Monday, November 21, 2016

Looking for a new career? Consider Mechatronics

Industries ranging from manufacturing to health care are in great need of workers with automation and systems technology skills. Mechatronics is the engineering behind those systems. A new state of Tennessee Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) 2.0 grant provides $811,000 for Volunteer State Community College to build electronic, hydraulic and pneumatic labs, and to train instructors in Siemens certification for mechatronics. Vol State is partnering with Workforce Essentials in the project called Mechatronics-2-Jobs.

“Mechatronics directly links the skilled workforce required to maintain and program equipment to the manufacturing sector, which is exploding throughout the region,” said John Watz, vice president for Strategic Planning and Development at Workforce Essentials. “Workforce Essentials and the North Tennessee Workforce Board has their whole support behind this program.”

“We have been in discussions with business and industry for more than a year about the need for this program and how to get it started at Vol State.  We are so pleased that we received the grant, which will allow us to move quickly to establish a Mechatronics program at Vol State in Gallatin. “Persons with training and skills in this area are in high demand,” said Vol State president, Jerry Faulkner. “Graduates will easily find good paying positions in this high skill area. At Vol State we are dedicated to meeting the educational and training needs of our service area.” 

Vol State will launch an associate of applied science (AAS) mechatronics degree program on the Gallatin campus in the fall of 2017. It will provide the training and certification education students need for entry level jobs as mechanical engineering technicians, electrical engineering technicians and industrial engineering technicians, just to name a few. Graduates will have skills in the installation, maintenance and repair and of mechanical controls, fluid power systems, electrical equipment and electronic equipment. Vol State already utilizes labs and classes for mechatronics classes at the Cookeville Higher Education Campus (CHEC). The LEAP grant will add labs to the Gallatin campus and equipment at Highland Crest in Springfield.

The bureau of Labor Statistics says the national median salary for mechanical engineering technicians is $53,910. Job growth is projected at 5 percent in coming years. It is even higher in Tennessee. The grant project partners with several area manufacturers for internships and job entry programs. And once in the workplace, students can continue their education for a bachelor of science degree through a partnership with Austin Peay State University. It’s designed specifically for working students.

The LEAP program supports Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 campaign. It seeks to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or credential to 55 percent by 2025. The LEAP grants go to community and academic partnerships that align workforce needs with higher education. For more information about Mechatronics at Vol State visit

Pictured: The Mechatronics Lab at the Cookeville Higher Education Campus provides hands-on robotics and automation equipment training for Vol State classes there.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What Will You Be Doing In Two Years?

True story: many years back I saw a news story about a woman in her sixties graduating from a college. My first thought? “You can do that??” Up until then I had thought of college as a young person’s venue only.

At that time I thought that I couldn’t afford to go back to school. It was in my “someday” list, along with the nice house and vacations in the Caribbean. Of course, it’s a little more difficult to get the nice house and vacations in the Caribbean without a college degree. So I waited for something to change, though I didn’t know what that would be.

What changed was something that is too common, especially among women. I got a divorce. Suddenly I was a single mom with almost no income and no degree. It was an event I wasn’t prepared for at all, and the first couple of years consisted of trying desperately not to find ourselves living in a box somewhere. Have you seen the cost of housing lately? In the short time between my being single and my becoming a single mom, prices in Nashville have skyrocketed. I looked up my former apartment to find that the rent had increased by 200%.

My point is that I was not prepared. We try to prepare for disasters by getting insurance and learning basic safety. We learn where the fire extinguisher is and to stop, drop, and roll. There’s no insurance for the event of divorce, and suddenly the privilege of stay-at-home-mom status becomes a severe liability.

An old proverb says “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” I realized that my whole life was going to consist of trying to keep us off the streets unless I took the plunge and got a degree.

Like me, a lot of adults wait until they’re desperate. You don’t have to. In a couple of years you could be walking across the stage to get your degree, excitingly preparing to transfer to a four-year university or anticipating new opportunities that could come with an associate’s degree. Plant your tree now.

