Competitive Advantage

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Competitive Advantage

Delivering Tips, Insights and Resources for Success

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Then & Now: From Overwhelmed to Front of the Class


Overwhelmed by single motherhood, juggling jobs, and illness, Kimberly Luckett was ready to give up on returning to college, until a C2C coach threw her a lifeline. In this article you’ll hear in this recent graduate’s own words how, after years away from college, she returned to complete an associate and a bachelor’s degree.

Riding the Roller Coaster of College Starts and Stops
Kimberly was a teen mother in 1997 when she graduated from Canton Public High School and started college. “I was determined to go to college, but that did not work out. I just couldn’t do it; I was sick from my pregnancy. So, I had to do an incomplete.”

With her college goals set aside, Kimberly got on with her life — she married, had another baby, and later got divorced. But her ambition resurfaced. “I knew I still had to go back to school, so I returned for my cosmetology license in 1999 while I was working.”

For the next 18 years, Kimberly worked a full-time job in the Madison County School District and raised her kids. During that time, she continued to attend Holmes Community College, gradually chipping away at the required general studies credits in their nursing program. “It took me probably four years just to complete the general study classes,” Kimberly said. “. . . I would not quit. I would finish a class and get my [credit] hours. But then I would take time off. I just couldn’t manage to go straight through.”

Confronting Her Limitations
In 2015, life threw Kimberly a serious curve ball when she was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. Instead of retreating to the comfort of her family, she refused to tell them. Instead, she continued working and even taking classes.

“I told myself that I’m going to handle this on my own; I’m going to get through it.” She said proudly. “I started taking chemo and was going back and forth to work and classes. No one knew . . . until one day, my brother who lives out of state came home to visit and saw that something was not right.” Kimberly’s condition had worsened, and she came to realize she could not do it alone, “I couldn’t drive anymore,” she recalled. “I couldn’t even hold my head up and eat. I felt like, this was it — the end for me.”

Kimberly’s family rallied to her support and coupled with the help of her medical team, she felt she had the support and resources to beat the cancer. She buckled down for what turned out to be a three-year struggle. Then in 2018, she got the news . . . her prayers had been answered…the cancer was in remission!!

A Lifeline…When Its Needed Most
It wasn’t long after learning she was in remission that Kimberly began to get anxious . . . she was no longer preoccupied with the cancer, now her thoughts shifted to an uncertain future. Then one day, while surfing the internet, she spotted an ad for Complete 2 Compete. The vision she had of being self-reliant popped back into her head and she clicked the ad. She read the offer but dismissed it. “I thought it was too good to be true.” recalls Kimberly. “. . . but the ads kept popping up.” It was then that she decided to make the call and apply. “I decided to do something for ME,” exclaimed Kimberly. “People were like, no, you just need to rest . . .” But I insisted, “. . . This is what I want to do!”

After contacting C2C, Kimberly eventually connected with her C2C coach at Holmes Community College. She learned she needed 30 credit hours for her associate degree in Healthcare Management. “. . . I was a little nervous at first because suddenly it was like, okay, this [program] IS really for real.”

Kimberly decided to take “baby steps” and return to complete an associate degree, instead of returning to complete her bachelor’s degree. At that point, she lacked a plan and was overwhelmed as a single mom, juggling kids, and work.

“People usually think once you get to college, you got it. That you don’t need to have your hand held. But sometimes it takes holding a person’s hand to get them to where they need to be.” Kimberly went on to admit, “I thought I had it figured out. But I didn’t. I kept trying to do too much . . . seeking no help, and then [I would end up] quitting when I got overwhelmed.”

Thankfully, after registering with C2C, Kimberly was connected with Jackie Hale, then the C2C Coach at Holmes Community College. She credits her, and her academic advisor at Holmes, Pamela Fells, with getting her on track. Together they provided her with a plan and path to a degree.

Kimberly shared how her C2C coach helped her get the skills and tools she needed to succeed. “She pretty much just laid out a foundation [for me]. She helped me learn how to plan and organize . . . and coached me through it. This meant so much to me,” Kimberly said. “I remember getting in my truck after leaving her office and crying because no one had ever sat down to actually help me hands-on like that before.”

Regular check-ins also kept Kimberly on track, focused and motivated. Plus, the C2C Grant provided help with tuition. It took two years, but in 2020 Kimberly finished the additional coursework needed and she was awarded an associate degree.

