Featured photo: Blue Ridge Community College associate of arts student Marion Hawsey. (Photo by Jarrett Vernon, Blue Ridge Community College.)
By guest columnist Ben Hardy, Transylvania County Campus Faculty Chair
As seen in the Transylvania Times.
Blue Ridge Community College associate of arts student Marion Hawsey is strong, but not just physically as one expects of a powerlifter. Hawsey, who said her “educational journey was a friend of adversity,” has mental and emotional strength as well.
As a child, Hawsey learned quickly that she must be strong to succeed. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 7 and epilepsy at 14. However, she was successfully managing both conditions as was “determined to not let them get in the way of living a normal life.”
But, on July 17, 2017, Hawsey’s mother unexpectedly passed away in her sleep at age 42. This loss devastated the family and severely complicated Hawsey’s family relationships.
Making matters worse, in her junior year of high school, Hawsey began a new medication for her epilepsy. Far from helping, the medication led to a severe reaction, landing Hawsey in the hospital for weeks.
Doctors were able to stabilize her condition, but she was far from well. “When I was finally released from the hospital, I was wheelchair bound and had to use a feeding tube,” Hawsey explained. But worse, she said, “All my plans, aspirations and confidence in myself had withered away.”
With months of physical therapy, Hawsey’s physical condition improved. She began walking and eating on her own. But Hawsey knew that to fully heal, she had to take bigger steps.
One step Hawsey took was getting involved in powerlifting. “I needed a big goal to help me focus on my recovery. I didn’t just want to walk,” Hawsey continued, “I wanted to prove to myself that I was strong.” But it wasn’t as simple as it sounds.
Hawsey’s school had an all-male powerlifting team, which she set out to change. Hawsey said, “I started my school’s first women’s powerlifting team with a new goal in mind; I wanted to show all the young girls in my school and community that they could be strong too.”
Hawsey trained diligently, won regional champion, and earned a spot in the state championship. There, Hawsey ranked as the 6th strongest female competitor. As a result, Hawsey explained, “my school had received enough to fund the women’s powerlifting team for years to come, and the school now has a team of over 20 strong female lifters.”
Despite her impressive accomplishments, Hawsey wasn’t finished healing. Though she’d made enormous strides physically, Hawsey said, “I was broken with no plans for my future but knew I needed to change.”
So, Hawsey took a drastic step. “I left my home and everything I had ever known in Texas,” Hawsey explained. “I moved here to Brevard last summer and started living with my grandmother.”
When asked how she ended up enrolling at Blue Ridge, Hawsey said, “It was only when I drove past the Blue Ridge campus one day that it suddenly clicked that I wanted to continue my education as it was always something that I found passion in.”
But Hawsey found more than just a reignition of her passion for education at Blue Ridge. “For the first time in years I had a sanctuary, a family, and a community I was proud to be a part of,” Hawsey said. “Every day I walked into the building I was greeted with energetic smiles, surrounded by diverse groups of classmates who all had their own adversities they had overcome. That was one thing that really stood out to me about community college: everyone who was there wanted to be there and all had hopes of a better future.”
Hawsey has settled in and made quite an impression at Blue Ridge Community College. She is the public relations officer for the Student Government Association at the Transylvania County Campus, serves on student panels during presentations to visiting groups, helps give tours during student orientations, and leads study groups. If that’s not enough, soon Hawsey will be an employee of the college, working as the evening receptionist.
“I knew Blue Ridge would give me the knowledge and power to accomplish my future goals of moving on to a 4-year college where I could get my bachelors in business marketing and entrepreneurism,” Hawsey said. But, Hawsey already had that power, that strength, within her. She just needed an environment in which it could grow.
Though leaving her life and powerlifting team in Texas was difficult, Hawsey admitted “moving on to North Carolina and Blue Ridge was the best decision of my life.” She still lifts to stay in shape, occasionally competing individually in competitions for fun when she’s able. And, despite her busy schedule with classes and work, she remains connected to her team in Texas, helping coach and planning workouts.
Hawsey expects to graduate with an Associate in Arts degree in spring 2024. She plans to continue her education at a university, where she’ll study business marketing and entrepreneurship in hopes of one day either owning her own business or working in the marketing department of a company.
If you or someone you know is looking for a supportive, nourishing environment, Blue Ridge is an excellent choice. Students will find supportive staff and faculty, as well as ample resources, to help them find success. Call the Transylvania County Campus at 828-883-2520 or visit www.blueridge.edu for more information.