Gaynell Buffinet Payne

Read more:
Take Classes this Coming Spring Semester
10 Reasons You Should Consider Community College Today!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Take Classes this Coming Spring Semester

It may seem like January 17 is a long way off...but with all of the holidays coming up, you won't have much time to think about applying and registering for spring college classes at Vol State. Those classes start January 17. Many people don't realize that you can start your college career in spring or summer. The tough part about spring semester is dealing with those holidays. That's why it's a good idea to get started now. Here are a few steps you need to take:

-Fill out an application. You can do this at any time and it is online. Visit

-If you are returning to Vol State after more than a semester off, you will need to fill out a re-admit application at the same link above.

-If you have previous college credits you may be able to apply those to your Vol State degree, even if you took those classes many years ago. It depends on the class and the college you attended. Admissions will help you get that squared away.

-After you have turned in your application you will get a welcome letter. That letter will have instructions on what to do next.

-In the meantime, you can see the degree programs we offer at Vol State here.

-We offer classes during the day, in the evening and online. You can start to take a look at your options here.

-Many adult students just take a class or two a semester, so they can balance work, family and college.

-We have a support system especially for adult students. Visit the Office of Adult Learners page here.

You are always welcome to visit us at any of our campuses, Gallatin, Springfield, Cookeville and Livingston, if you want to talk to someone first. We can discuss your plans and options at Vol State. You can also reach the Admissions Office on the phone at 615-230-3688.

We hope to see you here this spring semester!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Vol State Launches Cyber Defense Degree Program

The computer hacking of major corporations, government offices and banks is a growing threat. There is a solution: Cyber Defense. Companies across the world are expanding and refining their security systems. Volunteer State Community College is responding to the need for Cyber Defense expertise with a new degree concentration starting this fall.

“It impacts every person on the planet, from the home user with email and online banking to the corporate world and government agencies,” said Teresa Moore, associate professor of CIT-Cyber Defense. “This degree will provide students the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge required to protect information and assets.”

Cyber Defense can be a lucrative career for people with the proper training, and this is especially true because of the extreme shortage of qualified employees. Cisco estimates there are one million open cyber-related positions worldwide. Vol State offers a comprehensive program that combines the foundation of Computer Information Technology (CIT) with specific Cyber Defense courses. The Vol State degree allows a student to enter the workplace or expand their learning. Recent Vol State CIT graduate John Deering is taking his education to the next level by transferring with a full-ride scholarship to the well-respected Cyber Security program at Capitol Technology University.

“In cyber defense you’re looking for someone who is digging around where they’re not supposed to be,” said Deering. “You find them and you can go get them. If I can help protect people from having their lives turned upside down, that’s something I want to do.” Deering was voted Outstanding Vol State graduate for fall 2015.

Students in the Cyber Defense program can also choose to take certification courses, including Security+, Network+, Mobility+, A+, Cisco CCNA and Cisco CCENT. “Certifications provide an employer or prospective employer proof of specific knowledge and skills,” said Moore. “That’s a real bonus for our students headed out into the workplace.”

Cyber Defense work includes elements of computer detective work and relies heavily on problem solving. Students in the Vol State program will work in the specially designed Cyber Lab with network virtualization and other relevant hands-on tools. The lab was funded by a workforce development grant from the Tennessee Governor’s office.

The new Cyber Defense program starts with the fall semester, but students can join in any semester. Vol State has also announced that the associate of science degree in Computer Science is now a Tennessee Transfer Pathway program that connects to bachelor degree programs at several area universities with complete credit transfer. For more information on Cyber Defense visit

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

5 Tips to Help You Succeed As An Adult Learner

There's no doubt about it: going to college as an older adult student comes with its own challenges. So I'm offering some timely advice, whether you're about to start your freshman year or heading into your sophomore terms.

