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Meet First-Generation College Graduate and AIU Alumna Latesha McComas

Image: Latesha McComas AIU graduate

AIU alumna Latesha McComas doesn't wait for opportunity to knock. She seeks out and carves opportunities for herself, and her determination has rewarded her.

Today, she is not only an AIU Online graduate, but a full-time employee at the Technical College of the LowCountry (TCL), a graduate from its leadership academy, its representative for the South Carolina Technical Education Association, and the president of the TCL alumni association.

Multitasking is ingrained in her, McComas said. "It's the way I was raised from my parents and grandparents. I was told that idle hands do the devil's work, so get out there and do something—don't sit back."

McComas was the first in her family to attend college, and that was of her own volition. After unhappily spending years at a private high school, she persuaded her parents to transfer her to Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence (ACE), an extension of Battery Creek High School. "I convinced them to go on a tour, and they could see there was more potential for me to learn skills and what I wanted to do as a career. It was there I thought, 'Maybe [college] is what I want to do.'"

With her eye on college, McComas excelled at ACE and was named its Student of the Year. She also took the initiative to apply for scholarships and was granted a full scholarship to attend TCL.

In 1998, she received her associate's degree in business from TCL along with a Small Business Certification. The following year, she earned the TCL Student of the Year and Student Leadership Awards at the school's award ceremony. "I was shocked to have my name called as the recipient of the Student Leadership Award, then completely shocked to be called to the stage a second time for the Student of the Year Award. I was speechless!"

After graduating with her associate's, she held various jobs but kept an eye open for a human resources position, motivated by a summer job with the HR office at Sun City Hilton Head after high school. In 2001, McComas' patience paid off when she was offered the role of HR Specialist back at TCL.

"I can't explain how much TCL meant to me," McComas said. "To work at the college that set my foundation was unbelievable."

However, a few years later, she realized something was missing. "I originally thought I would just have my associate's degree, and I would make it from there. But after I got the HR job, I realized if I wanted to further myself and move up in my career, I would need more."

She began researching schools for her bachelor's degree, but the local campus wouldn't accept all of her associate degree credits. Then she found AIU Online. "AIU was fully accredited, they accepted all of my associate credits so I could jump into my bachelor's [and] ... the online courses allowed me to work full-time to support myself and remain in my hometown," she said. "AIU just made it really easy."

She advises those searching for schools to make sure to do their research. "There are lots of colleges that offer online courses, and lots of colleges that offer online degrees. You have to be careful who you choose to get your degrees through. Being in HR and verifying that faculty's degrees were credentialed, I knew the importance of attending an accredited school," she said. "AIU is not a fly-by-night school. It's established, accredited, and offers the best of the best for anyone."

McComas earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a specialization Human Resource Management from AIU Online in 2005. She decided to immediately jump into AIU's online master's degree program, a path she recommends. "Just remember you are halfway there, and it's worth it! No one can ever take your hard-earned degrees away from you," she said. "I also knew I wanted to teach, and obtaining my master's degree was the only way to ensure this goal."

In 2006, she earned her Master of Business Administration degree with a specialization in Management. Two years later, she became an adjunct faculty member at TCL, in addition to her role as HR Specialist. For years, she wore both hats, though as time went by, she realized her passion continued toward HR rather than education. "I truly enjoy being in the human resources setting, and I actually look forward to possibly being an HR director one day."

In 2013, she stepped down from teaching to take the next step in her career, thanks in part to AIU. "My coursework through AIU enhanced my skills and knowledge in the HR Specialist position and propelled me into the Payroll Coordinator position." In this role, she says she's never bored. "There is always something coming up—either with a change of salaries or benefits. It's never the same ol', same ol'."

In addition to her regular job responsibilities, she was recently appointed president of the TCL Alumni Association. Prior to February 2015, McComas had asked several TCL strategic leadership team members why TCL didn't have an alumni association. "When the newly appointed Executive Director of Institutional Advancement & Foundation mentioned starting an alumni association, the team unanimously approved me for appointment in the role. ... It's exciting and challenging as I am trying to get the organization off the ground."

Even better though, she says, is the opportunity to give back. "I think it's really important to stay and grow where you are planted. It's unbelievable to be at TCL—where I got my start—and giving back to the community."

McComas and her husband Rob live in South Carolina with their Chihuahua Lucy and six free-range backyard chickens. In her spare time, McComas plans events for family and friends.

Looking for further inspiration? Read more AIU success stories.