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BRCC student defies the odds to graduate

"Conquer your fears, don't give up."


Baton Rouge Community College (BRCC) was filled with many success stories at our Spring 2016 Commencement Exercises. The roster included students who were the first in their family to graduate, students who had overcome adversity, and more! Here's one student's story.

"Conquer your fears, don't give up. Have faith in yourself. Every trial and tribulation is just a test," said 36-year-old Penny Moneka Albert-Charles.

Charles, a native of Baton Rouge, faced a major obstacle on her long journey to graduation. She enrolled in BRCC in 2001. Prior to attending BRCC she had already attended computer school, medical assistant school, and had attended a 4-year university. 

"As a non-traditional student I needed something different. BRCC offered affordability, smaller class size, and more one-on-one interaction with my instructors."

Charles is the mother of 6 boys, ages 19, 17, 15, 8, and 2. After giving birth to her youngest son, she faced some serious health issues.

"At the age of 34, I had a massive heart attack, and had to undergo open heart surgery. I then developed epilepsy and severe asthma. I had never been diagnosed with any heart conditions or any other health concerns," said Charles.

The doctors told her that the heart attack was stress related. Charles says that she was overextending herself. She was having a difficult time with her  work-life-school balance. During the time of the heart attack, she was working full-time as a certified licensed pharamcy technician at CVS. She was also attending BRCC full time, and raising a family.

"I had to come to the realization that I was not like the typical student coming to college straight out of high school. I decreased my course load and my grades began to improve. I also started to feel better," said Charles. "BRCC is the perfect place for people in situations similar to mine."

Charles says that things are looking up for her. She hopes that her degree will open up the door to new opportunities. She has applied for a job as a production assistant at NBC 33. She is also considering enrolling in LSU's anthropology program, or re-enrolling at BRCC to pursue an additional associate degree. 

"Life is great! I recently started oxygen treatments, and I am now able to walk without using a cane," added Charles.