Woman standing outside beside car holding a diploma

Blue Ridge First Generation Student Credits College for Her Continued Growth

After leaving her home country to come to America, Costa Rica native Ivannia Hollingsworth recently applied everything she’d learned growing up to earn her High School Equivalency diploma from Blue Ridge Community College.

Now working as the sales manager at Roger Gagnon Auto Sales in Hendersonville, Hollingsworth gets to apply her extensive knowledge in a country she loves.

She credits Blue Ridge as a college “with a heart that is welcoming to all students.” She also praised the College’s efforts to incorporate Spanish materials into their usual marketing initiatives.

“Too many people think a college education is too expensive, but it’s really not. The cost of college at Blue Ridge is very reasonable,” she said.

A Passion for Learning
The 51-year-old is one of 10 children, and she grew up in Costa Rica’s capital, San José. She described the city as one of the more heavily populated and dangerous areas to live.

Despite her surroundings, she learned to read at age four by studying old “Readers Digest” magazines, and she went on to showcase this talent by helping her fellow classmates in her first years of school.

“The teacher noticed that I was helping the other kids with their assignments,” Hollingworth laughed. “I was honestly bored in class because it all seemed so basic to me.”

Hollingsworth’s desire for knowledge continued to grow, but her family’s low income meant she could not afford the books required for class in high school. She remedied this by hosting study sessions at her home so she could share a book with her friends. This proved to be mutually beneficial, as Hollingsworth got access to the class books while her friends got a free tutoring session.

When she was nearly finished with high school, Hollingsworth went to work with her sister at a local factory. An assistant’s position became available while she was there, and thanks to her partial high school education, management referred her to fill this role. She went on to graduate high school via night school.

In 2005, Hollingsworth moved from Costa Rica to Asheville where she lives today with her husband Robert. Desiring to continue her education and earn the credentials needed for employment in America, she turned to Blue Ridge Community College.

Pursuing Her Future at Blue Ridge
In 2021, Hollingsworth begand to work toward her High School Equivalency diploma. This involved completing several standardized tests encompassing science, math, social studies, and reading.

“Being a First Generation student feels good. I’m very proud,” she said. “But preparing for this test was not easy. Imagine cramming four years of high school knowledge into one semester, and it all culminates in a few critical tests.”

She worked closely with her classmates and instructors throughout the process, with many of them studying together at Hollingworth’s house until late each night. Through hard work, she reached her goal.

Now armed with her General Educational Development (GED) diploma, she is interested in continuing her education in business administration.

“I think a lot of people would go to Blue Ridge if they knew about the GED program. The key is just letting them know it exists,” she added. “I’m so grateful to this College.”

Hollingsworth hopes her story is inspirational to students experiencing doubts, because “if a 51-year-old lady can get her diploma, it’s possible for everyone!”

To learn more about Blue Ridge’s High School Equivalency program, visit https://www.blueridge.edu/programs-courses/adult-education-and-literacy/.