Jay Cash

Spartanburg Community College

"SCC is so diverse and there are so many types of people with so many different experiences. With all that knowledge and life experience, you get a really well-rounded perspective on the world and it challenges your assumptions and beliefs. That helps you recognize different opportunities and possibilities."

I’m from Florida. I graduated high school there, but wasn’t really big into school or academics until later in my senior year when I really started pushing myself. I have a twin brother and he moved to South Carolina right after graduation. The rest of my family is up here, too. I stayed in Florida for about a year after high school, but it wasn’t really going anywhere. I was just barely making it, so I decided to come up here to be closer to family. I saved up money and my brother and I eventually moved out. This is when I really got into history and exercise science.

I went to SCC and completed one semester. I caught up on some math classes and whatnot, not really knowing what I wanted to do — and I loved it. The financial aid office was great. They helped me so much. Then I teetered out again, just worked and skipped about two semesters. Then I met a lady named Barb Rearhart, and she hired me to work with her and start up two businesses. With Barb’s encouragement, I went back to school for business. I got my property management license and just kept moving forward. I even found out I love public speaking, although I still get nervous about it.

I started taking business classes and  applying what I was learning to the businesses that I was helping Barb develop. My teachers at SCC were there at every step of the way. Even with COVID going on, they’re quick to respond. The online classes are not too difficult, but they’re also not too easy. It really pushes you to learn on your own, and I appreciate that as a self-learner. At the moment, we have our two businesses up; a self-storage facility and a townhome community called “The Townes at Converse” in Spartanburg. 

Barbara’s husband just got his general contractor license, so we have some big plans for the future. I recently met up with the SCC president, Mr. Mikota, and he was telling me about the plans that he has for SCC — and he wants to get me involved. I see a bright future ahead.

What motivated you to go back to school? 

I was bored and I knew I could do more. I knew I could have a deeper influence on my community. I wanted to make an impact. Spartanburg is so different from Jacksonville. The people are nicer, it’s growing and it’s beautiful. I said to myself, “How can I get involved and make connections to help other people get on the same path?” I wanted to find direction and help other people find direction. I had no direction at that time. Some direction is better than no direction, so I got on that path and I snowballed from there. 

How do you feel looking back? 

High school was not a great time. I stuck to myself. Everyone has family issues going on, and I had a lot through high school. I’m not putting the blame on anyone, but I definitely wasn’t pushed to do my best. I was angry all the time, sad, making excuses. When I came up here, I saw how hard people worked, especially my grandpa who is such a harder worker. I thought, “Look at the results of his hard work. I’m going to start taking responsibility. I’m going to focus on habits that are going to better myself and better those around me.”

As I started going to SCC, I became more social. I realized, “Hey, not everybody is out to get you. Most people want to help you.” I started waking up on a positive note. I started stating what I’m grateful for. Instead of thinking about what could go wrong, I was thinking about what could go right. This past year I’ve been working for Barbara has been the most growth I’ve experienced in my whole life. I’m constantly getting out of my comfort zone and pushing myself to do things I don’t want to do. That’s the only way to grow.

You got to stay on the border of discomfort and comfort. You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. With teachers who support you in your endeavors and are there for you at every step of the way, having mentors who reinforce that drive. Today, I wake up looking forward to the possibilities. I’m taking accounting right now, too. Not a fan of accounting, but it’s a great tool to have. It’s fun to be able to use those skills in the real world and identify what is wrong, what is right and how you can fix something. 

What is a misperception people have about technical school? 

When I was in high school, I was very adamant about going to the University of Florida, I did not have the funds though, so I just stagnated. I went to campus with a friend of mine and I stayed for about a week. There were so many people, huge classrooms — it felt very impersonal. I’m sure it provides a great education, but it wasn’t one-on-one. Nobody knew you. When I went to SCC, it was like high school for adults. I had evening classes, but they knew me by name and they could help me with anything.

A university is a name brand and everyone likes name brands, but I think that mentality is starting to fade away because they are so expensive. Flexibility and creative thinking are also very important. I’ve never been to a university, so I can’t say for sure, but they don’t seem to inspire creative thinking. SCC is so diverse and there are so many types of people with so many different experiences. You’ve got guys in construction, farmers, even wise senior citizens. With all that different knowledge and life experience, you get a really well-rounded perspective on the world and it challenges your assumptions and beliefs. That helps you recognize different opportunities and possibilities. You’re not guaranteed a job with a four-year degree. I think personal skills, social skills and leadership initiative are much more important than the university doors you walk through. With technical schools, you’re there because you want to be there and you’re interested in what you’re doing.

What have you defied on your journey? 

When I hear the words I defy, I think of pushing through barriers, whether it be having kids or working a full-time job. I was working a full-time job and making excuse after excuse. You have to defy yourself and get out of your own head. Technical colleges promote good habits and growth. You’re rewarded for taking the initiative and defying expectations.

I had some friends in Florida who doubted me many times. Obviously, not really friends anymore. I put my foot down, put in the work and had patience. It’s a slow, laborious process, but you do see the fruits of your labor at some point and definitely defy doubts along the way. Self-doubt is dangerous and it can be a huge obstacle, but when you have faculty support and they have nothing but positive things to say, it really reinforces that camaraderie and community.

What advice do you have for others on their journey? 

Write everything down. Write down what you want, write down where you’re at in life, write down what you want to be. Maybe even make a vision board. On the left side, draw where you are, on the right side draw where you want to be, list the steps you need to take to get there in the middle. Visualizing things is very important. You are your own worst critic, but the doubts you have are not true. You can push through any obstacle with persistence and patience — but first, you have to have the goal.