Wanting More and Going For It
The impact of her associate degree came quickly. Now that she had her associate degree, Kimberly qualified for a promotion to the central office…which also came with a raise!

Kimberly disagrees with anyone that says a degree won’t make a difference, “Before when I applied for positions at the central office, I wasn’t qualified enough to be considered since the administration was looking at an applicant’s education levels. So, a degree does make a difference!”

But she aspired for more . . . because for Kimberly the inspiration, tools and know-how she received at Holmes, only served to motivate her to go further. As she tells it, “. . . after completing my associate [degree], I became thirsty for more education! I realized that life, financially, could only get better!”

Unfortunately, back in 2020 the C2C program did not have the funding to provide continued financial support for returning students who completed an associate degree. Kimberly admits that when she heard this, she was really disappointed, but she would not be deterred, “I was not able to receive a C2C Grant for my bachelor’s,” she said regrettably, “but I did not let that hinder me from continuing.”

Without looking back, Kimberly applied to Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU). Thanks to the skills she acquired at Holmes and the extra income from her new job, she was able to enroll in the Business Administration Program. Kimberly signed up to make the financial sacrifices and she took on the academic challenges so she and her kids could have a better life. And sure enough, in December 2022, she was awarded her bachelor’s degree, after completing all the coursework requirements without interruption.

In just four years, Kimberly had gone from being stressed-out with no direction, to graduating with a top grade point average and leading her class at MVSU’s graduation procession.

Kimberly shared her memories of graduation day, “This was my moment. My family was there . . . but since my dad had passed away in June . . . I had mixed emotions . . . so I decorate my cap in his honor . . .” She paused briefly to compose herself, then she perked up, continuing proudly, “. . . And [that day] the university president called to personally congratulate me . . . plus when I got there and they were organizing the procession, and they came to my name, they said, ‘go to the front of the line’, now THAT really surprised me! I had no idea I would lead the class at the ceremony.”
According to Kimberly, what she has learned, and the credentials have increased her confidence and made a difference in how she is seen professionally. Now when she deals with colleagues and movers and shakers, she has become a go-to person with a new level of consideration and respect.

“I’ve been blessed beyond blessed . . . so many opportunities have presented themselves because of my degree . . . and I did not go out and apply for the opportunities . . . instead, these opportunities were presented to me . . .” Kimberly went on to share how satisfying it is to be sought out. It’s now not uncommon for her to hear, “YOU are who we need in this spot.”

Impacting Others
The way Kimberly handled setbacks and her accomplishments have impacted more than her income and career. Consciously or not, she had set an example for her children to follow. And follow they have . . . As of the publishing of this article, one of her sons has graduated from college, the other is on track to graduate later in the year and her daughter is a top student and leader in high school. And the fruits of her hard work have also attracted a welcome addition to her life. Kimberly shared that she had recently met someone, a teacher, who completed his master’s degree and is working on being an administrator. “We both believe in education — it’s our common ground,” she said.

Kimberly has put her business degree and cosmetology license to work as the proud owner of her very own hair salon. If that is not enough, she recently started Cool Daddy’s Dispatch Service and is also licensed to sell insurance. When asked about her goals for the future, Kimberly responded enthusiastically, “I want to inspire young people . . .”

Kimberly’s plans are to eventually return to school, earn a master’s degree and teach at the college level. As she puts it, “I’ve walked in their shoes . . . and understand them better . . . because of the obstacles I’ve had to overcome.” As she looks ahead, she feels that her personal experiences will help her to better relate with students and have a greater impact . . . maybe even inspiring a few.

Take That First Step — Your Future Awaits!
Kimberly wants others to benefit from her experiences and see how important it is to act when life presents an opportunity. “You’ve got to take the first step; C2C is not going to come knock on your door,” Kimberly advises. “We’re all scared sometimes [to take a risk]. But if it’s something you really want, then call the number or fill out the form. It’s just that easy. And after that, everything is going to fall in place. But you’ve got to take the first step.”

C2C — The Boost You Need To Get Your Degree!
C2C helped provide a lifeline for Kimberly and she is realizing her goals of higher pay, and career advancement. Take it from Kimberly, “You don’t have to do it alone!” Learn more about C2C. It just may provide the boost you need to finish your degree with a degree plan that fits your life, circumstances, and needs. Whether you are returning to complete an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or both, C2C can help!

Find out how you can go further with C2C.


C2C is a state program that helps Mississippi adults who previously attended college earn a degree and create a brighter future.