PATRICK — It may have taken Cynthia McCormick 20 years to finish the college degree she started in high school, but she says she wouldn’t change a thing about the life that “got in the way.”
Cynthia McCormick is a widowed mother of four children, a Northeastern Technical College graduate, the president of the NETC Student Government Association and now a recently elected town councilwoman in Patrick. She has a lot on her plate, but she’s always been committed to earning a college degree, which will happen this spring when she walks across the stage to accept her associate in science in criminal justice.
According to McCormick, the road to her associate’s degree has been a long one, because “life happened,” but over the years, she never lost sight of her goal.
McCormick began working toward her college degree in 1995 as a Cheraw High School student with Northeastern Technical College’s dual enrollment program. Following high school, she used the college credits she earned to enroll in NETC’s criminal justice certificate program, which she completed in 1997.
After NETC, life moved fast. McCormick moved to Columbia and worked for the state correctional system while taking more college courses at Midlands Tech. A few years later, she reconnected with a man she had known since childhood, fell in love, and moved back to her hometown of Patrick.
Life happily happened. McCormick had children and nurtured her growing family. In 2004, she found her passion for a career in the criminal justice system re-kindled while working with disadvantaged and troubled youth at AMI Kids.
“I have always been passionate about service, because my mother taught me that giving back was important. I wanted to help troubled kids, and I knew that a criminal justice degree could be helpful,” McCormick said. “Neither of my parents finished school beyond the eighth grade, my mother and I actually learned to read together. Education and service are two very important aspects in my life.”
In 2013, McCormick’s life changed drastically when her husband suffered a heart attack and died suddenly. As a single mother with two teenagers and two preschool-aged children counting on her, McCormick couldn’t allow the tragedy to derail her life.
“My husband’s death really motivated me to do something and finish my degree,” she said. “Recently, my son was diagnosed with autism, so I don’t know what will happen. But, I do know that now it’s more important than ever to finish what I started. People are counting on me, and I have to set a good example.”
In the fall of 2013, McCormick was on campus to help her teenage daughter enroll at NETC when she learned the criminal justice program had expanded, allowing students to earn their associate degree, and she knew that the time had come to get her college education back on track.
“It was a little scary even thinking about going back to school,” McCormick said. “I knew that I was going to be older than most students, but instead of it being a problem, I think it’s worked to my advantage.”
McCormick feels that with maturity comes wisdom, and says the younger students sometimes look to her for help.
“I take my classes more seriously now than when I was younger. I am driven to learn,” she said. “I take good notes, I’m always in class, and my classmates know that I am not afraid to speak up and ask the questions they won’t.”
McCormick said many programs at NETC have helped her along the way. She uses free tutoring services, available through support services, to ensure that she doesn’t lag behind, and works with her adviser to ensure she’s on track to transfer her degree to Coker College next fall.
“I know there are lots of people who can say that ‘life’ got in the way of their education, but you live and learn,” she said. “I wouldn’t have wanted it any differently, I love being a parent, and didn’t want to miss anything with my kids.”
McCormick thinks that no matter your age or circumstance, you are never too old to start or finish college.
“Life may have gotten in the way, but it didn’t stop me,” she said. “I have no regrets.”
Shannon Justice works in marketing and communications for Northeastern Technical College.