Posted on Thursday, June 4, 2015

Community colleges are often described as a launch pad, helping people ascend to heights beyond their dreams.

Great Expectations graduate Gary Hall is the embodiment of that.


Hall meets inspirational speaker Terry Morris at the GE Commencement celebration in May.

Hall is spending the summer capping off an impressive academic career that includes a GPA of 3.958 and membership in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. He is heading to UVA Wise in the fall on a full academic scholarship – accomplishments, Hall said, that would have never happened without Great Expectations.

“Never before have I been a part of an organization in which I felt wholly welcomed and supported,” he said. “The resources made available to students truly make a difference, as most participants have been left without means of survival. The emergency funds make a monumental impact, and I am sure that I would have dropped out of college without them.”

Hall has been in and out of the foster care system throughout his life. He first entered it at the age of two when both of his parents died. He reentered it while in his teens after the grandparents who were raising him died within a month of each other. He was emancipated at the age of 17.

“Like most students in the group, I have no one to turn to for help. Even more importantly, Great Expectations sets a specific tone for students. The atmosphere created by the group is one of real, tangible optimism, and it is a refreshing contrast when compared to other avenues of the college experience,” Hall said.

What Hall lacked in family support, he tried to make up for with hard work and moxie. Before joining the Great Expectations program, he would walk the three miles that separated his home and Mountain Empire Community College to attend classes.

GE Student Leadership Program

Gary Hall proudly celebrates completion of the Great Expectations Student Leadership Program.,

“He walked to class regardless of the weather and I never heard him once complain. When he applied to the program, I immediately got him transportation to the college. Gary is highly motivated and driven to complete his education,” said Jayne Stamper, Hall’s Great Expectation coach.

“Gary is an exceptional leader and role model for other students in the program as well as on campus and has overcome great obstacles to complete his education. Gary is always friendly, professional, and has a contagious smile. While he may has many reasons to complain or make excuses, he doesn’t. He always has a positive attitude and strives to make his life better,” said Stamper.

Though focused on his personal success, and his aspiration to work for NASA, Hall says he wants to see the Great Expectations program succeeding too.

“Great Expectations is definitely something to be appreciated among college officials who care for the well-being of underprivileged students,” said Hall.'

Susan Hayden

Susan Hayden worked for Virginia's Community Colleges for 25 years in the Institutional Advancement office before retiring in December 2015. She currently is on special assignment regarding the 50th anniversary of Virginia's Community Colleges.

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