Jeremiah and Isaiah Skinner seem similar at first glance. The brothers were homeschooled until their junior years of high school. Both became dual enrolled at RCC at young ages, and both excelled in their classes. Both graduated with an Associate in Arts & Sciences, and both have developed successful careers since. However, the similarities end there.
Jeremiah began RCC in 2005 when he was 15. He remembers that his first semester was exciting because it exposed him to people like he’d never met before.
“I was always the youngest in my courses, but it wasn’t a problem,” he says. “Sometimes it meant I had to work a little harder to prove myself, though. I liked it, for the most part. I was looking for new challenges, and I didn’t want school to be boring.”
Jeremiah quickly adapted to his classes, and he particularly remembers a math instructor named Fran Miller.
“She was tough, and she was pretty no-nonsense, but she was always ready to help a student that showed dedication. I appreciated that. She expected a lot, and it really pushed me to work hard.”
In Miller’s class, Jeremiah met a girl named Hope, and the two formed a friendship.
After Jeremiah graduated in 2007, he and Hope transferred to Liberty University. The two had begun dating after spending two years at RCC together. Jeremiah wanted to go into video production but changed his mind when his roommate’s graphics design homework caught his attention.
“I thought his work looked like more fun than mine, so I switched over, and it turns out I was right,” he laughs. “I don’t regret doing that at all.”
At LU, Jeremiah became grateful for his old teachers like Miller. By this time, he was used to the extra work that was necessary to rise to the top.
“RCC was a great transition between homeschooling and a university,” says Jeremiah. “It still took some adjustment, but I think going to community college helped prepare me for the bigger world out there.
“I was used to the way colleges operated by the time I got to LU, and I think my experience was a lot easier than it would have been if I went straight from being homeschooled to going to a 15,000 student campus.”
In 2010 he graduated with a Visual Communications Degree with a specialty in Graphics Design, and married Hope.
Now the two live in Lynchburg. Jeremiah is working as a graphic designer for nonprofit organizations in the Hampton Roads area, and running a wedding, family, and commercial photography business.
The year after Jeremiah graduated RCC, Isaiah took his first class. He was 16, and took only twelve credits per semester so he could work fulltime at Busch Gardens.
“I was either at school, at work, sleeping, or driving between all those places,” remembers Isaiah. “It was pretty busy for a while, but it was necessary, so I got over it.”
He graduated in 2012 with a desire to enter the FBI. Rather than take a traditional route and immediately transfer to a university, Isaiah took the ASVAB entrance exam and joined the military.
“I knew a military background would be a big help when it became time to apply for the FBI, so I decided to go for it. That’s still my goal. I’m still working towards it. I didn’t know I wanted to be FBI when I started RCC, but I knew it was smart to work towards a future in something.”
He quickly discovered that his associate’s degree set him apart from other recruits. His experience with higher education helped him on the ASVAB, which tests skills like math and reasoning. He scored so highly that he was able to choose what occupation he wanted. His Associate in Arts & Sciences also enabled him to bypass two years of military experience, allowing him to join as an E3 rather than E1.
Isaiah is more than halfway done with his service, and currently, spends his time training and completing battle drills. At the moment, he is a squad leader stationed in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg in North Carolina with his wife and son.
The two brothers, young as they may be, both enjoy success in their different fields. RCC helped each of them get a head start.
Jeremiah says, “I graduated from Liberty when I was 20, and I already had a Bachelor’s. It gave me two extra years in my twenties to start a career.”
Both brothers started community college because they were eager for another challenge. They each, in their own way, were looking for a launching point for the rest of their lives.
For Jeremiah, RCC introduced him to new people and ideas. Within the classrooms, he fostered meaningful connections with people that helped him transition to a larger school, and eventually to a career.
Isaiah needed practical knowledge and the opportunity to keep learning despite his inflexible schedule.
“If RCC hadn’t been an option, I don’t know that I would have gone to college,” he says. “I needed to work, and I needed to take classes. It just made sense to go to community college. I’m glad I did, too, because it ended up helping me with the military.”
As different as Jeremiah and Isaiah may be, they agree on how dual enrollment helped their futures. Isaiah says, “My end goal is still to go back to school eventually, and still to join the FBI. I’m glad I knocked out two years of college, even though I didn’t know what I wanted to be back then. I think it was worth it.”
Jeremiah agrees, “RCC was very worth it. It was cheaper than going straight to a four-year school, and it was a great size for getting used to not being homeschooled.”
When asked what advice he would offer to students getting ready to attend RCC, Isaiah reflects back on how he approached the Associate’s Degree eight years ago.
“Just try,” he observes. “It sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed how many people — in every school and every occupation — don’t try. If you make an effort, most professors will see that and reward it. It’ll make you stand out, and then you get benefits.”
After a moment, he adds, “It’s pretty simple to succeed. Do your work, turn it in on time, show up to all your classes, and act like you want to learn something. Chances are, you probably will.”
Jeremiah offers: “You have to appreciate it for what it is; it’s a head start. If you have that opportunity, take advantage of it. Work really hard, finish early, and start doing whatever it is you want to do.”
The brothers are currently separated by distance, but the core values that propelled them through RCC are still manifested in their individual work. Different as they may be, they share one more similarity. “It comes down to how hard you are willing to work. So just work as hard as you can, and it’ll pay off in the end.” — Mary Skinner