At Holmes Community College, it's not just the students who are continually furthering their education. Ridgeland Campus Financial Aid Advisor Mary Haralson earned a Master of Science in Healthcare Administration in December and wants to encourage others to never give up on their dreams.
"When I started at Holmes Community College, I only had a high school diploma," Haralson said. "I refused to give up, so I pushed myself to go back to school. First, I earned my Associate of Arts from Holmes, then I continued my education and obtained my Bachelors of Social Work at Jackson State University in 2016.
I started at Belhaven in 2016 and am thrilled to say I finished my Master of Healthcare Administration in December 2018. I want to encourage anyone that would like to continue their education please do so. It's never too late!"
A native of Jackson, Haralson, and her husband, Willie, have three children: Jasmine, Joshua and Quita, and two grandchildren. Her daughter, Quita Haralson Rand, is also a Holmes alumna who is now employed with the college. A product of Jackson Public Schools, Haralson graduated from Lanier High School in the early '90s, but chose not to immediately begin college following high school so that she could work full-time to support her children and family. Prior to joining the Holmes family, she was employed at a law firm for more than 10 years until she made the decision to go back to school. In 2010, she enrolled at Holmes as a full-time student, serving as a work-study to bring in some form of income.
"After being out of school for nearly two decades, within two years I was fortunate enough to attain an Associate of Arts degree," Haralson said.
In the midst of her studies, she became employed full-time at Holmes, fulfilling the position which she currently holds.
"Upon graduating from Holmes, I was inspired to continue on to a four-year institution," Haralson said. "Though I was working full-time, taking a full load of classes at JSU and maintaining a household, I made it my mission to retain an exceptional GPA."
Her hard work paid off, as she was inducted into numerous honor societies and completed her bachelor's in two years. Not ready to give up, Haralson chose to continue her higher education journey and enrolled in graduate school.
"I have a passion for helping people and possess a gift of love, so healthcare administration seemed like a good fit," Haralson said. "That way, I can expand on my ability to utilize my gift from God."
Over a six-year timeframe, Haralson earned a total of three college degrees, all while preserving the strength to take care of her responsibilities as a mother, a wife and dedicated employee. Haralson has also remained an active member of Stronger Hope Church in Jackson where she serves on the Hostess Ministry and is the leader of the Women's Ministry.
"Mary Haralson is an example to everyone that learning is a lifelong endeavor," said Ridgeland Campus Vice President Dr. Don Burnham. "She has demonstrated that the only limits to personal growth and achievement are determined by the effort and perseverance we are willing to expend. I am proud of Mary for her achievements in completing her bachelor's and master's degrees while employed full-time with Holmes Community College. She has created new opportunities and possibilities for her career should she elect to pursue them."
Thanks to her ever-present smile, friendly personality and willingness to help others, Haralson was the recipient of the Holmes Customer Service Award in the fall of 2017. Director of Financial Aid Dr. Gail Muse Beggs was just one of the few who nominated her for the award.
"Although I don't personally witness it, I know what she deals with daily (working in financial aid)," Dr. Beggs said. "Despite that, she continues to smile and have the best attitude and sweetest spirit of anyone I know."
Haralson says that she lives by the scripture Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Her goal is to encourage others and reassure them that they can do whatever it is that they want to do.
"As an individual who became a young mother, endured the loss of both of my parents and was the first in my family to go to college, I believe a person has the same advantages and opportunities as others who did not experience negative influences in life," Haralson said. I want to instill in others what Winston Churchill said: 'Failure is not fatal; it is okay to make mistakes, but it is never okay to give up. Possessing the courage to continue is all that counts.'"