Like Father, Like Son

A father-and-son duo work toward earning their bachelor’s degrees — one step at a time.

Their classmates call them “The Ronnies.”

Ronnie Guinn Sr. and Ronnie Guinn Jr. share more than just a name: most notably, a warm personality and a drive to succeed. But they’ve also shared something else, something that not many fathers and sons get the chance to — a classroom.

In May, Ronnie and Ronnie both graduated with their associate’s degrees from Northeastern Technical College (NETC) in Cheraw, S.C. With one goal completed, they are now moving on to the next: earning their bachelor’s degrees from Coker College.

Their classmates call them “The Ronnies.”

This spring, Coker’s Adult Degree Program announced two new bridge partnership agreements: one with Midlands Technical College (MTC) in Columbia, S.C., and one with NETC. Starting this August, the Ronnies will be among the first group of students to participate in the new bridge program.

The new program provides graduates of NETC’s General Business program a direct transfer to Coker College — meaning that all of a student’s NETC coursework will transfer to Coker, and he or she will enter with half of the bachelor’s degree requirements already completed. For even more ease and convenience, Coker will offer one business course per week (on Wednesday evenings) on NETC’s main campus. An additional general education class will be offered online, allowing students to complete six hours per eight-week term. With this accelerated program, students like the Ronnies can complete their bachelor’s degrees in only two years.

Growing up in Cheraw, Ronnie Jr. looked up to his father and followed in his footsteps, landing a job in distribution at Walmart. But a few years ago, with a growing family to look out for, Ronnie Jr. decided that earning his associate’s degree in business was the right step for his career — so he enrolled in classes at NETC.

This time, it was his father who followed in his son’s footsteps. For Ronnie Sr., seeing his son succeed at juggling the demands of working full-time, taking classes, and raising a family was the push that inspired him to action. “Seeing him taking classes on top of raising his kids and going to work, I felt like, if he can do it, so can I,” he says.

Their paths didn’t completely match up. Ronnie Jr. started classes first but took some time off when his wife had their second child. They didn’t have all of their classes together, but toward the end, as they got close to graduation, their schedules synced up and they spent time together in class and studying.

They both learned something about each other. Ronnie Jr. says his dad is more talkative than he is — by the end of class, he’ll have turned a group of strangers into friends. Ronnie Sr. says he has seen his son excel in an academic setting — something he’d never had the chance to see before. It’s shown him a different side of his son. “I’ve never told him this before,” he says, glancing over at his son. “But it made me really proud to see him doing so well.”

This spring, nearing graduation, both Ronnies heard about the new bridge program with Coker. While neither of them had initally planned on earning a bachelor’s degree, they were immediately interested in the easy transition and the fact they could continue taking classes on NETC’s campus, close to home.

“NETC is pleased that we are able to work with Coker College with successful bridge programs for our students,” says Ron Bartley, president of Northeastern Technical College. “This is a win-win proposition, especially for NETC graduates who wish to continue their education at Coker College.”

“Seeing him taking classes on top of raising his kids and going to work, I felt like, if he can do it, so can I.”

Students who are accepted into the program, like the Ronnies, will enjoy a seamless transfer to Coker College. Bridge program participants will also benefit from admissions counseling with both NETC advisors and Coker advisors, a waived application fee to Coker and free admission to Coker’s athletic and cultural events.

“Northeastern actively seeks avenues to provide valuable resources to their students,” says Elaine Hodges, director of recruitment for Coker’s Adult Degree Program. “This partnership will afford their business graduates an opportunity to continue their education without having to travel outside of their community. The faculty and staff of Coker College look forward to working with the NETC graduates to teach, guide, and provide support as they work toward earning their bachelor’s degrees.”

As for the Ronnies, they’re both a little nervous but mostly excited and ready to begin the next part of their journey. Whatever challenges the road ahead holds, they both feel better knowing they will work through it all together — one step at a time.

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