In June of 2011 Noah Smith visited Lower Columbia College for the first time, anxious about the task before him. He'd been turned down for a promotion because he never graduated high school, and he'd kept it a secret from his family and friends for years.
Weeks later, Noah stood at the testing window again, awaiting the results of his first two tests.
"I was scared to death," he said, "I remember throwing up in the parking lot before I got here."
I thought he was kidding when he warned he would burst into tears if he passed his tests. Noah proved me wrong in an exciting display of emotion and relief. It was a fun twist of events that seldom occurs in testing. He called me around to the window because he "just needed a hug," and proceeded to explain what a big deal this was. He was going to be a dad soon, and he couldn’t believe he was going to be a college student, setting a great example for his future child.
Since my initial encounter with Noah, it's been a joy getting to know him and watch him grow and inspire others.
Heidi Bauer, who taught Noah’s first English course at LCC, explained:
"Noah is one of the most enthusiastic students I've had. He took the lead in the classroom by organizing study groups, initiating class discussions, and even planning a field trip that complimented what they'd been studying in class. He is a student we all kept our eye on as someone who will surely succeed."
After Noah earned his GED, he visited testing on a regular basis. Even though initially we'd had to encourage him to "sit down and breathe," he now walks by and asks us how we're doing. He always makes sure to sit down and visit with us about life, college, goals, family and more.
Noah works in the Transfer Center and helps out in the testing office. Recently we were setting up for GED testing by preparing the classroom and writing on the whiteboard. Noah was wiping down the desks when he stopped to say he can barely look at that board without getting tears in his eyes. He can’t believe how far he's come. He's been on the President’s List for the last two quarters. He's on top of the world!
A year ago, Noah came clean with his family and himself and wrote down his life goals, including earning his GED, enrolling in college, starting a business, and having a healthy baby girl. A month ago, he celebrated his accomplishments by opening the envelope and rejoicing over everything he's accomplished.
Noah plans open his own business, a BBQ joint called "Hickory Hogs," where he wants to hire individuals in the community who have not earned their GED and mentor them (and possibley even fund) the initial steps of their education.
He is an inspiration. Plain and simple!