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Overcoming Poverty And Health Setbacks To Become A DREAM Scholar At 58

Despite family losses, illness, and educational hurdles Carol Faye Walls has always kept going. Growing up in Washington, DC, Montgomery College student Carol Faye Walls had to climb over seemingly insurmountable hurdles. Today, at 58, she is one of eight community college students from Achieving the Dream (ATD) Network colleges who participated in ATD’s 2019 DREAM Scholars program.

As a young girl living in a male dominated low-income family of eight, Walls did not have the same opportunities for education that her brothers did. Her father expected her to get married, start a family, and stay home to run the household. Despite the obstacles, she went to college after high school to pursue a nursing degree. However, she had to put that dream on hold after her mother suffered a workplace injury. Walls was needed to help out at home.

As expected, she married, had children, and stayed home to raise her family and support her husband’s career. Tragically, in 2004, her mother passed away. Just six weeks later, Walls’ husband died. It was then that she decided it was time return to college at Southeastern University in the District of Columbia.

“I was nearly finished with an associate’s degree and then [Southeastern] lost accreditation,” Walls says.

As an adult learner, Walls learned that she was not the first in her family to attend college as an older student. Her mother also pursued higher education later in life.

“After dealing with that grief and adjustment, I began classes at Montgomery College… this is where my life began to shift for the better,” Walls said.

“I honor her for being the first woman who cast a bright light in my life, striving toward her cosmetology and nursing careers beginning at age 35,” she says. “Failing the state nursing board examinations four times did not deter her. It was her grit and perseverance that were defining character traits for me.”

Walls refers to herself as an “overcomer.” In 2010 she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She had to undergo chemotherapy and physical therapy. About the same time she completed her cancer treatments, Walls’ dad suffered a stroke and was placed in a rehabilitation nursing home.

Despite the circumstances, she was determined to reach her educational goals. In 2015, she began attending Montgomery College.

“After dealing with that grief and adjustment, I began classes at Montgomery College… this is where my life began to shift for the better,” Walls said.

She credits her late-arriving success to Dr. Carly-Miles, Prof. Shinta Hernandez, Dr. Denise Simmons Graves, and Dr. Melissa Scarfone, who have each played special roles in her journey. Walls plans to earn academic degrees in social work with an emphasis on female domestic violence victims and their children.

Through it all, Walls is grateful: “I am humbled and blessed to still be here.”

Watch Walls’ presentation at the DREAM Scholar Conference:

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