Some would see the challenge – Robert Reagan saw the opportunity

Persistence pays. Just ask Robert Reagan. Robert is a recent graduate of ECPI University in Raleigh, North Carolina, with an Associate’s in Network Security. It took a lot of determination for him be to a graduate starting a new job as a Lap-top Technician at Flextronics.

Robert spent his former life as a tractor trailer driver. After experiencing and surviving two heart attacks, Robert received strong encouragement from doctors to leave his job due to the risk of his health and life. Without that income and no other employment Robert lost everything: his home, land, car and more devastating – his son whom he had raised until that point.

With supportive friends, Robert moved in with one and was taken to ECPI University where another friend paid the admissions fee. He passed his admissions exam and began his schooling aspiring to change his life path.

Adversity didn’t end there for Robert. Over the course of his schooling he moved four times trying to reduce his commute which was many times on foot, walking to and from school despite the distance or weather conditions. He experienced more health problems with his heart which were finally addressed; however this set him back two months in school. The degree program should have taken him a year and a half but took him two.

He had great support from the staff of ECPI. When he needed a ride, Gloria Hicks, Director of Student Affairs, helped him find a car pool. When he needed a part-time job, Alan Levinson, Director of Career Services, helped him to find a job that would work around his school schedule. When finances were exceptionally tight, Robert benefited from the goodwill of people who wanted him to succeed.

Robert now sees a positive future, “this has been a three year process, getting through the health problems, getting a new place, getting an education and getting my son back.” The job offer from Flextronics utilizing his education in network security was the turning point for Robert. “I have never seen anyone so excited,” said Gloria Hicks. “Robert said he was afraid he dreamed it.”

For Robert education was the key to changing his life. He is a great example of someone who worked to overcome the odds and search for an opportunity to begin a new life.

An Evening of Firsts

Graduates: Dena Horne, Barbara Lee McDonald, Andrea L. Tomlinson

It was an evening of “firsts” that made for a very special graduation for the Culinary Institute of Virginia. On June 24, 180 students graduated in a ceremony at Chrysler Hall in Norfolk, Virginia. It was the largest class to date and 50 percent larger than the class of 2010.

The evening also marked the first graduates of the school’s Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Food Service Management.

Graduates: Grant Loy, Donald Lee, Ryan Travis

One of those graduates was Yanina Yearwood, who originally graduated from CIV in Culinary Arts in 2009, and was the first to enroll and graduate from the Bachelor’s program. Yanina told guests of the ceremony how she had once told her son she wanted to be a chef when he asked her “what do you want to be when you grow up mom?” She pursued her dream and education while working full-time in the United States Navy and raising her son. Two years ago she opened her own personal chef and catering business, Younique Treats, LLC, which has grown more than sixty percent over the last year. “CIV gave me the confidence and skills,” said Yanina in her graduate remarks about starting her own business.

Behind the scenes food preparation at CIV graduation

Graduates also spent the week prior preparing food for their own graduation event. Working out of 11 kitchens, they prepared everything from roast turkeys to salmon salad for more than 1,700 guests and students. “What a better way to teach and model what the business is about than by catering your own event,” said Stephen Perkins, Culinary Institute of Virginia instructor.

Student volunteer, Robert Swann and Steve Nahra of CIV’s Career Services prepare for the after-ceremony celebration

A Wrong Turn Doesn’t Always Lead to a Dead End

At the age of 18, Lamont Moore found himself with a 15-year sentence after choosing a path not destined for greatness. He was incarcerated from 1995 to 2006 and he explains that the time was tough but allowed him time for reflection and soul searching.  He decided he wanted to walk a better path that would lead him to a brighter future.

When he was released, Lamont spent a few years working but with no real direction. He met Crystal Chambers, who would later become his wife, who made a profound impression on him. Through her own successes as an employed college graduate, Lamont was inspired to pursue his own education.

Lamont and his wife on graduation day.

He was immediately sold upon visiting ECPI University’s Innsbrook campus. However, he was concerned his past would hinder his career ambitions and didn’t want to make the investment if he wouldn’t be able to put his schooling to use. “I wasn’t filled with empty promises from the people at ECPI University,” explained Lamont. “I was given encouragement to not let my past discourage me from moving forward.”

It was through his Principles of Speech class with Ms. Borland that Lamont gained the confidence and skills to be able to share his story with others. As part of his probation, he speaks with others following his initial path and encourages them to stop the process and follow their own dreams to a brighter future. “ECPI University has really helped me and I want to help others. If I can inspire just one person, my job is done,” shared Lamont.

Lamont walked in the Richmond graduation ceremony in June. He will finalize his classes in October and receive his Associate’s in Electronics Engineering Technology. In April 2012 Lamont plans to open his own franchise of UNE, a computer company, where he started as a volunteer while pursuing his education. Lamont declares, “Everything has worked out for me.”

Collin Elane, A Stand-Out MCI 2011 Graduate

As an employee of AmeriGroup for the past eight years and the current Director of Nursing, Collin Elane is used to making presentations to large groups. In those situations it’s about education, direction and inspiration. When asked to speak at the recent graduation in Virginia Beach on May 21, his speech would also need to entertain.

Collin and his fellow graduates wave in appreciation to guests who supported them through their education.

Collin was flattered to be given the opportunity having been selected by MCI, ECPI University’s School of Health Science Campus President, Matt Albano, for his leadership abilities, over-all character and an ideal representation of an MCI graduate.

As a licensed practical nurse for 13 years, Collin felt that being a registered nurse would position him for more management positions. He selected MCI for his education because it had the greatest flexibility within his already busy schedule.

It was the complexity of his schedule that led Andrea Lipsmeyer, MCI’s Director of Nursing program, to really focus Collin to evaluate if he would be able to work full-time and attend school full-time. “I really appreciated that she didn’t have any reservations about telling me what to expect,” said Collin. “I had to really consider if it was the right program for me because of the time commitment, would I be okay with the sacrifices of time with family and friends.” Ultimately the decision was to proceed with his education.

Collin’s message to his fellow graduates was a reflection on the commitment and perseverance to complete an education. “I didn’t want graduates to get lost in the moment of graduation,” said Collin. “I wanted them to really think about the barriers they had to overcome and the courage and intelligence it takes to be a successful ECPI University graduate. The programs are fast-paced and aren’t meant for those looking for slow and relaxed. I think that says a lot about my fellow graduates.”

ECPI Education Builds on Entrepreneurial Spirit

It was just over a month before Myisha Brooks was set to cross the stage and accept her Bachelors of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) from ECPI in Virginia Beach that she was celebrating another event that was a direct result of her studies. On April 13 Myisha hosted a grand opening of Bizzy Beez Drop-In Childcare.

Myisha previously obtained her Associates in Biomedical degree from ECPI in 2006. After a successful career in Biomedical, she decided to return to ECPI to obtain her BSBA degree. It was during one of her business classes that she decided that she could be an entrepreneur and gained the confidence based on what she learned at ECPI.

She conducted market research to determine her location off of Virginia Beach Boulevard. It was through her marketing classes that she learned to develop business and marketing plans as well as Six Sigma which teaches business skills to prevent waste within a company. “My ECPI education has empowered me with so much information, in addition to networking opportunities and the support of teachers who are happy to share ideas,” said Myisha.

Myisha has hired her first four employees and her goal is to have 30 children enrolled for summer camp.