Charles Ward, who works in the Student Enrollment Center at MCC-Longview, admits he was an average student in high school: “I did just enough to get by, because I preferred to goof around and have fun. I just didn’t really care too much.”
Ward, 28, now finds himself working at his alma mater and just months away from completing a master’s degree at UMKC. The story of his journey is one his 18-year-old self probably wouldn’t have believed.
His parents hadn’t attended college and did not place an emphasis on getting an education, Ward says. “On the contrary, I had family members telling me that it was a dumb idea for me to go to college.”
Instead, Ward joined the workforce after high school with hopes of building a sustainable income. “I worked in a call center in Lee’s Summit for several months and realized that making $10.50 for the rest of my life wasn’t going to cut it.”
A year after high school graduation, Ward enrolled at MCC-Longview.
“I had a very, very terrible time taking Math 110 (Intermediate Algebra),” he remembers. So awful, in fact, he had to take the class four times.
“I had such a hard time trying to complete that class that I changed my major to try to avoid having to take it and Math 120 (College Algebra),” he says.
Because of his frustration with the algebra courses, Ward dropped out of school.
But about a year later, Ward re-enrolled at MCC, took Math 110 and finally passed “with the help of a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Reid.”
“I haven’t met a person yet who’s taken that course as many times as I did,” he says.
Ward also chose to pursue a Disney College internship in Florida he’d learned about through MCC’s career and employment services department. Ward describes the internship as a pivotal point for the rest of his life personally, professionally and academically.
“It opened up my mind and my experiences to a whole new world,” he says, “and that would later be the catalyst for me to study abroad in the Dominican Republic a few years later, where I would learn to speak Spanish.”
As a result of graduating from MCC-Longview, a five-year process, Ward said he became a much better student. He graduated from UMKC two years later with a bachelor’s degree in communications and a minor in Spanish.
Ward didn’t think he should stop with a four-year degree.
“After I spent all of this time in school struggling to stick with college,” he decided to start working on a master’s degree in higher education administration.
He wants his experience to show other students that persistence can pay off. He shares with MCC-Longview students his own struggle with higher education.
“It gives them hope,” he says. “I can see it in their eyes.”
His message: “If I did it after so many obstacles and frustrations, then anybody can do it if they just stick with it and persist, no matter what.”
Ward has worked as a student services specialist at MCC-Longview for one year. Before that, he worked primarily in health care, including jobs as a surgical support technician in a hospital emergency operating room and as a technician at a psychiatric hospital.
At UMKC, Ward has a 3.7 GPA, and he’s two classes away from earning that master’s degree.