For Bryson City native Amanda Anderson, a Western Carolina University student graduating Dec. 17 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and law, this day could not come soon enough.
Anderson, a single mother of three children who works full time, has had her fair share of adversity to overcome during her pursuit of higher education.
“In a span of approximately four years, my marriage ended, my 15-year-old son was diagnosed with a brain tumor, we had a global pandemic and then my 17-year-old daughter had to have open heart surgery,” Anderson said.
Anderson began studying at WCU shortly after graduating high school, but life got in the way and she had to put her higher education aspirations on hold.
Her son’s diagnosis sent them to Charlotte for multiple brain surgeries to correct the hydrocephalus caused by the tumor.
“After the multiple brain surgeries and the continued appointments there as well, my son was doing better, then started having symptoms again and I was trying to be proactive and think what I could do to support myself and my children if we had to relocate to Charlotte for his care,” Anderson said.
That’s when Anderson knew she needed to finish her bachelor’s degree in order to be competitive in a Charlotte job market.
“In summer of 2021, I called admissions at WCU and learned that I had around 20 classes to complete and could finish my degree online,” she said. “If not for the flexibility the online business administration and law program gave me, I would not have been able to go back to college.”
Anderson felt a sense of urgency to finish her degree in case her son’s health issues worsened. She took a full course load each semester while maintaining an A average.
Luckily, the symptoms he was experiencing were not due to the tumor growing or spreading, but from seizures that were a result of the tumor and subsequent surgeries. To date, he is doing well.
Her daughter’s health has also improved.
“Now that I have my degree, I feel confident that I can get a good job regardless of where I am, whether it is Bryson City or Charlotte, and I can take care of my children and myself.”