Leigh Goroski, Director of Admissions and Student Success, in her own words:
I earned a BA in History at NC State University and a MS in Counselor Education from East Carolina University. I began my career at Wilson Community College in 2014 as the STARS Center Coordinator. I was able to move up to Director in 2017, and then Director of Admissions and Student Success in 2019, after Student Development reorganized, combining admissions and STARS advising.
I am grateful for the potential our administration has seen in me and the opportunities that have followed. Since I started working in the NC Community College system, I have had a singular focus of supporting students and promoting their success, and this position has allowed me to fulfill that goal.
Along the way, there have been many women that have inspired and taught me; It is not just one that inspires me. It’s every woman that has taken the time to impart wisdom, give advice, and create opportunities for other women. Those are the women that I notice and strive to emulate.
Jessica Jones, Vice President of Finance/Administrative Services, in her own words:
I got my start in Edenton, North Carolina, a small town that I was raised in. A town that I am proud to be from and still call my home. I am the second youngest of 12 children and a product of my upbringing. Being one of the youngest, I was able to witness numerous displays of hard work, determination, and sacrifice from not only my parents but every one of my siblings. I was surrounded by family who had achieved success considering many barriers. I witnessed the accomplishment of a local farmer, lead custodian, housewife, entrepreneur, manager, law official, educator, and numerous manufactory workers.
It was evident that my family had figured out their path in life and had paved the way for us younger ones. Still, I had no idea what my career path was going to be. I knew I had a love for math, science, and art, but which career do you choose from that love? I chose art and began to take all available art classes, entered drawing contests, and shadowed my older brother who had received an Arts degree.
That love for art was gently placed to the side by a class elective — Accounting I. “A career that I would be able to do math all day for a living and enjoy it.” That moment was when I found my path. While family was still my inspiration, now I could add to that list, my accounting teacher. A teacher who not only taught a challenging subject for most but provided ways for you to enjoy while you learned.
In 1994, I graduated from Elizabeth City State University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. In that same year, I started my post-degree career as a manager of Shoe Show, a retail chain. Two years later I relocated from Edenton to Wilson, North Carolina, where I worked in Greenville and Rocky Mount for that same retail chain for five years. In 1999, I was hired as the assistant controller here at Wilson Community College, having the required education but minimum experience. I was grateful that I was given the opportunity to prove my worth and that my upbringing was not in vain.
After five years as an assistant controller, shadowing the current controller, taking on new assignments, and implementing procedures to streamline complex processes, I was given the opportunity to prove my worth once again when I was promoted to Controller in 2004. After fifteen years dedicated to daily accounting duties, month-end and year-end closeouts, financial statement preparation, and state audits, I had earned my keep.
I could not have moved on to my current position without recognizing those who contributed to my success as an assistant controller and controller. The successful completion of 20+ years of audits can be contributed to the dedicated, hard-working, and passionate staff within the business office and auxiliary services of the College.
For the past three years, I have been the Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services here at Wilson Community College. The same dedication, hard work, and passion for my work that got me here will continue to be the things that will drive me to succeed. My family, my accounting teacher, and now my staff are all high on that list of people who have inspired me.
Jennifer Gonyea, Director of Enrollment Services/Registrar, in her own words:
The importance of obtaining an education was instilled in me at a very young age. Growing up I watched both of my parents struggle financially due to the fact that they were both high school dropouts and as a result had low-paying jobs. I truly believe that their unending struggles I witnessed growing up led to the realization that education was of significant importance if I wanted to have a successful career in the field of my choice. The experiences encountered in my childhood provided me with the motivation I needed to graduate from college and are the foundation of my beliefs and values as they relate to education.
My experiences as a student have also contributed to my educational beliefs and values. Throughout my college career I can recall numerous occasions when faculty and staff willingly supported and encouraged my educational endeavors. I believe that without this support and encouragement I would easily have gotten lost along the way and given up. With this support and encouragement, I was able to complete two associate degrees at Wilson Community College. These experiences made me realize the importance of providing individuals with resources to help them achieve their educational goals. In 2004, I obtained an entry-level position at Wilson Community College that allowed me to see first-hand the struggles adult learners encountered on a daily basis. It was then my passion for helping others obtain an education flourished and I realized that I wanted my career to be in adult education. I went on to pursue, and graduate with, a third associate degree from the college. After this, I realized if I wanted to move up the ladder in higher education, I would need to obtain advanced degrees. I enrolled at East Carolina University in 2008. Since then I have earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (2011), a Master of Arts in Adult Education and a Graduate Certificate in Community College Instruction (2015), and I am scheduled to graduate in May 2022 with a Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership. I have spent a majority of my adult life in college, while working full-time and raising my children. It has been a tough road, but the reward of helping others pursue their dreams through education is worth more than any words can express.