1. Stop thinking about your age. That’s easier said than done sometimes; especially when you’ve got a good twenty years on everyone in the class – including your professor. But no one cares as much as you do, and if you give it a chance you may even make some new friends.

2. Take online courses. As adults many of us remember when the first online college courses cropped up and seemed a little… scammy. Now even Harvard has online course options. While you probably won’t be able to complete your whole degree online, there are enough options at Vol State to give you a good start. You’ll be able to attend class on your own schedule, making the transition to college a little easier on you and your family. One word of advice, however: don’t expect to study less than you would for a physical class. It still takes discipline and dedication.

3. Embrace your village. Sure, you’re strong and independent. But getting through college when you have children and other responsibilities is not a one-person job. Remember those friends who are always saying “call me if you need something”? Identify which of them are serious, and call them. Sometimes you need a little extra help watching the kids so you can get that essay written.

4. Use your resources. Need help with math? There are instructors waiting at the Learning Commons in the library, and they’re pretty good at explaining the tough stuff. Does the thought of writing essays make you want to hide under your bed? Tutors in the Language Center are ready to help. They even have Rosetta Stone for those taking foreign language courses. The staff at Vol State work extra hard to make sure their student’s succeed. Check out Vol State's College Success Zone for a more comprehensive list of academic help.

5. Take the time, make the time.
No doubt about it, going back to school takes a commitment. It takes times out of your already busy life. But as you feel the crunch, remember that this isn’t forever, but a degree will last forever. It’s for your future, and your children’s future. Keep your eye on the prize and don’t give up!

Have you found your own keys to success? Please share them in the comments! 

You might also enjoy: 10 Reasons You Should Consider Community College Today!

Gaynell Buffinet Payne

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

10 Reasons You Should Consider Community College Today

Haven’t been in school for a really long time? If you keep telling yourself that “one day” you’ll go back to college and get your degree, today is the day!

I was a college drop-out. Things got in the way – that happens. Life happens. But I always promised myself that one day I’d go back. The thing was, by the time I was able to start thinking about going back for my degree, it was twenty years later and I was intimidated by the idea. I started the paperwork just to see how far I could get, thinking only of the next step in the application process, and before I knew it I was taking classes. It’s a life-shift, to be sure, but it’s been a positive one.

So why should you look into applying at a community college?

1. Community college is a great way to start the ball rolling if you want to go back to school. Not only do they offer transfer paths for 4 year degrees, but at the end of two years you’ll have an associate’s degree to add to your resume. Statistics show that even an associate’s degree can boost your income. If a 4 year degree isn’t what you want, there’s also a myriad of 2 year certifications offered to boost your marketability.

2. Community colleges have a high percentage of returning adult students. No one will blink at your age when you come to apply and sign up for classes. And at Vol State there are a number of resources to help you get back in the game

3. The classes are smaller. You won’t be just a number in a crowd. It’s easy to make appointments with your instructors and get a little extra help if that’s what you need.

4. You can take classes online! Before my first semester I wasn’t sure how I could make it work with my schedule and being a mom. I didn’t have to. I signed up for online classes with the exception of one evening class. I could have taken that class online as well, but I wanted the experience of being in a classroom. Both options help working adults and parents balance school and life.

5. You may be able to get grants and scholarships to offset the costs of attending. It may even be free! Tennessee is in the midst of a big push to encourage its residents towards higher learning. Governor Haslam recognized that educated citizens make for a stronger state. Check out Tennessee’s “Drive to 55” and see what options are available to you.

6. Isn’t it time you started keeping those promises you made to yourself? I’ve known many people who had to drop out of college, and they always did it with the intention of “going back someday.” Make “someday” today.

7. It’s not just for you. If you have children, you know that you’ll all be making sacrifices to earn a degree. But it’s a good example of determination and accomplishing goals that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Your success will show them how to succeed.

