Perseverance pays off for Goldsboro woman
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 10, 2009 2:00 AM
After more than two decades of stops and starts, 60-year-old Peggie Howell, grandmother of 23 and great-grandmother of six, received her diploma from Mount Olive College on Saturday.
It was a long and difficult road to earn her degree in human resources management. But Mrs. Howell is a case study in determination.
She and her husband, Bobby, moved to Goldsboro from Atlanta in 1986 after a job transfer. Two years later, she enrolled in her first class at the college.
"I was actually a human resource manager. At that time it did not require a degree. But the job required me to travel a lot."
So the path to her degree suffered several interruptions. When she retired in 2001, she returned to school, this time with a project in mind -- to create a mentoring center for women and children.
It was based in part on her own experience.
"You start to school, you have to stop -- you have got children, your children may have gotten off track. You get out there and don't know which way to go."
Having served as a mentor to many young women at her church, Mrs. Howell was aware of the need for an education, especially if she wanted to launch her own program. "I knew I would need a degree when I wrote grants -- my main target is for young women who have gotten off track, and especially young parents and junior high kids," she said. "I want to be that person to sort of pull these young women together. ... There's such a need in this area."
She said she is ready for a break from school, but has not ruled out continuing her education later.
"With all the children and grandchildren I have, I have always tried to be an example for them," she said. "I try to stay involved physically -- I'm a hands-on person."
She says she is excited about the next chapter in her life. She has decided to spend part of the summer in Atlanta, where her sister-in-law, also retired, works with a program started by Jane Fonda for young teen girls.
"I have met so many women that are willing to help me from all walks of life, everybody that I have talked to, what I plan to do after I finish what I'm going to do over the summer, we're going to get together and brainstorm," she said. "That also means grants and proposals to support such a program.
"I have been working on this probably for the last five years, seriously. It's one of those type things that it's just destined to be, it's just a matter of time.
"I'm not going to slow down at all. I know this is something I'm going to do.
"People always ask, 'Why in the world after you have had a career and retired, would you go back to school?' Because I'm not through," she said. "I thought my moving on would be relaxing and enjoying my children but I also like to do something that benefits people."
She said realizing her goal of earning a degree has meant a variety of emotions.
"It's a mixture of a lot of things. I look back to when I was sitting for six hours trying to do statistics problems, and wonder, 'Why am I doing this?' Without God, I could not have made it. So many times I wanted to quit. Now I am just very grateful for the relationship I have with God.
"At times I got so frustrated. Now, I cannot believe at 60 years old that I have done this. So every time I walk through that kitchen where I used to sit for hours, I think, 'I have done this.'"
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