With the first major winter storm warning in effect, Lord Fairfax Community College students made their way to the General Assembly to visit with their legislators. In contrast to the cold and dreary weather, the students were bright and enthusiastic, despite starting their journey from Middletown in the early morning hours.
Armed with florescent pink and yellow clappers that read, “clap if you believe…” on one side and the LFCC logo on the other, when all of the delegation got them going in sync, it sounded as if a large audience was clapping in approval. The group used them often– in responsive support for one another and when they spoke with their legislators to thank and congratulate them for their support of community colleges.
Front Royal resident Michael Waugh led the charge for the LFCC students, sharing that he was voted “most school spirited” in his graduating class at Hudson High School in Tampa Bay–where he landed from the Bronx after his father retired from the NY police department. Thirty-six years later, his spirit has not diminished. He is both at ease and deliberate when speaking and introducing himself as the nontraditional student in the group.
Grandson of Irish immmigrants and a 22-year Coast Guard veteran, Michael, 49, entered LFCC four semesters ago on the GI Bill. He credits his father for pressing him to enlist after high school while the benefit was still available. He will graduate this spring and transfer to Old Dominion University via Teletechnet to pursue his bachelor’s in communications.
Michael first got a strong hankering to pursue college while he was serving as an instructor for the Coast Guard Officer’s Candidate School in Yorktown. “I found myself teaching classes to people who already had their college degrees,” he says. “That is when I first thought about a college education.”
Michael says the Coast Guard provided him with a lot of education and training. In the ’90s he was given an opportunity to attend the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute. After retirement, he spent five years in western Ireland working on gender and equal opportunity issues and disability rights.
When he returned in 2005, Michael worked as an employment specialist for the Coast Guard, in Washington, D.C., but was still uncertain when it came to attending college. The father of three daughters, Michael was familiar with Virginia’s community colleges. While living in Newport News, his two oldest attended Thomas Nelson before they transferred to a four-year school.
Asked to finish the sentence, “clap if you believe…,” Michael explains that the school had in mind “…in your own potential.”
“I can really relate to that personally,” he says.
“I didn’t know what I knew,” he said, “I had been out of school for so long, but support from Lord Fairfax convinced me I could handle it and succeed.”
In between the group’s scheduled visits with Dels. Sherwood, Gilbert, Athey and May, and Sens. Vogel and Obenshain, Michael found time to make two visits on his own. From his time in Newport News he wanted to touch base with two former fellow choir members–Del. Mamye BaCote and Sen Mamie Locke.
That’s the spirit, Michael!
Posted by Carol Kyber