Moms, daughters a textbook example of learning

Amanda England, her mother, Crystal Wolford, and her grandmother, Joyce Noland, all attend Hagerstown Community College

May 07, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • Joyce Noland, left, her daughter, Crystal Wolford, and her granddaughter, Amanda England, are taking classes at Hagerstown Community College.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photogapher

It might be old school, but in this family, nothing beats a good education.

Hand them a textbook, give them a project and they can't wait to learn.

Maybe it's in their genes.

Maybe it's the desire to reach their full potential.

Whatever the reason, they are waiting for their turn in the commencement line and the opportunity to realize their dreams.

They are three Hagerstown women who mirror the evolution of college — a daughter, a mother and a grandmother, balancing course work with life and doing it together.

"We sort of inspire each other," said Amanda England, who along with her mother, Crystal Wolford, and her grandmother, Joyce Noland, all attend Hagerstown Community College.

"As far as we know, we're the only family with three generations attending at the same time," the 25-year-old England said.

It might seem unique to some people. But not to those who know them, she said.

"I was raised among women who always have believed that you can do whatever you want — and that includes going back to school," she said.

England earned an associate degree last year from HCC and transferred to Towson University.

"But it wasn't the place for me," she said. "I would like to be a writer and start a literary magazine. So I decided to return to HCC and work toward a certificate in Web and multimedia, which I think can help me from a business angle."

She plans to continue her studies at Hood College.

England said she had attended HCC right after high school, but when she found a job she really liked, she left college behind.

"I'm glad I returned," she said. "It's one of those things where I realized how much value I placed on education."

Finishing what she started

For England's mother, Crystal Wolford, 46, her college education was put on hold while she raised a family.

"I started back to school when my children were young, but there was a lot going on in our family, so I decided to focus on the kids," she said.

But she always intended to return for her degree.

"I was studying in the radiography program and had completed about two semesters," Wolford said. "I knew there would be a time when I would return and finish what I started."

That time came last fall. Wolford said her youngest daughter attends HCC as part of the ESSENCE program, which is designed to give high academic achievers the opportunity to earn college credits while still in high school. ESSENCE stands for Early Support for Students to Enter College Education.

Wolford said she would drop off her daughter, a high school senior, at the campus and started thinking, "Why wait. I might as well take classes now."

But instead of picking up where she left off in radiography, Wolford said she was more interested in social work and decided to pursue studies in the human services program.

She, hopefully, will have her degree next spring.

Wolford said she always planned on returning to college, but she had three strokes over a number of years "which delayed everything, I didn't want to do anything until I knew my health issues were behind me."

She said her daughter served as inspiration for returning.

"Amanda had such wonderful things to say about the college and it was good to see how well she was doing, so I really wanted go back to school, too," Wolford said.

Her goal, she said, is to have a career in social work.

Learning something new

And if two family members weren't enough, Joyce Noland, Wolford's mother, got the bug, too.

"I'm a learner," said Noland, who is in her 60s. "I want to learn something new five minutes before I die."

So it didn't surprise her family when she decided to head off to HCC to study graphic design.

"I didn't take art in high school," she said. "The only class I can remember was in junior high. And my only experience with artistic endeavors was beaded needlework and folk art."

But one day, she drove by a sign advertising graphic design "and I decided I wanted to do that."

Noland said her daughter and granddaughter piqued her interest in attending Hagerstown Community College, so she checked out courses and eventually enrolled in the school's graphic arts program.

Returning to school after all these years wasn't as hard as she thought it might be, she said.

"I love it. I am so impressed with HCC and the people who are there alongside you helping you along the way," she said.

In addition to learning something new, Noland said she is looking for "a real job."

"Part of my motivation is not having to go to McDonald's and pour coffee," she said.

Noland said she isn't interested in a 9-to-5 job. Instead, she's thinking of freelancing.

"Being able to do things on the computer opens a whole world to me," she said. And this from a woman who was not really computer-savvy.

"Before this program, I never sent an email, never belonged to Facebook or Twitter," she said.

'It's been fun'

England said she wouldn't be where she is today without the encouragement of her mother and grandmother.

"They are two of the most talented and courageous women I have ever met. They are so selfless," she said. "The things this family has done for each other is incredible. You can always count on them. And we love each other no matter what."

This Mother's Day, the three women said, will be all about relaxation.

"For one thing, we're all done with finals," Wolford joked. "It's been a very stressful week, so I think we're all looking forward to just enjoying the day and being together."

While each woman will be receiving their diploma a different year, they plan on having big celebrations for each graduate.

"We'll be having three parties," England said.

England soon will receive her certificate, her mother graduates next year, followed by her grandmother.

"It's been fun doing this together," England said. "We support each other and understand each other's passion for learning. When someone gets an A, we all know what that means and how much work went into getting that grade."

She also thanked her grandmother "because she's where it all started."

"We're a family who always accepts a challenge," England said. "I'm the kind of person I am because of these two women."

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