Sonya Edwards is a C2C Coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC), on the Jackson County Campus, in Gautier, Mississippi. With the title of Enrollment Specialist, Sonya is a perfect fit for the role of C2C Coach. In this position, she’s in charge of helping returning students connect with available C2C grant money and find the best path forward to a degree. Taking the mystery out of the enrollment process, and encouraging students, is exactly what Sonya does for participants from the C2C Program who make their way back to MGCCC. Her support has made it possible for many adults, who left college 2+ years ago, to return and complete a degree in less time than they imagined.
A life full of education
Although Sonya has worked in different fields throughout her professional career, school has always been a part of it. Having graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism and a master’s in public relations, she knows what the college experience can be like from the student perspective. After doing public relations work for hospitals and her local school district for 8 years, she decided to take some time off.
Not long after, she was contacted by the local community college (MGCCC) to fill a temporary position as Student Activities Coordinator. It wasn't long before Sonya was offered the position full-time. For the next 12 years, she enjoyed interacting with her students on a daily basis. When asked to take over as an Enrollment Specialist and C2C Coach, Sonya was worried that the new role wouldn't allow her as much student interaction, but quickly found the position to be filled with personal contact with students.
Working through a tough diagnosis
In 2019, Sonya was scheduled for a mammogram by the on-campus clinic after noticing a worrisome lump in her chest. Further examination revealed the presence of a malignant growth. Although the original diagnosis was serious, doctors acted quickly and were able to perform surgery successfully. Despite her condition, Sonya selflessly returned to work closely following the procedure in order to continue supporting her students. “I didn’t like not being in contact with my students, especially my C2C students”, Sonya recalls. Even during her radiation treatments and after the surgery, Sonya made an effort to work part-time - a true testament to the dedication she has for her students.
Motivating others through personal struggles
In the midst of Sonya’s fight with cancer, her mother’s health started to sharply decline and she passed away earlier this year. Sonya keeps a picture of her mom at her school office and will tell uncertain incoming students about her mother’s story of defying the odds. With just a high school diploma, Sonya’s mother worked in a hosiery mill and then a t-shirt factory for several decades. Even after 40 years of being out of school, Sonya’s mother found a way to return to finish her degree.
Whenever a student is unsure about their ability to graduate, Sonya tells her mother’s inspiring story as motivation. She is certain that if her mother was able to complete her degree after 40 years, then anyone can. It’s through these experiences that Sonya has found a way to turn her personal struggles into motivation to help students work past their own obstacles and challenges in order to fulfill their goals. For Sonya, these struggles are a way to relate to someone since “life isn’t easy, especially for an adult student.”
Connecting with her students
As the first generation to graduate college in her family, Sonya knows what it’s like to enter college as a student. While some graduates end up forgetting what it’s like, she makes an effort to hold onto that perspective to more easily connect with her students. As Sonya explains, “I try to be approachable.” Another way she loves to connect with students is by keeping up with their successes even after graduation. Between social media and random encounters in town, Sonya is kept up-to-date on how her help has positively affected the lives of her students. “It’s fulfilling to see opportunities that we provided really did impact their lives, academically and personally.”
Sometimes tough love is the cure
Sonya recalls one particularly meaningful success story of a student. Although she had played with the idea of returning to school for years, Jennifer had always come up with an excuse for not making it happen. Between being a parent and a full-time worker, she faced the financial and time struggles that many adult students experience. With the help of the C2C Program and little tough love, Sonya was finally able to convince Jennifer that she couldn’t put off her education any longer. “You don’t have an excuse now, you’re going to do this!” she recalls saying encouragingly.”
Some of Sonya’s students who know her the best have lovingly given her the nickname “Momma Sonya” for the tough love that she uses to give some students that extra nudge they need to succeed. She’s not afraid to hold her students accountable for their own good. It’s the push that helped Jennifer finally return to get her degree and even brought another student from the brink of expulsion to finish his degree. No matter the tough circumstances that incoming students face, Sonya has always approached her students with a loving and encouraging message: “You’re not giving up. You’re not quitting, We’re going to get this done!”
A college degree could be around the corner
If you’re thinking about returning to college to complete your degree, Sonya has some sound advice: “Don’t be intimidated, think about what your goals are, and let’s find ways to achieve them.”
The Complete 2 Compete program was specifically designed to help adult students in Mississippi find the easiest and quickest route to graduation. Through the program, you’ll be paired with a dedicated C2C Coach, like Sonya, who will guide, support, and motivate you from enrollment until graduation - and maybe even beyond.
Link up with a C2C representative today to see how close graduation is already.