Vance-Granville Community College recently nominated Emory Gant-Hawkins of Henderson, a student in the college’s Culinary Arts program, for the North Carolina Community College System’s Dallas Herring Achievement Award.
The award was established by the system in 2010 to honor the late Dr. Dallas Herring, the longtime State Board of Education chairman and one of the state’s earliest advocates of community colleges. Each year, the award recognizes a current or former community college student who best embodies Herring’s philosophy of “taking people where they are and carrying them as far as they can go.”
Gant-Hawkins said that before she became a VGCC student, she did not recognize her own potential. “Before, I always thought about my dreams, yet I never really reached for them,” she said. “Now I am the person who strives to overcome obstacles. While some people see unfortunate circumstances as boulders, I learned to look at them as stepping stones. Each of mine has been a step up to something greater.”
Gant-Hawkins has overcome the challenges of balancing her responsibilities as a wife and mother with her studies and a part-time job at the Henderson Country Club. She not only has excelled academically but also has become a student leader. Gant-Hawkins is a student ambassador, a senator representing the college’s Main Campus in the Student Government Association, and a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. She has received endowed academic scholarships from VGCC and has earned Dean’s List honors. Gant-Hawkins is a member of the college’s SkillsUSA chapter and recently placed second in the state in a SkillsUSA competition.
In her interactions with other students, Gant-Hawkins also strives to embody the philosophy of Dr. Herring by encouraging them to see their potential. “Because many people look only at where they stand, they may not even see the distance they can go,” she said. “They may not be aware of inner strengths they themselves possess or opportunities to build upon those strengths. They may not know about school and community resources that can help people overcome internal or external obstacles.”
She tries to help those students access people, programs, and agencies that can offer assistance. “I use my life experiences as lessons when encouraging others to strive for their dreams,” Gant-Hawkins said. “I am happy for my own achievements, and it warms me to see people’s faces when they realize that because of me, they are in a good place they never knew existed.”
Gant-Hawkins is set to graduate with her Culinary Arts degree in May but will return to VGCC in the fall to complete a Business Administration degree.
“Emory is an outstanding representative of Vance-Granville’s hard-working students,” said VGCC Endowment Fund Director Eddie Ferguson. “Her example is an inspiration not only to her fellow students but also to the faculty and staff.”