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RCC student works through past errors to success

“RCC is a stepping-stone for me,” says Je’Marc Morton. “It is the first brick in the home that I am building. Without the opportunity that RCC has offered to me I would have given up hope—not only educational hope, but belief in everything.”

A 2005 graduate of Park View High School in South Hill, Mecklenburg County, Morton was studying HVAC at Advanced Technology Institute in Virginia Beach when he did what he calls “the dumbest thing that I’ve ever done in my life. I saw a friend that always had stuff,” he says, “and I wanted those same things.” To get them, he broke into a home and stole a DVD player, a TV, and “anything that we could get our hands on.” But the police were waiting when he came out. “I dropped everything and started running,” he says; but he was caught, questioned, and warned that any evidence found against him would mean his arrest. “From then on, every time I heard something I thought it was the police. I talked to my girlfriend and to my mom, and decided to turn myself in. The one day that I was in jail awaiting bail scared me straight.” The escapade resulted in a five-year probationary period, which ended just a few months ago, and Morton also had to pay $2,500 in restitution for the stolen goods.

Since his 2007 conviction, Morton has found that “it is very true that no one will hire you as a felon. It is very hard.” With a three-year-old daughter to support, he says, “You have to go along wondering how to provide. Some days you wonder if suicide isn’t a better option.” But, he affirms, “that is the motivation for me to get an education and start my business. To show felons that there is an outlet. Because when you get out of jail you wonder what you’re going to do. Your old friends are ready to take you back into the environment that got you into the situation. And it’s an easy mindset to fall back into. But I want to provide a different path—a bridge to help people return to society.”

With the associate degree he is now working for, and then a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Morton hopes to open a rehabilitation center in order to give felons a chance to build up a good background for their job résumés by working for him. “This would allow them,” he says, “to demonstrate to their next employers that they didn’t go back to selling drugs or stealing . . . back to the streets”—and to prove to society how much more they are capable of. “I want to show other felons that we are more than the crimes we were charged with. That we can make it; that we don’t have to rely on the excuse that we can’t get an education, can’t get a degree, or can’t get a job. I want to be an example.”

“I understand that we all make bad decisions, bad choices—I can’t say ‘mistakes,’ because we made the decision to do wrong,” Morton continues. But the experience was valuable in teaching him a number of lessons. “The main one is to think things through,” he says. “At a young age you’re always looking for that next high . . . something to fill the void in your life. And it will never be filled by alcohol, sex, or drugs.”

“One thing that has been difficult for me is being a felon and a father,” says Morton, who has just received full custody of his daughter Aaliyah because her mother is going into the military. “My daughter is my heart; she has motivated me in every aspect. If not for her, I’m not sure that I would have been able to keep going.” He continues, “I never knew my dad, and I want to be so much more than he was—to be there for my daughter. When I think about the choices that I made and where I am now, I don’t feel that I’m close to being where I want to be in that respect.”

Morton credits his mother’s prayers and advice as giving him a direction for his life. “I tried everything—drugs and alcohol—nothing was making me feel good, or giving me joy or peace. So I decided to try something different. My mom kept inviting me to church, saying that the people there were just like me, and that I would relate to them. In 2011, I gave it a try, and since that time I’ve only missed three services. God has been an awesome influence in my life,” he concludes. Dale and Risha Hardy, Morton’s pastor and his wife, were also a strong influence in his decision to enroll at RCC in Fall 2011, as they are RCC graduates themselves.

Morton cites several advantages of coming to RCC for his education. The first is the sense of family that he has found there. “There’s a lot of love, growth, motivation, and honesty—and that, to me, is what family is all about.” The second is the financial aid that RCC offers. “A lot of people don’t have the funds to get an education. But I feel as if RCC pays you to go back to school, giving you the opportunity to get ahead in life. And this motivates you to try harder and to succeed.”

Finally, he says, “I’ve been to a lot of college campuses, and I’ve never seen so many smiles as I have at RCC . . . on everybody. The professors aren’t just trying, they are doing! It’s not an effort for them to come to work—they want to be here, and they are so open to communicating with you, to ensure that you are doing well.” As well as being a student, he is also employed by RCC as assistant to the director of student activities, Dean Taylor. “He was looking for help, and heard that I was a ‘people person’.”

“When I started at RCC,” Morton admits, “I was scared to death.” He mentions several staff and faculty members as being particularly helpful to him: instructor Faye Oliver, “who saved me in math”; information technology professor Ruth Greene—“a positive influence”; and counselor Tanya Oliver, “for her honesty and ability to guide.”

“Je’Marc has truly matured during the short time that I have known him,” remarks Tanya Oliver. “He has a passion for learning and has overcome a variety of obstacles, yet still maintains a positive outlook on life.” She adds that she expects him to “take the world by storm with his thought-provoking questions and charismatic charm.”