8. If life can be better, this is how it starts. Going back to college doesn’t have to be a chore to get through so you can get a degree. It’s an experience. You might find yourself enjoying the journey.

9. Community College is cheaper. As I mentioned above, you may even be able to go for free. If you know that you want a 4 year degree, the rising costs of a traditional 4 year university can be softened by taking the first two years at a community college. It’s still a quality education without the painful price tag.

10. You can go further than you think! TTP degrees put you on a transfer path, if that’s what you’re going for. Think a state college is your only transfer option? Think again! Even Ivy League schools save some spots for non-traditional learners. If you’re a returning adult student, that means you. If you study hard, make the grades, and get involved in the community, you may be surprised at the doors that open for you.

So what are you waiting for? It’s not too late! Take the first step and see what happens. Start improving your life today.

Gaynell Buffinet Payne

Friday, May 27, 2016

People Fought For This

I recently read about a man who teaches children under a bridge in New Delhi. Rajesh Kumar Sharma couldn’t afford to finish his last year of college. That didn’t stop him from reaching out to the parents in an impoverished neighborhood and offering to teach their children – for free – a few hours every day.

“Knowledge increases when it is shared,” says Sharma.

My own path of education has been a bit unique. As a child I experienced attending public, private, and home schools. Every method is different in their own ways but the key things stay the same. Math, science, history, and lots of books. I learned there was something exciting and interesting about each subject if I approach it with an open mind. Though I wasn’t able to finish college the first time, I filled my homes with books and continued to learn about the things that interested me.

Education is as good as the effort you put into it. From being in a classroom or at home with a pile of library books, to having school under a bridge; it’s all learning and new growth.

We’re fortunate in the U.S. that “a free and appropriate education” is available to all school-aged children. Tennessee’s latest initiatives make going to college (or back to college) more available than ever.

This Memorial Day it’s appropriate to remember that many people fought in many different ways to make the U.S. a place where education is valued and encouraged. Knowledge is freedom. We honor their efforts and their lives with our own lives when we grab hold of the things they fought for. Never stop learning.

Gaynell Buffinet Payne is a writer, single mother, and student at Volunteer State Community College.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Virtual Reality Helps Vol State Students Fine-Tune Sonography Skills

The student peers into the computer screen and carefully manipulates the transducer with their hand. Vital organs come into view. They pulse and move, as in real life. The machine attached to the transducer may look like a robot out of Star Wars, but if you make a mistake, it grunts and screams, just like a real patient. Sonography students at Volunteer State Community College have a new state-of-the-art simulator to hone their skills and handle some delicate scenarios. It’s where the practiced hand meets virtual reality.

“You can memorize what you know you are supposed to see when it comes to the human body,” said Diagnostic Medical Sonography director Jennifer Carroll. “But what people struggle with is how it really looks inside the body. With this simulator you don’t have a patient. You don’t have to be embarrassed or intimidated. And what they see is real. This is actually what a gallbladder looks like,” she said, putting her finger to the fish-shaped space on the screen.

Sonography, also known as ultrasound, is one of the tools doctors use to look inside the body and diagnose patients. Trained and licensed sonographers do the scans. Vol State students practice on each other, to get hands-on training in the Vol State Sonography Center, a lab with several hospital beds, large HD monitors, and the latest professional ultrasound equipment. The new simulator not only allows them to practice particular skills they will need, over and over, but also perform procedures they couldn’t normally do in the classroom.

“The really cool thing is that we can do OB/GYN scans, especially a vaginal ultrasound,” said Carroll. “That’s something we can’t do in our ultrasound lab with real patients. This gives our students experience before they head out into a clinical environment.”

“It helps you practice,” said student Connor Hansford of Goodlettsville. “It screams if you press too hard. It lets you know you are in the right position. The more practice I get, the more comfortable that patient will be.”

“When you’re looking at the screen it’s a real ultrasound image. It makes you be very precise. The probe changes colors if you are doing it right. It’s green and if you’re off it turns red,” said student Denee Kelley of Murfreesboro.

