Edwards earns WPCC Academic Excellence Award

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April 22, 2021 – At 52 years old, first-generation college student Kim Edwards is the 2021 recipient of the Academic Excellence Award at Western Piedmont Community College, which the WPCC Trustees presented on April 20.

Joel Welch and Scott Mulwee present Kim Edwards with certificate.

WPCC President Joel Welch (left) and WPCC Board of Trustees Chair Scott Mulwee (right) present Recreational Therapy Assistant student Kim Edwards with the 2021 Academic Excellence Award during the Trustees meeting April 20.

Edwards is a Morganton resident in the Recreational Therapy Assistant program at WPCC. She began her journey at the college in the spring of 2020 and will earn her Associate in Applied Science degree in 2023.

“My program is often too exciting ­– like climbing 50-foot towers or repelling down a rope with someone on the other end that I am trusting with my life,” Edwards said. “I went from being anxious about sitting in a classroom to never missing a class. I have learned new things, different things; struggle to balance three jobs with home life and school, traveling to visit the people I love most, keeping myself together during trying times in the world around us and for me personally as well.”

Edwards grew up in Eaton, Indiana, and graduated high school in 1986. As a child and into her early adulthood, she said earning a college degree was not prioritized in her family.

“College was never a discussion in my home,” she said. “My three older siblings didn’t go to college. I met and married my children’s father, who had old fashioned family ideas, and gave up my dreams of college to fit into his dream of a family.”

Edwards said she pushed her four children to succeed in school and follow their dreams. They all pursued higher education, earning degrees and certificates, and three of the four are continuing their education to this day.

“And still, I felt like a failure,” she said. “I found myself with grown children, living away from their father and struggling to figure out who I was if I couldn’t be a wife and mother in the same role I had been for 25 years. I wanted my children – the lights of my life, my best friends, my biggest fans – to be proud of me as I am of them. So I did it. I enrolled in college classes at WPCC.”

WPCC offers the only Recreational Therapy Assistant degree program in North Carolina. This two-year degree trains students to develop recreational activities that promote independence, confidence and rehabilitation for individuals with disabilities, injury or illness. Graduates are equipped for jobs in hospitals, nursing home and retirement communities, recreation centers, and more.

Kim climbing on a rope bridge, wearing a helmet and mask.

Kim Edwards climbs on a ropes course as part of the WPCC Recreational Therapy Assistant program curriculum.

“Kim is an asset to the Recreational Therapy Assistant program,” said Katharine Wright, program coordinator. “She brings a wonderful perspective to classroom discussions and is inspiring and encouraging to her peers. She puts superior effort into all of her schoolwork and goes above and beyond inside and outside the classroom. I am excited to see what contributions she will make to the profession.”

Edwards hopes to pursue a career at a local facility upon graduation.

“At age 52, I am a first-generation college student who is juggling all the titles that society puts on me – mom, grammy, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, girlfriend, employee – and doing my best to be a success in each role,” she said. “I am thankful I have the ability to choose this journey and thankful for everyone who is sharing in this journey with me.”