On May 11, a Franklin couple will walk down the aisle together once more, but this time they will not be exchanging vows. They will both be receiving diplomas.
After much diligence and persistence, Tony Newsome Sr., 40, and his wife, Raquel, 41, will leave the Regional Workforce Development Center with the awards of Associate of Applied Science degree in Police Science and Associate of Arts and Science degree in Education, respectively. Raquel will also receive a Certificate in General Education.
But it hasn’t been easy.
Tony was displaced from International Paper after the mill announced its closing in 2009 and Raquel’s job as a hairstylist at SmartStyle ended as well. With four children to care for, it was imperative they do something to make themselves more marketable in the workforce. Continuing their education was the answer.
“I looked at some other colleges in the area, but PDCCC offered the same degree and it is closer to home,” said Raquel.
She had begun taking classes the first time in 2001, but with two of the kids needing to attend daycare, “It just didn’t pan out,” she said. Returning to school, she said, was both exciting and hard.
Tony said, “It opened up a new world. I hadn’t been to school in 23 years. The roughest part was getting adjusted the first three or four weeks. I almost quit.”
But now the couple encourages others who think they cannot go back to school after starting a family to give it their best. “I didn’t think I was going to stay for the long haul,” said Tony. “You just have to discipline yourself. Raquel added, “And don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
The Newsomes agreed that having assistance from others enabled them to achieve their goals as well. Tony’s parents live nearby, and were able to assist with getting their children to extracurricular activities. “You need to find outside support,” Raquel said.
Tony has since regained employment at the recently repurposed International Paper fluff pulp mill. “I’ll use my degree as something to fall back on,” he said. “I also plan to complete the rest of the classes to get my degree in corrections.” Raquel plans to continue her education and attain a bachelor’s degree.
She serves a senator with the Student Government Association and a member of the PDCCC Book Club. Tony and Raquel are active in Student Support Services. They have four children, Tonellia, 20, Tony Jr., 16, and To’Quawn and Qur’an, both 13.
Commencement exercises will take place at 7 p.m. at the Regional Workforce Development Center.