It’s not just new technology coming to the Sonography program. Vol State is starting the process to be accredited in Vascular Sonography. The new curriculum starts this fall.

“Vascular ultrasound looks at veins and arteries, checking to see if someone has a blood clot or plaque in their arteries,” Carroll said. “We are currently accredited for abdomen and OB/GYN. Hospitals want this vascular training. It’s something graduates need. Now students will be able to get it all with one degree.” 

Applicants to the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program must have an associate of applied science degree in Health Sciences, with hands-on patient care, or a bachelor’s degree in any area. Middle Tennessee State University offers a four-year degree program where the final year can be completed in the Vol State Sonography program. For more information about Sonography at Vol State about visit

Pictured: Connor Hansford watches as Denee Kelley simulates a scan of the liver using new equipment at Vol State.

Graduation 2016 - Congrats Adult Students!

Graduation 2016...congratulations everyone!

Husband and Wife Graduate from Vol State Together

The kids are fidgety and the couple, dressed in cap and gown, looks a bit nervous. Brandy Meness says she is both tired and proud. Chris Meness says this will be the first time he has ever walked the stage at a graduation. The Putnam County husband and wife graduated from Volunteer State Community College during the commencement ceremony in Gallatin on Saturday. Many adult students face challenges balancing family, work and school. The Meness family handled all of that on a much larger scale. The couple attended Vol State at Livingston at the same time, while raising an 18-month-old, twin four-year-olds, a six-year-old and also taking care of two teenagers. Chris worked two jobs and went to school full-time to make ends meet. Brandy says her husband hasn’t had a day off in six weeks.

“We worked really hard for this,” Brandy Meness said. “We sacrificed a lot for this. We are both the first in our family to do this. We want to give our kids the best life possible.”

“It’s a life-changer for me,” said Chris Meness. “It’s going to help me break the chain. My mother, father, brothers and sisters- no one has ever graduated from college. It feels phenomenal.”

Despite the massive workload, the two have taken well to college. “Even though he has been working so much, Chris has a 3.3 grade point average,” Brandy said. “Hopefully I’m going to have a 4.0.”

They have only had one class together. Brandy laughed and said she found out her husband has a different learning style than her.

“My husband is a back of the classroom person- quiet and reserved,” she said. “I’m usually in the front of the classroom asking questions.”

“When other students are talking about how they don’t have anything to do after class my wife and I are talking about going to work and picking up the kids,” Chris said.

The couple is already enrolled for Tennessee Tech University to continue their studies, Brandy in Human Resources and Chris in sociology with a criminal justice emphasis. Chris actually took some TTU classes while finishing up his Vol State degree this spring. While they’re both excited about the future, they do have one small wish.

“He’s exhausted. I’m exhausted,” Brandy said. “We just want some family time this summer.”

Adults considering starting a new degree or finishing up degree work can visit for tips. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Life Happens, So Stop It

If you want something badly enough, you can change your course

When I was a kid we got an above-ground pool. We learned that if we got everyone walking in a circle the same way, we could make our own current. After a few rounds the game was just trying to stay on our feet because once the current got started it would sweep us along with it. Every once in a while we dared each other to turn around and try to change the current to flow the other way. Usually we gave up in giggles but once or twice we succeeded.

In spite of what the wonderful wisdom of internet memes will tell you, life isn’t 100% our own design. More often our personal currents are started at birth, and events and others in our life circle have it flowing along in a certain direction. Life can become something that just sort of happens to you, even if you make an occasional attempt to push it in another direction.

It can happen though. If you want something badly enough, you can change the course.

Life used to be something that just happened to me. I had choices that basically consisted of jumping blindly, but it was the same current. Then it was discovered that my son has special needs, and that his natural course was heading towards boulder-filled rapids. My daily motto became “failure is not an option” and I had to learn quickly how to take control of our lives.