“I had the pleasure of teaching Je’Marc Morton during Spring 2012,” states Greene. “I quickly realized that he was a diamond waiting to be polished. He has a plan for his future and is taking advantage of every opportunity to fulfill his goals.” She mentioned being impressed with Morton’s “willingness to take risks and to learn new strategies for old problems”—for example, he did not let the difficulty of traveling to the campus from his home in Williamsburg stop him from faithfully attending student leadership meetings. “His bright smile and genuine personality irradiated our classroom,” says Greene. “Je’marc is a great representative of RCC, and a stellar example of the college slogan, ‘your future starts here’.”

“It is a blessing that someone who was convicted by the state as a felon is now employed by the state,” reflects Morton. “If you see a door closed it is only a place to knock. I am just thanking God that I was given a second chance.”

16 Responses to “RCC student works through past errors to success”

  1. Calesha Turner-Aaron says:

    Wow! Your story is inspiring, uplifting and courageous. Well done JeMarc, I am so proud of you!

  2. Holly Carter says:

    Great article JeMarc!! Keep up the positive attitude I wish you the best in meeting your goals.

  3. Tej says:

    Inspiring ! Keep up with the attitude buddy, I am sure you will get through it! Good Luck.

  4. I knew that you were a “Special Person”. It is obvious that you are a “Chosen Vessel & A Shinning Light”.

  5. Ashley Trevilian says:

    So glad I have the opportunity to know Je’Marc, he is a wonderful person.

  6. Labocalock says:

    Inspiration… :O!

  7. Robert Griffin, Dean of Glenns Campus says:

    It is a pleasure to have Je’Marc on campus. He has been an asset to assisting the new students.

  8. J Seebeck says:

    He is always a smiling and positive person!! Thanks for brightening my day!

  9. Jacque Moore says:

    Je’Marc Morton is a special young man, who just happens to be one of my favorite sons. Je’Marc keep God first in your life and continue to look to Him for your guidance and you will remain VICTORIOUS. Je’Marc, I have one more bit of advice for you: Keep PURSUING your dreams; Keep ENDURING the trials and tribulations that may come up against you; and remember if you ABIDE in Him and He in you PROGRESS IS INEVITABLE. I am so PROUD OF YOU. Much love to you son, from MOM

  10. Jackie Greene says:

    Je’Marc is such a blessing to whomever he meets. I’ve seen him interact with so many people at RCC and he never fails to bring a smile to every face. Je’Marc is always positive, kind and genuinely concerned about others. I know that he will achieve his goals as long as he keeps working hard and listens to him mama!

    Nothing can stop him.

  11. Zabrina Webster says:

    Great, inspiring story. I am a single mother, and it can be difficult sometimes. I lost Momma 10 years ago, but there is something inside that won’t let me give up. Thanks for inspiring me some more..:)

  12. Ashlee Greene-Nichols says:

    Wow, I knew there was something special about you when I met you in the hall way at RCC. You are a great inspiration, and I am lucky to have met you. Thank you for sharing your story and inspiring me to do more with my life:).

  13. Jaehn Charlton II says:

    Keep pressing for the High Mark in Christ Jesus. Let Him lead you and guide you. Make room for increase. It is coming in all areas of your life.

  14. Corryn Rice says:

    Je’Marc, this is a very inspiring story. I am proud of the current decisions you hav made to change yourself. Congratulations!!!!

  15. I would like to say THank YOU to all who have taken time to read the posted article on myself. I never imagined so many people would read and definitely had no idea of what affect it would have on my peers. I must say I am honored that GOD choose me to touch and inspire so many people. Attending and working at RCC has been a blessing in many ways. I want to thank Tom Martin and Micheal Greene and all the people that helped them behind the scenes for their collaboration and willingness. Not knowing that Mrs. Ruthe Greene or Mrs. Tanya Oliver were going to be interviewed for the article; I want to say publicly Thank YOU. All that has been accomplished over time I can not take credit for. I would have never been in COllege if it had not been for the GOD in my Bishop “Dale HArdy” and his wife Pastor “Risha Hardy.” I fought them so much on the subject of going back to school because of my fear of failing, but they refused to give up; sliding in there every moment available “YOU SHOULD GO BACK TO SCHOOL.” Now 90% of the church congregation is in school “Praise GOD!” I am blessed to have such a strong support group and loving family in my corner. MOMMY I love YOU. I Thank GOD. I Thank GOD!! I Thank GOD! He deserves all the credit, glory, and honor for being who is and never leaving me even when I left HIM. He is an awesome GOD. SO to those who are going through what I went through or are just wondering how does Je’Marc continue to smile and encourage others as he goes through so much disappoint and pain; let me end with psalm 146:2 “WHile I live will I praise the LORD:I will sing praises to my GOD while I have any being.” and I must always remember that no matter how hard it gets I can do all things through CHRIST

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