Dr. Sheril Roberts, Dean of College Transfer and Public Services, in her own words:
For as long as I can remember, I have had a philanthropic spirit for which I have to credit my father and grandfather. I’ve always been a daddy’s girl, and my grandfather was my very best friend. Both men would help anyone in need, despite the circumstances. I soon took on the role of protecting them from overextending themselves, and later progressed to the protector of others.
In high school, I worked two jobs, including the local grocery store. While working there, I saw a great number of people who would come up to the register with more groceries than they could afford. I remember helping elderly customers pay for items that weren’t covered through their food assistance program. Those experiences helped me to decide on a career path, social work.
Being a first-generation college student, I had very little knowledge of colleges and educational resources; therefore, I didn’t have much direction. I remember while searching for different colleges to apply to, I was advised on several occasions to avoid attending Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) because “they accept anyone,” and it would be difficult for me to find a job. I was encouraged to apply to majority white schools, so I could be challenged, and my degree would be accepted. I’ve grown to resent that advice, and I am passionate about making sure students aren’t misled by the same ignorant advice.
To pursue my dream of helping others, I decided to earn a Bachelor of Social Work from East Carolina University. Upon graduation, I immediately began working as a child protective services social worker. Now, my focus was making this world a better place for children. After I had my daughter, however, the job started to take an emotional toll on me, motivating me to attend graduate school and earn a Master’s Degree in Human Services/Marriage and Family Therapy and explore other ways that I could help others. Upon graduation, I began working in the mental health and substance abuse field. I was laid off due to the nonrenewal of our grant for that particular mental health program. I applied for another job with the same company, and I was told, “I’m sorry, but we would prefer a man for this position.” I didn’t know at the time that God was closing doors that were not meant for me to walk through, and He was laying a path for me with open doors to one of the most rewarding professions, and one that I had never considered, education.
While I was unemployed, my husband was enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program, and he had to take several psychology courses. Oftentimes, he would come to me for help in those classes. I realized that I was just as passionate about teaching psychology concepts as I was applying them in the field. As a result, I went back to school to earn a master’s in counseling psychology, so I could teach psychology courses at the college-level.
After a year of being unemployed, I was hired at Miller-Motte College as a psychology adjunct where I worked for five months before obtaining a full-time job at Halifax Community College (HCC) as a full-time psychology instructor. Within a year, I was promoted to a leadership position. While at HCC, it was important to me to seek mentors to go to with questions, ideas, and even concerns. Most of my mentors were strong female leaders with similar backgrounds and a passion for supporting students in any way that they could, including Dr. Barbara Bradley-Hasty (VP of Enrollment Management and Student Services) and Dr. Adriane Leche (former Dean of Institutional effectiveness, Planning, and Assessment). Both ladies were so approachable, genuinely cared about my success, and so willing to guide, teach, and even coach me throughout my time at HCC. Dr. Bruce Busby (former VP of Academic Affairs/Dean of Curriculum) was also a mentor to me. He’s worked in higher education for 50 years, and he took time to provide me with invaluable training that couldn’t be found in a textbook or manual.
Throughout my time at HCC, I had the opportunity to supervise each of the curriculum programs that the College offered, including BLET and correctional programs that were offered at the local prison. I was determined to learn as much as I could because I was now equally passionate about making a quality education more accessible and appealing to people in the community. In fact, while working at HCC, I encouraged my mother to go back to school. She earned her college transfer degree at HCC and transferred to Chowan University where she earned a bachelor’s degree. She spent her life putting others before herself, and to see her finally put herself first was nothing short of inspiring. It fueled my desire to help people like my mother and former clients who could utilize education as a tool of empowerment.
Learning is a true “habit” of mine, and because of that, I went back to school and earned a Doctorate in Higher Education Administration from Northeastern University to learn even more strategies that could be used to help students be successful. In 2019, I transitioned from Halifax Community College as an associate dean of curriculum and chair of Arts & Sciences and Professional Studies to my current role as Dean of College Transfer and Public Services. In this position, I get to work with such an awesome group of faculty who push me and motivate me more than they know. Their creativity, collaborative efforts, and passion for student success make my job easier. I also get to witness, firsthand, the impact that they have on our students.
Education wasn’t always an option for some members of my family due to racial, social, and economic barriers. My grandfather had only an eighth-grade education, but he could fix and build anything that was thrown at him. My parents and grandparents have instilled in me the value of hard work and determination. To honor them, I will always look for opportunities to grow and learn. I have to say that I am most proud that I can be an example to my children and that I’ve demonstrated to them that when you set goals, pray, and believe in God’s word, the sky is truly the limit.
