The Foundation of Wayne Community College has awarded its Penny Nelson Memorial Scholarship to a ninth-grade drop out who chose not to fail.
Dexter Taylor is the recipient of the award which recognizes an outstanding Adult High School graduate.
It took the death of his grandfather to get the young man who said that he had “accepted that I was a statistic, ‘a young uneducated black man headed for destruction’” to choose a different path, one that included education.
“I allowed personal challenges such as moving from house to house, experiencing homelessness, living with my mother and older sister and at times not knowing what we would eat. I began spending time with the wrong crowd, trying to escape the pain and issues I was dealing with,” he admitted during his address as one of two student speakers at the 2019 WCC Transitional Programs for College and Career graduation.
Having moved to Fayetteville from Goldsboro after his parents divorced, Taylor seemed to be getting more and more lost. “I took ninth grade three times. I went to five high schools,” he said. “From 15 to 18, I smoked marijuana every day.”
There was still strength in him. One day, Taylor just stopped. “It got old. I wasn’t going anywhere. I wanted a clean slate,” he said.
When his grandfather died in 2015, Taylor decided to move back to Goldsboro to live with his grandmother and his father. Knowing that his grandfather was “big on education, he wanted to see me graduate,” Taylor decided he would get his equivalency diploma.
“I came to WCC at the next registration they did,” he said and took a pre-test. Based on his high scores, he was encouraged to go into the Adult High School instead.
“Going back to school was the best decision I have ever made,” Taylor said. He enrolled in the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program which allowed him to gain work experience at the City of Goldsboro Human Resources Department and with Literacy Connections of Wayne County and was elected vice president of the WIOA Youth group. He joined the college’s Future Leaders of the World club and became its president. He earned a spot on the Honors (“B” or higher average) and the Scholars (A average) lists. And finally he was selected to speak on behalf of the Adult High School graduates at their commencement ceremony.
Graduation day was bitter-sweet for Taylor. His grandfather had passed away exactly four years prior. Apostle Boyland Ray Taylor was a Wayne Community College graduate, as is his grandmother.
“His dream was for me to complete my education,” Taylor said, tears welling in his eyes.
“We may have been delayed, but we certainly have not been denied. Although our challenges may not have been the same, the obstacles have been many,” Taylor said to his fellow graduates. “I’m sure you had to make the decision whether you would be a failure or an overcomer. A good friend of mine by the name of Mr. Ronnie Singleton told me, ‘We fail only because we choose to fail.’”
“There are no failures here, only strong individuals, capable of achieving anything. We have overcome. We have endured until the end; but let us not stop here. I believe the best is yet to come,” said Taylor.
Taylor is continuing his education at WCC, using the Nelson Scholarship for a Business Administration degree. After that, he would like to attend North Carolina A&T State University.
He is still formulating his career plans, but based on the experiences he had through WIOA, he said, “I would like to work in an office setting.” And he’d like to be able to incorporate art into his job.
The Penny Nelson Memorial Scholarship was established in 2009 when Nelson, a beloved WCC Adult High School teacher and former WCC curriculum instructor, passed away after a long struggle with cancer. The recipient is selected by WCC AHS faculty.
Wayne Community College is a public, learning-centered institution with an open-door admission policy located in Goldsboro, N.C. As it works to develop a highly skilled and competitive workforce, the college serves 12,000 individuals annually as well as businesses, industry, and community organizations with high quality, affordable, accessible learning opportunities, including more than 70 college credit programs. WCC’s mission is to meet the educational, training, and cultural needs of the communities it serves.