South Piedmont Associate in a Year Grad: ‘If I Can Do It, You Can Do It Too’

Photo of Kelli Smith

Kelli Smith earned her Associate in Arts degree from South Piedmont in just one year.

More than 20 years after she first started her degree, Kelli Smith is a college graduate thanks to South Piedmont Community College’s Associate in a Year program.

The Associate in a Year program allows students to earn an Associate in Arts degree, which would normally take two years, in just 12 months. Applications for the fall semester are now being accepted; the deadline is July 21. Request more information about the Associate in a Year program here.

“The day I graduated was one of the happiest days of my life,” Smith said. “It feels amazing to know I was able to do this for myself.”

Smith, a resident of Waxhaw, began a college degree after she graduated from high school in 1995, but as it so often does, life took her attention away from her studies. She got married, had two daughters, and worked as a medical secretary before staying home for a few years to concentrate on being a mom. She reentered the workforce in 2015, working part-time at a preschool, eventually becoming a teacher assistant.

In 2021, with her children a bit more independent and with a growing interest in a career in education, Smith enrolled in South Piedmont’s Associate in a Year program. It proved just right for where she was in life.

Students in the Associate in a Year program benefit from South Piedmont’s hybrid-flexible course delivery format, which allows them to attend in person or online, either in real time or at the time that suits their schedule.

“That was great. At the beginning, I went to most of my classes in person. It had been a long time since I had been in a classroom, and I wanted more of that one-on-one attention, especially in the classes that were most challenging,” she said.

“As I went through the program, and I built my confidence, I did more and more of it online.”

Smith is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education at Wingate University, taking advantage of the Gateway to Wingate scholarship.

“Going back to school, it’s made me realize that I can do anything I put my mind to,” Smith said.

“I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to show my daughters that if they put their mind to do something, they can do it.”

Smith is now quick to share her story — and South Piedmont’s role in her educational achievements.

“The instructors all recognized that we are working adults. They worked with us when we had issues come up, and they supported us so that we could be successful,” Smith said.

“If I can do it, you can do it too. You just have to have a little bit of confidence in yourself. The South Piedmont instructors will help build your confidence from there, and you’ll reach your goal.”

Learn more about the Associate in a Year program at spcc.edu/associate-in-a-year.  

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