Tears threaten to spill from Cabrini Smith brown eyes as she talks about being named Pearl River Community College 2011 HEADWAE honoree.For a single mother who didnt go to college until she was in her 40s, the significance of being honored in the Missisisppi Legislature is almost more than she can comprehend.I feel like for the first time in my life, at 45 years old, Im proud of myself and setting an example for my girls, Smith said.Her daughters, 17-year-old Alexandra and 14-year-old Sarah, will accompany Smith to Jackson on Feb. 3 for the Higher Education Appreciation Day-Working for Academic Excellence events – recognition by both the Mississippi House of Representatives and the Senate, a tour of the Capitol and the awards luncheon.She also will be accompanied by Catherine Merriken of Oak Grove, instructor of office systems technology at PRCC Forrest County Center. As PRCC faculty honoree, she selected Smith for the student honor.She very representative of the non-traditional students that I get, Merriken said. She works very hard to get the most out of her education.Merriken has taught at PRCC for 24 years.Catherine been a loyal, dependable outstanding instructor for many years, said Dr. John Grant, vice president for instruction. Were pleased to recognize her for her distinguished service to the college. She a very deserving recipient.She earned a bachelor degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the master degree from Suffolk Univeristy in Boston. Merriken taught in Massachusetts for 19 years before moving to Mississippi.Im certainly very honored, she said. There are so many outstanding teachers here. I was pleased I was selected from them.Merriken is active in community theater in Hattiesburg and in the Friends of the Library organization.Smith, a New Orleans native, lives in Petal where she raised two adult sons along with her younger daughters. She enrolled in PRCC office systems technology program at the Forrest County Center in the fall of 2009 after 18 years as a manicurist, often working more than one job to support her family.Id never been to college, she said. It been amazing. I feel like Im setting an example for my girls.Smith, who will graduate in May with an Associate in Applied Science degree, was inducted a year ago into Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.I hope to find a good, stable job in the Hattiesburg area as an administrative assistant, she said.
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