Renaisha Collins

Spartanburg Community College

"Stay open, vibrant, communicative. You never know where life will take you when you're open to communicating with different people, open to learning, open to knowledge."

I grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and always did well academically. I excelled through middle school, and I was in French Honor Society and Beta Club in high school. I helped out faculty and teachers, especially in the math department. I took ROTC and even thought that I might want to pursue a military background when I graduated. 

When I got out of high school, I wanted to go to college, but I wasn’t able to because of both parents not doing what they needed to in order to be considered a dependent in the state of South Carolina. Instead of going to college, I took a job with a manufacturing company and tried to enlist for the Army when I was 21. They sent me home because of my BMI, which was really discouraging. I met with the General, and he told me what the guidelines were and what I needed to do within two years if I wanted to come back — so I did. The next time I went for the Navy, but they wouldn’t take me because of the tattoo on my wrist and my hips being too wide. 

At 26, I finally applied for SCC. I sat down with the Department Chair, Ms. Marcia Schenck, of Computer Technology, and she took me under her wing. There was no question she couldn’t answer. If she didn’t know the answer, she got it for me. 

SCC has been an amazing journey. I graduate in May of 2021. 

You mentioned not feeling like success was for you. Tell us more about that? 

My immediate family is not supportive at all. Even some of my friends, who I expected more from, were not supportive. It was discouraging to feel like there was nobody in my corner rooting for me. Nobody was saying, “I’m proud of you” or “I’m happy for you.” 

I had some dark times during my first semester. The first person I went to was Mrs. Marcia Schenck. I didn’t realize the counselor on campus is a licensed psychologist, and Mrs. Schenck referred me to her. I had a few empowering conversations with the counselor, which helped me realize that even in a dark patch, I wasn’t really going through it alone. That helped me keep pushing forward. 

As time progressed, I met other students and we started developing study groups. I eventually stopped thinking about the people who weren’t there for me, and started focusing on all the people who were. 

What advice do you have for others who might be in a similar position to where you started out? 

Stay true to yourself. Make sure to accomplish whatever dreams you want to accomplish. In order to do that, you need to keep putting your next foot forward. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or meet people. Take the initiative to go out and introduce yourself. Make sure you do your research. If you know someone with connections in a field you’re interested in, reach out to them. Stay open, vibrant, communicative. You never know where life will take you when you’re open to communicating with different people, open to learning, open to knowledge. If you are discouraged, try to find a way around it or through it or over it. If something won’t help you soar towards your future goals, let it go, put it to the side, breathe and keep moving forward.