Carlos Wallace Proves It’s Never Too Late to ‘Begin Here, Go Anywhere’

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For the past 22 years, Carlos Wallace has worked at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina. It’s a career that has provided for him, his wife and four children, but it won’t be Wallace’s final career stop. Wallace always had a different plan in mind, and slowly, he has seen that vision come to fruition.

In May, Carlos Wallace will graduate from Sampson Community College with an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education. Now, Wallace is completing his capstone course at Warsaw Elementary School in a 2nd-grade classroom. He says this experience only confirms that he is walking down the right path.

He shared, “It’s been rewarding. They look to me as a role model and look to me for advice.”

Dr. Susan Baxter, Division Chair of Education at Sampson Community College, says that Wallace has the perfect demeanor and personality for teaching. She noted, “Carlos has been such a joy to work with. His dedication and commitment to his studies and the profession of education have been admirable. He will be a true asset to the students in this area and his future work.”

When Carlos first met Dr. Baxter and others in the Education department at Sampson Community College, he says their friendly demeanor and their willingness to work with his schedule was validation that he was making the right decision. The confusion he felt immediately disappeared.

Wallace knows that he could work until retirement and just be done, but for years the desire for a more fulfilling career has burned. He says his current job is “just a check.” Instead, Wallace looks for the chance to impact developing minds daily. At Warsaw Elementary, a K-8 school, Wallace does just that.

Wallace reads to students in a small group at his capstone experience. (Cheyenne McNeill)

The 2nd graders in Wallace’s class obviously see what Baxter sees. Each student waits in anticipation to be selected as a member of the small group working with Wallace. They listen attentively as he explains the plant cycle. Similarly, they can be gently guided back on task by his easy, engaging voice when they are distracted.

Being in the school with these students, tutoring, and assisting with coaching the middle school boys’ basketball team has been more proof for Wallace. He expressed, “It’s a confirmation of what I want to do…I’m planting a seed in these children’s lives.”

For Wallace, getting to this point hasn’t been simple. Days at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Plant consist of 12-hour shifts, then an hour commute back home. By the time he showers and eats dinner, it’s past 9:00 pm. Wallace stated, “Sometimes I actually fall asleep doing my homework, but I try to always push through.”

He says time management has been the key–that and the support and motivation of his family. Wallace’s wife works as a media coordinator at the school where he’s completing his capstone. He has four children, two North Carolina Central University graduates, one at Wake Forest University and one at Fayetteville State University.

Throughout the years, Wallace says he and his kids have been competitive, trying to see who can make the highest grades. He stated, “That pushes them. They help me and I help them.”

Wallace’s mother texts and calls him almost daily to ask about classes, grades, and assignments—motivation that he says has been essential throughout this process.

When he graduates in May, Wallace’s journey won’t be complete. He starts a program at Fayetteville State University to complete his bachelor’s degree. He’ll still look toward his family for motivation, and he’ll remember the validation he received from his mentors and students.

About Sampson Community College: Sampson Community College is a member of the North Carolina Community College System, located in Clinton, NC in Sampson County. The college offers many programs to include two-year degrees, college transfer, continuing education, and workforce development options and early college education.