goal and can be role models for other adults in the community,” said proud daughter Meredith James.

The couple could not have accomplished their goal without a little help from each other, their study buddies — and yes — the deer. Son Robert P. James explains, “he (Dad) likes to deer hunt. He takes books to the deer stand with him. That’s how he studies.”

And the deer must have followed the elder James home to join the study group, because one night after a study session at the Jameses’ house, Megan E. Davis of New London, also receiving her associate of science in nursing, hit a deer on the way home.

While the study sessions helped, Davis attributes her success to her faith. “If it hadn’t been for the good Lord, I would have never gotten through,” she said.

In spite of these “en-deer-ing” encounters, the Jameses wouldn’t trade walking across the stage together for the world. “It was an individual accomplishment,” said Robert James, “but something we did as husband and wife. To be honest with you, without her support it would have been difficult to get through,” he said.

“It was comforting that we did it together. We’ve done many things together; it was one of our accomplishments,” added Janet James.

With both her and her husband being second career students, Janet James was amazed at how the younger students accepted them “as equals.”

Robert James is equally impressed with the small college atmosphere at CCHS. “It’s a small college, we know all the faculty and administrators, and they are wonderful to work with. It made a difference.”

Contact Michelle Lyerly at 704-932-3336 or