Despite a series of financial setbacks and other obstacles, Lauren Mercer is finally enjoying her life and new job. She credits a large part of her success to getting the right education at Cape Fear Community College.
“Coming to CFCC changed my life completely and I am forever grateful for everything the school and the staff have done for me,” Lauren said.
Lauren graduated from Hoggard High School in 2007 and started working two jobs. At that time in her life, she never gave college a second thought.
However, in 2009, she gave birth to a baby girl. Three days later, she was laid off from one of her two jobs and was suddenly faced with a huge financial burden.
“My family had been going through a hard time financially. We wound up living in a hotel with no place else to go,” Lauren said.
Ready to take action for the future, Lauren applied to CFCC that first night from her hotel room.
In her first semester, life was hectic and her rigorous work schedule slowed her academic progress. Worse, she was still not earning enough to support herself and her young daughter.
At one point, Lauren wound up being homeless with no money and nowhere to go.
“We slept in cars for several nights. We were homeless for a year,” Lauren said.
In that year, she’d written a small computer program for a project in one of her psychology classes and loved it so much, she switched her major to the computer engineering. From that point on, everything changed.
“The instructors are so wonderful. Not a single one of them knew my story but they were all so nice to me and so helpful,” Lauren said.
Still, her financial struggles kept mounting and her work schedule was demanding.
She would get off work at 7 am, be in class from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and go straight back to work.
“I was so down at this point in my life, I was tired, I was ready to give up, but I knew I had a little girl at home that needed me and my instructors, family and boyfriend encouraged me every day,” Lauren said.
Things started looking up in the fall of 2012, and finally after a year of being homeless, she moved into a house.
With encouragement from her teachers at CFCC, she started a small home business fixing computers, which gave her the confidence and extra income to keep going.
Wanting to get more computer experience, she accepted a position as an intern with New Hanover County Schools (NHCS) Technology Department.
“I worked with some of the most amazing people in that department, they were fun, they were knowledgeable and most importantly, I loved what I was doing,” Lauren said.
Five months after starting as an intern, her boss called from NHCS and asked if she would be interested in a permanent position. The next day she interviewed and was offered the position the following Monday.
She now works as the full-time technology assistant at Isaac Bear Early College High School in Wilmington. Lauren has just a few classes left before she completes her degree and expects to graduate later this summer. She will receive an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Computer Engineering Technology with a certificate in networking security and web development.
Find out more about the Computer Engineering Technology program