Our Journeys

To date the Finish Line program has assisted 29 students in achieving their goal of earning their Bachelor's degree. This has all happened over a few short years with our first Finish Line students enrolling in Fall 2015. We currently have many more students enrolled with this same goal in mind. Below are some of our graduates' journeys.

“This is the Grammys, this is the Oscars, I have just won the Nobel Peace prize in being awesome. I’d like to thank everyone at the Finish Line program, Matt Liddle my advisor, longtime Sylva friends who have cheered me on, and my family (to whom this will be a total surprise). I started at Western in 1999 and since discovering the Finish Line program last year, there hasn’t been a moment where I don’t get giddy in anticipation of my graduation. The nearly 20 years it has taken me to complete my degree has shifted my perspective on the value of education—what was once an obligation, is now a privilege. I am so grateful. I didn’t do this to get a promotion, or increase my marketability in the workforce (although those are completely honorable things). I tackled this in the spirit of making right a series of wrongs, and addressing a regret that I no longer wanted to have. Gone are the days that I have to get shifty in my seat when people inquire about my education. I can stop saying that I “attended” WCU, and start saying that I graduated from WCU! This program has been invaluable to me—what once seemed insurmountable, has been conquered!”

Patricia Dowdy
Graduated: December 16, 2017
Degree: BA - Art

"My name is Jakeli Swimmer and I graduated this past December. My original graduation date was 3 years prior. I ran cross country and track at Western for 4 years but right before my final semester I welcomed my first daughter. Having the obligation to take care of my young family, I decided to work and hold off of school. I was allowed to join the finish line program and have nothing but a great experience."

Jakeli Swimmer
Graduated: December 17, 2016
Degree: BS – History; Minor – Cherokee Studies


"I attended WCU 1974-1978 and left  one class short of obtaining my degree.  Then life happened; marriage, children and career. Several well-meaning attempts over the years on my part to finish were met with obstacles, mostly with job-related travel. After contacting WCU last year to explore my options, I was directed to Alicia Cameron in the "Finish Line" program. I received excellent guidance and assistance from Alicia, which ultimately resulted in receiving my diploma this past May. I even walked the stage, 42 years after moving into Harrill Dorm. I have nothing but the highest praise for this program and would highly recommend any "part-way home" student to utilize these services to realize their lifelong dream of obtaining a college degree."

Bill McCracken
Graduated: May 7, 2016
Degree: BS - Education: Social Studies


"To say that Western Carolina is in my blood would be an understatement at best. My parents graduated from Western in the Spring of 1981 and my brother graduated in December of 2012. I've been going to Western with my family since I can remember and it always felt like a second home to me. Naturally, when it came time for me to pick a college, Western was my first choice. I started at Western in the Summer of 2003 with no idea what I wanted to major in but plenty of time decide. In the Spring of 2007 all of my friends graduated and I was still sixteen hours short of completing my degree in Sociology. I decided to move back to Raleigh where my family was and complete the sixteen hours I needed. There are times that I wish I would have stayed at Western an extra semester to complete my degree because it took me much longer than I would have liked. By 2015 I was working full time, onmy way to becoming a supervisor and one hour short of completing my degree. I attended a Western Alumni event with my parents in the Spring and that's when we learned about the Finish Line Program. Although I was at a job that I really enjoyed, my parents convinced me to apply so that I could finish my degree. My degree arrived in January of 2016 and it was one of the proudest moments of my life. Without my parents and the Finish Line Program, who knows when or if I would have finished my degree. Now I can officially call Western not only my Alma mater but also my home."

Cassie Staples
Graduated: December 12, 2015
Degree: BS – Sociology; Minor - Special Education

More journeys to come and yours could be next, please reach out to us on how we can assist you in completing your journey to graduation.

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