Claflin Center for Professional and Continuing Studies Provides Second Chance for Academic Success for Six Class of 2017 Graduates

May 10, 2017

Norman Frasier, Jr. saw the end in sight. It was 2013. He’d been at Claflin University since 2009 and he was one semester from earning his bachelor’s degree in sociology. Then the orders arrived.

As a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, he was to report to active duty at Fort Jackson. After basic training, he headed across country to Fort Lewis, outside Tacoma, Washington, where he and his family still lives. School and graduation would have to wait. Duty called.

“I made a commitment to serve my country,” Frasier said. “It was time to go.”

But not finishing school, especially not finishing Claflin, continued to nag Frasier.

“My mom always told me to finish what I started,” he said. “Her thing was if you start something you can’t finish, you will go through life not finishing the things you’ve started.”

But he was more than 2,000 miles away from Orangeburg, S.C.  How was he going to finish? And he had a wife and child to support.   That’s when he found out about Claflin's Center for Professional and Continuing Studies (CPCS) which offers online and on-campus degree programs for working adults.  The program allows students to finish bachelor’s or master's degree programs in as little as 18 months. Students can work toward a degree and maintain a full-time job.  

Frazier will be among more than 65 CPCS students who will receive bachelor's degrees at Claflin's 147th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 13, 11 a.m. at the South Atlantic Seventh-day Adventist Worship and Convention Center, 514 Neeses Highway, Orangeburg, S.C.

The CPCS was launched in 1997 and began offering online classes in the summer of 2014. By the fall of 2014, students could earn online degrees. Claflin now has four bachelor's and three master’s online degree programs. Bachelor's degrees are offered in organizational management, criminal justice, psychology and nursing. Students can earn graduate degrees in education, business administration and starting in the 2017 Fall semester, criminal justice.

"Programs offered through the CPCS are a viable option for working adults seeking to earn college degrees," said Dr. Cindye Richburg Cotton, executive director of the CPCS.

"We provide non-traditional students the flexibility and convenience they need to continue their education.  Research shows that adult students, age 25 and older, will comprise 50 percent of the U.S. college enrollment in the next 20 years."

Working full-time, dropping out of college earlier and living in Orangeburg made Benjamin Baker an ideal candidate for the CPCS program. Baker found out about Claflin while searching online for college options. He wanted to return to school. However, his work schedule prevented him from attending classes when they are routinely scheduled.

“I attended classes that were offered at 6 p.m. which afforded me time to work during the day and attend classes at night,” said Baker. “I wanted the face-to-face learning because I didn’t think I was disciplined enough to take online classes. Besides, even though I am older, I wanted to experience the campus environment.”

During Claflin's 2016 Homecoming, Baker represented the CPCS as Mr. Professional and Continuing Studies. The organizational management major also led a team of student entrepreneurs to an impressive finish in a Shark Tank-themed competition for business students at Claflin.

Like Baker, Ashley Myers was invited to join several campus honor societies and she even joined a campus sorority.

“My line sisters didn’t know I was an older student,” said the mother of two. “I looked like I was their age. I fit in.”

Myers took both online and on-campus classes and discovered that attending classes on campus worked best for her.

“I needed the personal contact with my professors and the CPCS staff,” said Myers, who works in customer service at a local hospital. “Dr. Richburg Cotton and her staff were extremely helpful and I became a familiar face in their office.”

The CPCS has success coaches that work with students individually offering them the assistance needed to complete college. For some, particularly older students, that might mean help with using the computer, for others, it might be tutoring or just somebody to talk to.

After a 20-year stint in the military, Jamie Kennerly didn’t need computer assistance, but he was thankful for the CPCS individualized success plans.

“Dr. Richburg and her staff sat me down and set up a plan so I could graduate,” said Kennerly, who is a school resource officer. “They made things easy for me. I just had to do the work.” 

Yaritzel Hall-Perry, a mother of three, initially enrolled in online classes but found she couldn’t concentrate so she switched to evening, on-campus classes.

“I needed the face-to face interaction with classmates and faculty,” said Hall-Perry, an organizational management major.

Graduation for Hall-Perry is a dream come true. She started college in Panama, but when the opportunity to move to the United States presented itself, she dropped out and headed to South Carolina. Once she was here she started working and before long marriage and a family made college look impossible. But her desire to get a degree never waned.

“At one point, I thought getting a college degree was hopeless,” Hall-Perry said. “Something was always an issue. Credits from other programs, money, something always came up. But not this time. I’m going to be a college graduate.”

Although Frasier's Claflin's experience did not include extracurricular campus activities, he takes tremendous pride in the University and the opportunity it provided him to earn a degree.

During his first stint at Claflin, Frasier majored in sociology, which is not offered through the CPCS. Despite changing his major to criminal justice, he retained enough credits from his previous enrollment which allowed him to stay on course for graduation. Frazier's long-term goal is to become a counselor at a Christian-based group home for teenage boys.             

“I could be described as a troubled teen when I was growing up,” said the 26-year-old, who is originally from Fredericksburg, Va. “I didn’t make a lot of the right decisions. But I had somebody in my life who saw something in me and showed me a different path. I want to do the same for somebody else.”

Nikia Busby's diploma will have her name on it, but her earning her degree fulfills a promise she made to her late father. Busby first enrolled at Claflin in 2003, but dropped out after getting pregnant. She spent the next dozen or so years taking care of her son and sometimes working two jobs to make ends meet. It was hard, but she persevered to the end.

Her pursuit of career advancement led her to Claflin and the CPCS.

“In my job, you need additional education for career advancement and increased pay," said Busby, who works for the Department of Health and Human Services as a Medicaid Eligibility Worker. “I also want my son to know that it’s never too late to complete your education. But more than that, I promised my father I’d go back and get my degree. “It’s been hard. I’ve struggled for many years.  I’ve worked two jobs, but God has been so good. I did it. I’ll be a Claflin graduate.”

They may be adult students with busy lives, but they all plan to celebrate their accomplishments. Myers said her mother is planning a big graduation “shindig” because this is the first time she’ll actually participate in a graduation ceremony. Because of family obligations, she never got to attend her high school graduation. So on May 13, she’ll don her Claflin University academic regalia and walk across the stage and personally get her diploma.

“I want my children to see me graduate so they will know the path to follow,” said the mother of a 10 and nine-year-old. “I did this, but I did it for us.”

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