No, life isn’t a meme or a pithy blog post, and changing the current isn’t easy. You have to decide something different, then you have to figure out how to do that something different, and then you have to get up and do it every single day. Sometimes you have to distance yourself from the people in your circle who want to keep pulling you in the same old direction. It’s hard. It’s not impossible.

It took years of fight and hard work – and I learned what my grandma meant when she’d say “I’m tired to the bone” – before we got to a place where we could breathe and let my son’s newly-formed current sweep us along. Once I got his course straight, I knew that it was time to come back to college and change my own.

Sometimes you have to dig in and stop letting life happen, and make life happen. It’s hard, but it’s worth the fight. Maybe I can make a meme out of that.

Gaynell Buffinet Payne is a writer, single mother, and student at Volunteer State Community College.

Friday, April 1, 2016

WHY are you doing this?

"I miss you," he said as I was driving him to school. I looked over at my 9-year-old who was looking out of the car window wistfully. I knew what he meant. We've both been always rushing somewhere: school, work, swim team, theater class, meetings. Get groceries, make tomorrow's lunches, repeat. We both miss the times when life was slower, simpler.

Going back to college has meant some sacrifice and a lot of change. For a child with autism even small changes can be difficult transitions, and I had gone and changed everything. Any child would have issues with that. There have been several deep talks about why I'm doing this, and what it could mean for both of us in the future. The future seems a very abstract concept when you're a child. Slowly, though, things begin to shift. Life fits back together again with all of its new pieces.

I could spout off the rhetoric and list the usual reasons for coming back to college, and they're all true. The most important reason wasn't as obvious, however. As our lives changed I began to teach him one more big lesson: how to succeed. As he reads my work and I read him my homework, through all the times he's heard "Sorry baby, Mom has to study now," he's been learning this lesson in ways that I didn't even realize until he started repeating them back to me. He knows now that Mom works hard and isn't giving up, even when it's tough. And because I can do it, he can do it too.

We all want better for our children. I know my parents did and still do. Lead by example and teach them how. When it gets tough is the time to dig your heels in. Study hard, ask for help, finish the semester the best you can, then register for the next semester. Repeat until you're wearing that graduation cap.

The day he said he missed me I dropped him off at school with a kiss then continued on to Vol State campus. In between two classes and a bit of homework I grabbed coffee, drove to his school, and asked to speak to him. We sat in a private corner for a few minutes, together, just breathing in, before we both had to go back to class. And we both learn balance.

Gaynell Buffinet Payne 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Be Brave

Stepping out of your comfort zone

“I feel too old to be here,” said the young man next to me with a laugh. Watching the crowd of teenagers and young twenty-somethings milling around the concert venue, I was feeling the same way. I had heard on the radio that a band I really like was coming to Nashville and quickly bought a ticket; not knowing or caring that the venue was a teen hangout. I asked him how old he was, hopeful for someone – even a stranger – to commiserate with. He was six years younger than me. I sighed inwardly, still feeling “too old to be here.”

Several years later I stood at the door of a classroom, looking at a room full of classmates who were young enough to be my kids, and that feeling came rushing back. I bolstered myself with stories of other adult students who had come back to college and paved the way before me, and found a seat.

It’s not always easy to step away from the crowd and be different. It’s even more difficult to walk into the crowd with your differences on display. Sometimes you just want to stay comfortably in your comfort zone.

Since that first day of class I have met other “returning adult students” around campus, even attending a Launch & Learn meeting hosted by Vol State that addressed issues and concerns that adult students in particular share. Such as feeling too old to be here. It’s good to have someone to commiserate with. Most of all, as I started to participate in classroom discussions and assignments, I saw that the differences were not as big of a gap as I made them out to be. We’re all students here.

How did the concert go? Once the music started and I let go of my hang-ups, it ended up being a memorable night. And that young man became an important part of my life. I stepped out and found a new comfort zone.

