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Rowan-Cabarrus student breaks family cycle and soars

Amber Blackwelder has had her share of challenges in life, but has taken advantage of opportunities and is excelling forward.

“I quite literally took my first steps in the restaurant industry – I grew up there and worked in restaurants the majority of my life. But I wanted more,” said Blackwelder.

When a family member recommended Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, she knew a path filled with new possibilities had just presented itself in the most unsuspecting way. Growing up in small mill town where college was not emphasized, Blackwelder realized that college was the only way for her to change the course of not only her future but for her two children, as well.

Blackwelder arrived at Rowan-Cabarrus with hopes of joining the competitive Radiography Program. She was not admitted the first time, but did not give up. She studied even harder, meanwhile taking a full course load, caring for a family of four and staying active in the community with groups like the youth ministry. When it came time to test again, she passed with flying colors. Blackwelder is now finishing her last semester in the program and has plans to get her bachelor’s degree.

She was honored by Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and the North Carolina Community College System board of trustees as the college’s 2015 Academic Excellence Award winner.

“Amber is very involved on campus. She is a member of the radiology club and is always participating in student life events like blood drives, relay for life and collecting books for charity,” said Natasha Lipscomb, director of student life and leadership development at Rowan-Cabarrus.

This spring, Blackwelder sat for her registry – and passed – and then graduated, all within the same week.

“Amber absolutely deserves this honor. What’s amazing is that she was able to do all of this while maintaining an excellent academic record,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus.

The award recognizes the academic achievement, leadership and community service of one student from each of the 58 institutions in the North Carolina Community College System. Recipients must be currently enrolled in curriculum courses, completing at least 12 credit hours in an associate degree program and maintaining a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.25.

“On behalf of the North Carolina Community College System board of trustees, I am honored to award Amber Blackwelder with the Academic Excellence Award for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College,” said Clyde Higgs, executive vice president of operations and business development for Castle & Cooke North Carolina, LLC for the North Carolina Research Campus. Higgs is also a member of the North Carolina Community College System board and a former trustee of the Rowan-Cabarrus board of trustees.

The N.C. Association of Community College Presidents has sponsored the Academic Excellence Awards since 1998.

“We couldn’t be more proud of Amber and all she has accomplished,” said Carl M. Short, chair of the Rowan-Cabarrus board of trustees. “She is truly an inspiration and I hope she will stay in touch with us as she continues her successful journey.”

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