August 28, 2012

Our Neighbors: 'Knowledge is power'

By Magen McCrarey
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Located within Somerset Community College’s (SCC) Health Sciences building is a first-generation student who made it to the top.  Associate Dean Lois McWhorter believes that “knowledge is definitely power.”

The way we improve our status in life is if we go to school and get an education, I whole-heartedly believe that and it’s one of the reasons I love my job here,” she said.

McWhorter grew up in a family of CSX railroad workers, and not one had attended college, not even her two older brothers.  Her mother, Hazel Gill, on the other hand, enjoyed reading and read to her everyday. “She always read every book she could get her hands on,” McWhorter said.  “She read to me a lot and I guess that instilled in me a thirst for knowledge.”

Cover to cover McWhorter learned something new, and it began to inspire in her a desire to go to college.  At 18-years-old, Xavier University offered her a full scholarship for art--but the move away from home was a daunting decision.  So after so encouragement from Earl Hays, she chose to attend a community college, Sue Bennett.  Then years later, she furthered her education at Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky.  “As a first-generation college student, you don’t really have anybody in your family you can relate to that knows the bureaucracy,” she said.

Learning the ins and outs of how to become successful in college was a challenge for her as a first generation student, but overall she said the key is to have a good work ethic.  From being interested in art to teaching and business she said it was a 180 degree turn.

“They seem diametrically opposed, but when I look at it, I see that they have some similarities.  If you are going to be successful in anything you have to be creative,” she said.

With fiery red hair and bright eyes, she gets to instill in SCC’s first generation students her own knowledge on success.  “First of all, age doesn’t matter.  When you come back to school and you’re in the classroom you’re all students--it’s the great equalizer.  But I will tell you that as a non-traditional student, what you bring to the classroom in terms of your life experience and in terms of your motivation, will make you successful,” she said.

Today, McWhorter is creatively juggling several tasks at once as associate dean and loves a challenge.  She even spends her spare time with her husband Ed taking cars apart and re-building wrecks.”I’m the epitome of a life-long learner, I always remember that students are the reason I have a job and I consider my students always important to me and I think it’s important to respect them,” she added.Although her parents were not college graduates, she is appreciative that they blessed her with the desire to learn, she said and they aways saw the importance of education.

“I think that everything I am, I owe it to education,” she said.