As Pickett explained, when Royster enrolled in Gaston College in 2011, she had been working in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools as a senior administrative secretary in student behavior and support. There she interacted with students who had various problems, such as drugs and truancy. She enjoyed building relationships with the students to earn their trust and help them improve their behavioral issues, and she expressed interest in moving into a higher position as a behavioral modification technician. Although having a bachelor’s degree is usually a requirement for that job, her supervisor felt that with Royster’s 17 years of experience in the field, she could move up with an associate’s degree.
The human services program at Gaston College offered Royster the courses she needed, and she was graduated in 2013, having earned the associate’s degree that qualified her for the new position she wanted. After getting the degree, she transferred to Gardner-Webb University, where she earned her bachelor of science degree in human services.
“When I transferred to Gardner-Webb,” she said, “I was completely prepared because of the associate degree program I had completed and the quality of teaching at Gaston College. I received top notch, A-one learning there.”
Royster had a twofold reason for returning to Gaston College last year.
“I wanted to attain an academic and clinical understanding of compassionate care and support, not only for my aging mother in Minnesota,” she said, “but also for the almost forgotten matriarchs and patriarchs in our society. That prompted me to seek the gerontology certification. The degree in substance abuse will equip me with the same understanding of care and support for both the addicted and our troubled world of addiction.”
Working alongside her pastor husband, Royster will also apply her education and skills within her church and her community on the west side of Charlotte, according to Marlena Thomas, who co-ordinates the program at Gaston College and instructs students in its human services technology department.
“Gelena is has a passion to help others, especially at-risk youth and families,” said Thomas. “She demonstrates excellent clinical skills in the classroom, and she is determined to learn and be the best helper possible.”
A move back to Minnesota is in the planning stage for Royster and her husband. With her degrees and more than 20 years of experience, she will explore the possibilities of becoming a dean of behavioral science at an area college when they relocate.
“I am proud to say I attended Gaston College and would recommend enrollment there to anyone that wants a good education and learning experience,” she said.
“You’ll earn your degree and enjoy learning at the same time. Gaston College has some of the best instructors who care about their students. But most of all, they want you to succeed.”
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