By Holly Desrosier
Craven Community College (Craven CC) student Christina “Ru” Fletcher was recently named a 2019 Academic Excellence Award (AEA) recipient and one of “The Great Within the 58.” Fletcher was among 58 students recognized for educational excellence from each of the state’s community colleges by the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS).
Selection requirements for AEA winners state that students must be currently enrolled, have completed at least 12 semester hours in an associate degree program and have a cumulative grade point average of no less than 3.25. In honor of their academic accomplishments, recipients received a plaque, medallion and congratulatory letter from NCCCS President Peter Hans. The recognitions coincided with North Carolina Community College Excellence in Education Month, as declared by Governor Roy Cooper in April.
“Receiving this award feels indescribable,” said Fletcher. “Growing up homeschooled, I’ve always felt like what I did went unseen and unknown. Trying to manage my time so that I could make the most of the many opportunities at Craven while working and keeping up with classes has at times felt insurmountable, and this award just feels like someone has seen that.”
The award came as a complete surprise to her. She was initially shocked at finding out she was nominated and especially so after being named a recipient. A group of college administrators presented a stunned Fletcher with the award in the middle of her science class.
“I have no idea who nominated me or why they did, but I can’t say thank you enough,” she said. “This is a huge encouragement that I’m on the right track and that my hard work will pay off one day.”
On May 11, Fletcher graduated with honors and received an associate in science degree. As part of the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program, or C-STEP, she will transfer to UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall as a junior and pursue a degree in Exercise and Sport Science with a double minor in Medical Literature and Culture and Medical Anthropology in preparation for medical school. She hopes to become a cardiothoracic surgeon.
Fletcher knew she wanted to go into a medical field from an early age. Her current educational path is the result of a longtime goal that she has worked toward for many years. However, she didn’t think a college career would be possible up until a couple of years ago.
“I have wanted to be a surgeon ever since I read an article in National Geographic when I was seven years old about biochemical warfare in World War II,” she said. “The heart became my fascination when I was nine and I saw an anatomically correct image of the heart and its chambers. I’ve been in love ever since. I’ve always known my goal; it’s just trying to get there that’s been the hard part.”
Fletcher was homeschooled her entire life, and when the time came for her to graduate, she realized she wasn’t sure what her next step was. She could not afford college applications and began to think college was out of the question. When she came to Craven CC, she was finally able to set her academic journey in motion.
“I am paying for all of my school, so Craven gave me a place to gain some financial stability,” she said. “It actually enabled me to pursue my goals. Something I thought I would have to make due with turned into a crucial time in my life.”
Since starting at the college, Fletcher immediately took the initiative to surpass the workload of a typical college student. She has been a member of the Student Government Association for two consecutive terms, as well as a member of Phi Theta Kappa international honor society and the Scholars in Engineering and Science (SEAS) scholarship program for students interested in a STEM-based career. She was also involved in the Honors Program, an invitation-only program for high-achieving students that requires additional, rigorous coursework.
“Craven has given me a place to grow and mature,” she affirmed. “SEAS broadened my knowledge of STEM, which will carry throughout my career in the sciences. I have leadership experience through the SGA, business skills through C-STEP and SGA, research experience through the Honors Program, mentors from everything and the list goes on.”
Her involvement in those extracurricular activities helped her break out of her shell and find her voice. What started as a shy, unsure teenager blossomed into a confident, intelligent woman ready to show the world what she has to offer.
Fletcher said she was able to make it this far due to an amazing support system that provided encouragement. Her time at Craven CC taught her the importance of mentors, family and friends, all of whom provided her a positive college experience. Attending a four-year university was once daunting and improbable, but it is now a reality thanks to her support system and reinforced self-confidence.
“I really can’t say enough to thank the people I’ve met at Craven,” she said. “I have more confidence going into university knowing how to talk with instructors and having searched for academic opportunities outside the classroom.”
Fletcher’s college experience is an inspirational reminder that education is never out of reach. Regardless of someone’s personal or financial situation, Craven CC has the resources to assist and send students on the path they’re cut out for. All it takes is that first step to commit to a quality education.
“The biggest thing that Craven has taught me is that a class can teach you as much as you want it to,” said Fletcher. “The learning doesn’t end in the classroom: You can follow your interests and carry it so much farther to benefit you in countless professional and academic pursuits.”
To meet with an advisor and find out which program is the right fit, contact the Craven CC admissions department at 252-638-7430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article also appeared in the Sun Journal.