Spartanburg Community College
"You're important, and it's okay to follow your dreams and put the work in."
My name is Amanda Sutton, and I’m studying digital design at Spartanburg Community College. My dream as a kid was to become a mama. That was 100% my only dream. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mama. I did that — I’ve got six kids. My oldest is 20, and my youngest is 5. As they got older, I started to look into the near future when I won’t have a bunch of little people that need me. I started asking, “What am I going to do with my time? What am I going to do with my life outside of my babies?” I decided I would probably need an education to get a good-paying job I enjoyed, and that’s how I started looking at SCC.
What was your view of college coming out of high school?
I was raised in a very Christian home, and I knew that the only option I had out of high school was a Christian college. Nothing against it, but it just wasn’t something I wanted to do. Community colleges and technical colleges were always an option for me, personally, but not for my parents.
I also wasn’t a good student in high school — that’s another reason I didn’t think college was for me. Now I’m 40, and it’s different because I care and I’m making really good grades. I’ve turned into a good student. It makes a lot of difference when it’s your choice to go to school!
What did you know about SCC before you started?
I live very close to here, so I drive by the college all the time. I knew I probably couldn’t afford a four-year university, and I didn’t want that kind of degree anyway. I just wanted an associate’s. When I came to apply and get to know the layout, I was just really impressed with everybody here. It just seemed like a natural choice.
In addition to being a mother, you’re an entrepreneur. Tell us about your business.
I started baking when my oldest was small so that I could make his birthday cakes and stuff. I just kind of fell in love with it. I would bring things to parties, and people would end up asking me to make something. For the first few years, I was doing it on my own, and then my best friend came along. She helps me a lot with the financial part, as that’s not my strong suit. I’d rather just be creative, bake, and give you something. She helped turn this into a real business about 4 years ago.
The business grew really gradually, until we decided we really wanted to do it. We put a page on Facebook, and the business blew up. Now I’m working full time and going to school.
How does digital design factor into all of this?
I’m a creative person, and I knew I wanted to be able to create things for toppers and stuff. I knew that if I went into digital design, I would learn a lot about computer programs to be able to do that.
My first goal when I came to school was to get my degree, and digital design would give me a sense of running a business because you still have to take marketing and all of that with this program. It would give me the computer skills to be able to incorporate things like business cards.
I also knew that this program could be a Plan B if the bakery didn’t work out, but I could also incorporate the things that I’ve learned in this program within the bakery if we decided to grow bigger. And honestly, I love getting lost in the art of design. I love having an idea and seeing it come to life.
What has been your experience studying at SCC?
I have genuinely never had a bad experience with anybody here. I’ve always had my questions answered. They’ve always made me feel like I was important to have a conversation with. All the teachers have been very welcoming. Their offices are always open when they’re not teaching.
Last year I had a pretty big family emergency, and I just rushed out of class. I was crying and rushed out of class. I just looked at my teacher and I said, “I can’t be here right now.” He came into the hall and said, “You take care of your family, this will be here when you get back.” For him to think outside of his classroom and think about me as a person and say, “Hey, this will be fine when you get back. Go handle things,” it meant a lot.
What has surprised you about your time at SCC?
I was really scared that I was going to be the old person, that all these kids would look at me like, “Why is she here?” I have not had that experience! The classes are pretty mixed with ages. The kids look at me as an equal, or they talk to me just like they talk to everybody else. I’ve been very welcomed by the younger college-age kids. I’ve made some good friends here, and I did not expect to do that. I expected to come to class and do my work and go home. One girl in my graphics design course, we’ve become very close. We hang out outside the school and our kids play.
How has your family been through this experience?
It’s hard to put my kids or my business or my husband on the back burner while I do something for me. I’ve really had to just shift my mindset to “I’m doing it for the professor or the teacher” because it just makes it easier for me to wrap my brain around. It’s easy for me to come to class. It’s hard for me to take it home and cut out time to sit and write a paper or make a design because it feels selfish.
But my kids have been very sweet about it. They want to know what I make on tests. They want to see what I’ve designed. They’ve been very supportive. School has taken my time away from them but they’ve been very understanding about that.
My husband has also been a huge cheerleader. He has made every effort that he could do to encourage me. He works two jobs and when he is home, he takes care of the kids. He doesn’t care at all about graphic design, and I don’t care about grocery store end caps, but you support each other and you cheer each other on.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I always thought that I just wanted to do the creativity side of it, but now I’m looking into maybe going and working for someone in marketing and combining art with people. I’m still pretty undecided, but I do like to spend time talking with people.
I’m graduating in May, and I’m excited to have a diploma, but I’m nervous about getting a big girl job. I’ve never done that before!
Do you have any advice you’d like to share?
You’re important. You’re important, and it’s okay to follow your dreams and put the work in. It’s okay to sacrifice other areas of your life to be able to follow what you want to accomplish. It took me a long time to realize that I was important, too.