HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Carley McQueen isn’t sure which accomplishment means more – graduating from Wallace State with a cosmetology degree after overcoming hearing, speech and reading challenges throughout her life or becoming the first college graduate in her immediate family.
“Both are on a high level and very important to me. When I came to Wallace State, I didn’t even really have intentions of graduating. Neither did my parents. I just wanted to take a few classes and see what happened after that,” said McQueen, 21. “I’ve struggled at times, but I’m very proud to be a Wallace State graduate.”
McQueen enrolled at Wallace State in August 2013 after graduating from Springville High School in St. Clair County. She originally came to Hanceville seeking a diagnostic medical sonography degree, but shifted gears and joined the Wallace State cosmetology program, which recently expanded to become the Salon and Spa Management program.
McQueen’s journey to becoming a college graduate was filled with hurdles unlike many Wallace State students have to encounter. She was born partially deaf and had multiple ear surgeries as a child. She also battled a speech impediment for the majority of her childhood and couldn’t read until the sixth grade.
“I was still on an elementary-reading level when I was in high school. My vocabulary has expanded since I’ve been in college, but I still deal with migraines and vertigo on a consistent basis. Both can hit any day. And I still have a ringing in my ear,” McQueen said.
As she was in school growing up, McQueen attended the Burkett Center in Birmingham in the afternoons, receiving exclusive instruction with counselors as she hoped to improve her reading and speaking disabilities.
Despite working hard to improve both her speech impediment and reading skills, McQueen couldn’t escape the verbal attacks from her classmates. She changed school three times.
“I was bullied all through school. I was picked on just because I couldn’t talk correctly,” McQueen said. “I always found a way to lean on the Lord through it all. That’s what got me through everything.”
Once she graduated high school, McQueen was ready for a fresh slate in college.
“Even though I did receive special accommodations from Wallace State, I never asked for help when I first got here. I didn’t want anyone to know because people treat you differently when they find out you have a learning disability. They don’t want to hire you. They don’t want to have anything to do with you,” McQueen said. “Wallace State is the first place I’ve been able to be myself and feel comfortable.”
McQueen ultimately found her niche in the cosmetology department and even earned a job at MiaBella Hair Salon in Cullman a little more than a month ago.
Through Wallace State’s ADA-Special Accommodations Office, McQueen said she was able to receive additional time to complete exams in classes and had classmates help write her notes. McQueen also credits Wallace State Salon and Spa Management instructors Tracy Smith and Sabrina Flanigan and former Transitional Learning instructor Schenaye Hopper for their guidance during her Wallace State career.
While she still struggles to sound out certain words, McQueen said she also relies heavily on her Samsung Galaxy phone for assistance.
“Using the microphone has definitely helped me learn how to spell certain words these last few years,” McQueen said.
McQueen is proud to be the first college graduate in her family. McQueen, who has a brother in fireman school, had her parents and three set of grandparents in attendance at graduation in addition to her boyfriend and best friend.
McQueen plans to continue to work at MiaBella and eventually wants to return to Wallace State to pursue her original goal of a diagnostic medial sonography degree.
“One day I want to have my own salon but at the same time be a sonographer. Even though I’ve been through a lot, I have hopes and dreams and I want to prove to everybody I can do something,” McQueen said. “I hate being told I can’t do something. It just makes me want to show I can do it.”
For more information about Wallace State, visit wallacestate.edu.
Wallace State Community College
P.O. Box 2000, Hanceville, AL 35077
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Visit us online at www.wallacestate.edu
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Wallace State Community College
801 Main Street NW | Hanceville, AL 35077
Office: 256.352.8118 | Cell: 256.339.2519 | Toll Free: 866.350.9722