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Sharon Malone

Sharon Malone says that prior to enrolling in the Landscape Gardening program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, her future was pretty bleak. "I worked a number of dead-end jobs just to pay the bills. I had no direction in any career." Sharon MaloneIn hopes of improving her situation, the mother of three enrolled in Lees-McRae College's New Opportunity School for Women. The three-week program focuses on improving women's educational, financial and personal circumstances. While there, Malone learned about CCC&TI's Landscape Gardening program and applied before she had even finished the program at Lees-McRae. While attending CCC&TI, Malone overcame many obstacles. Despite the hardships of going to school full time while raising three teenagers, the high cost or commuting from Boone to Hudson and struggling with self-esteem issues, she stuck with the program and says she is better for the experience.

"When I submitted my application never did I realize the life-changing experiences I would receive while attending CCC&TI," she said. Malone's experiences also had a positive impact on two of her children, who also enrolled in programs at CCC&TI. "My education was furthered but more importantly I was able to pass on to my children the benefits of attending CCC&TI. My son Anthony, 18, and my daughter Sarah, 16, attended CCC&TI," said Malone. Malone and her family recently moved to Raleigh, where she is working toward her Bachelor's degree in Agriscience Education at North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University.

"I completed my first semester Spring 2011 with a 4.0," she says. Malone may have started her journey without much direction, but she has big plans for her future now. In Spring 2012, Malone plans to study abroad, building on her experience in Honduras with fellow TRIO/SSS members in May 2010. In Summer 2012, she plans to attend an intern program at Iowa State with NASA's Soil Moisture Measurement Program. Malone also plans to become a certified teacher. Malone says she owes her success and the bright outlook she now has to the foundation she received at CCC&TI.

"My experience overall at CCC&TI is the sole reason that I have career goals for the near and distant future," she said. "I am honored to have graduated from CCC&TI and will always treasure the education and experiences that I enjoyed while attending."