Change in plans leads student to new career.

By Jana Carver

Throughout her life, Guilford Technical Community College student, Mary Martin, has learned that sometimes the only way to move forward is to change your plans.

While in her twenties, Martin wanted to be a nurse.  But after injuring herself on the job as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), she could no longer follow that dream.

“It was devastating because that was my plan,” said Martin, 38 of Asheville and mother of four.

What made this unexpected turn even more difficult was that Martin was struggling in an abusive relationship. She describes this part of her life as “a long, hard road.” But Martin reached the end that road in 2003 when she decided she was no longer going to be a victim, but a survivor.

Mary Martin (Carla Kucinski/GTCC)

Mary Martin (Carla Kucinski/GTCC)

“I left with nothing but my kids and the few things that I had accumulated through the years that were mine,” she said.

Martin found strength in her determination to pursue her career and quickly began gaining office experience. She was still hoping to go to nursing school and find an administrative position, but this career path was not a good fit, so she decided to branch out.

“I was going through different temp services, trying to figure out what I wanted to do. … I needed to figure out me. I needed to figure out what was going to be my career of choice now that my plan had changed so significantly,” she said.

Martin accepted a temporary position as a file clerk in distribution at Kellogg’s, which soon turned into a permanent job. And then, something else unexpected happened: she fell in love with her job.

“I just got in there, and it was so different, and it was exciting. … I had to think a lot and figure out problems. It was like puzzle pieces,” Martin said.

Her ability to handle the stress of working in warehouse distribution helped her progress quickly within the company, but, without a college degree, Martin said she eventually “hit that glass ceiling.”

“I wasn’t getting paid for the job that I was doing because I didn’t have that piece of paper,” Martin said.

So in fall 2014, after extensive planning, Martin left the job she’d held for eight years and enrolled at Guilford Technical Community College to major in both Business Administration and Global Logistics. It was a big step for Martin. It had been years since she had been in a classroom, but she said GTCC was the right choice.

“At GTCC, they’ve been great as far as helping me along the way and putting me in the position where I can learn at my own pace. …” Martin said. “If you really care about what you’re there to do, they’ll give you all the help that you need.”

As a student, Martin has taken advantage of the support and opportunities GTCC has to offer. She has received five scholarships and has found employment at GTCC’s Small Business Center, which fosters and supports entrepreneurship, small business, and economic development in the local community.

“I absolutely love the fact that people take the time and take a little bit out of their end to contribute to my education, to pursuing what I want to do,” Martin said. “If it wasn’t for that, if those resources weren’t available, I don’t know if I would still be here.”

Martin plans to graduate in 2017.


— August 3, 2016