If you’re a returning adult student here at Vol State, chances are that you can relate. If you’re someone who is considering returning to school, be brave! There are plenty of people here ready to welcome you and help you find your place.

Gaynell Buffinet Payne

P.S. If you have any particular questions or concerns about being a returning adult student, contact Briggette Moore, Secretary for the Office of Veterans Affairs and Adult Learners at or call 615-230-4861



Monday, January 18, 2016

"Mom, what does rat poop look like?"

A typical day of studying for me:

Why can't I do this faster? Why haven't I managed to finish this paper yet? My biggest frustration this semester is that I'm convinced this shouldn't take so much time.

I type "It is a commonality that the injured human psyche will seek to repeat patterns of crisis from past relationships. The subconscious searches for resolution in current relationships to resolve past conflicts. This unfortunate-"

The door bursts open for the fifth time in ten minutes.
"Mom, what does rat poop look like?"
"'What does-?' Son, we do not have rats!"
"There's something brown on my floor!"
I go into his room to pick up a half-eaten M&M off his floor.
"This is why you're not supposed to eat in your room."
"Sorry, Mom. I'll leave you alone now to study. I swear!"
Uh huh.

I sit back down again to continue my analysis of the Wife of Bath from Canterbury Tales in the brief lull before my next interruption, but my train of thought is wrecked and my heart's not in it anymore. Focus!
"This unfortunate inclination of an injured psyche can be seen in contemporary times as people repeat cycles of abuse in relationships."

Timid knock. "Mom?"

Sigh. Is 4:30 in the afternoon too early for bedtime?

I have a French test to prepare for and my falling blood sugar reminds me that I haven't eaten today. The Wife of Bath has waited a few hundred years for my psychoanalysis, she can wait a few hours more. I close the computer to go fix  myself a late lunch before I parlĂ© some français, stopping on the way to torture my son with tickles for the many interruptions.

Gaynell Buffinet Payne

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What's Your Story?

The bookstore at Vol State has been hopping as students anticipate returning to class next week. I had a chance to speak with Chelsea as she hauled a stack of textbooks to the counter, children in tow.

"Last year I went into the hospital studying, had him, and came right back and took my midterms," she told me. The child in her arms flashed me a cherubic smile before ducking his head into her shoulder.

I admire her dedication! Vol State boasts of a variety of students who are determined to do what they can to make it work. What's your story?

Gaynell Buffinet Payne

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Life as an Adult Student

Introducing Gaynell Buffinet Payne as our new Social Media Writer. She is a single mother and an adult student at Vol State.

“This is insane. Why am I doing this?” I thought for the thousandth time as I glanced up at the clock. It was past midnight and my child was in bed, neglected dishes sat in the sink, and books were spread out on the sofa beside me. Sleep and dishes would have to wait. I had another deadline to meet. As a forty-something single mother of a special needs child, it seemed that my going back to school should be the least of my priorities. But something in me wouldn’t let me quit, even if my goals were fuzzy from lack of sleep.

I’m here because I made a promise to myself a long time ago, and it’s time to make good on it. I’m here because I’ve spent my whole life studying and learning, and I deserve a degree. I’m here because eventually this will lead to better paths. I’m here simply because it’s what I want.

Circumstances prevented me from finishing college so many years ago. Life happens. I’m fortunate to have a second chance. Being a mother taught me determination; being a single mother of a special needs child taught me how to dig in with stubborn fortitude when things get tough. If I can do it for him, I can do it for myself.

While it’s easy to get caught up in the mentality that I’m the only student on campus over the age of 24, I know that as a returning adult student I’m not alone. The Vol State campus is a wonderfully diverse community that doesn’t fit stereotype. So whether you are a current adult student or wavering with the decision of returning to school, this blog is for you. It’s for us. I look forward to us getting to know each other this semester.

-Gaynell Buffinet Payne

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