Dr. Sheril Roberts
Darlene Hall, Director of Law Enforcement Training, in her own words:
I was raised by my paternal grandparents in rural Northampton County. We worked in the fields picking cucumbers, cotton and priming tobacco as soon as you were able to carry a bucket. I knew there had to be a better way to earn a living. I was fortunate enough to be a reader. I read any and everything I could get my hands on. I knew that there was a large world outside of Northampton County.
Poor little black girls in Northampton County were not expected to go to college. If we were lucky we would get a job at JP Stevens or the paper mill and work there for thirty years. That did not appeal to me. I completed college applications and financial aid paperwork without the assistance of the school counselor or my family. I was determined to make my world larger than the town of Gumberry. I got accepted to the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. I went off to school that first semester on the Greyhound bus and with one suitcase. I was officially the first person in my family to attend college. I never looked back. My second year at UNC-G, I fell in love got married and found myself living in Cincinnati, Ohio. I refused to give up on school and registered at the University of Cincinnati. I graduated from UC in March of 1987 with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. It was just in time to give birth to twins one month later. Four days after giving birth I applied for a job at a local police department. They hired me and September 7, 1987 was my first day as a police officer and my first day in Basic Law Enforcement Training at the Ohio State Patrol Academy (Basic Class #65). During my twenty-three years with the police department I served as a patrol officer, DARE officer, Community Policing officer and finally a detective. After watching September 11, 2001 playout on the television, I took stock of my career and made plans for life after law enforcement. I again enrolled at the University of Cincinnati. I graduated with a Master of Science in Criminal Justice in 2003. I was not sure what my second career would be, but I knew more education could only increase my options.
On February 10, 2010 I retired from the police department and moved back to North Carolina. I had visions of relaxing on the beach and fishing all day. Reality set in after six months and I realized I had to go back to work. Why wouldn’t I pick the world of academia for my second career? It was education that had always driven my decisions. Neither of my paternal grandparents graduated from high school. My grandmother read better than some college students I know. Education was always important to her. In addition to two grandchildren, she raised nine children of her own and all nine obtained high school diplomas. In our house getting a “C” on a report card was unacceptable. I watched my grandmother’s face in 2004 at a family reunion in Winton, North Carolina. She very proudly informed the crowd that her granddaughter had completed her Master’s degree and was promoted to the position of detective at the police department. I could feel how proud she was. It was the same pride I felt when all three of my children graduated from college. My oldest once told me that while growing up in my house she never had a choice of whether or not to go to college. She always knew she was going. She only had the choice of which college to attend. So, I guess my grandmother motivated me to do better and be better.
I am fortunate now to be in the position to help shape and guide the careers of others in and after law enforcement. For some, completing BLET is life changing. They will have careers instead of just jobs. Convincing officers to enroll in the curriculum program is not always easy. But I get a few each year. And I have yet to have one officer tell me they regretted continuing their education. Instead, I get phone calls and emails letting me know they have been promoted to new positions. After ten years with WCC, I still love my job.
Darlene W. Hall
Susan Weekley, Director of Information Technology, in her own words:
In December 1995, I graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Management Information Systems. I landed my first technology related job in 1996 with Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company. During my employment with B&W, and with any job since, I have worked my way up through the ranks by continually learning and seeking knowledge of all things technology related. In 2016, I began work as IT Director at Wilson Community College which has been the highlight of my career in many ways. Not only have I overseen growing technology in uncertain times at our school, but I’ve also been allowed to teach as an adjunct instructor. The latter was the little nudge I needed to continue my formal education. In December 2021, I graduated from ECU with a Master of Science in Network Technology concentrating in computer networks. I also received my Cybersecurity Professional Certificate.
I have been influenced by so many during my career. My mom and dad gave me a great foundation and the motivation to persevere through any obstacle. My son and daughter make me strive to be a good role model in hopes that they will follow my career lead and maintain the same working principles with the foundation I have laid for them. Other than the inspiration from my mother and my daughter, there are two women in IT that have really made a difference in my life. One of my professors at ECU, Dr. Page Varnell, set an example of the teacher I strive to be someday. I felt like she was invested in my education. Even though I had never met her face to face while I was enrolled at ECU, her actions and responsiveness to my needs was something I strive to replicate for my students. Tonya Carr the Assistant Director of IT at Wilson Community College has also been a great influence for the last 5 years of my career. Even though Tonya sits in the background, she motivates me daily in so many ways. Her integrity, hard work and unconditional support with every situation gives me the motivation to continue to push forward and strive to be the best that I can be in all situations.
The most important things I have learned in my 25+ year career is that integrity, perseverance, good communication, and drive to make a difference for others helps move you and your “customers” forward. Customers want to know you care about their needs and that you are willing to go the extra mile to help them succeed. Helping others succeed in what they do, allows me the same success.
Susan W. Weekley