When Corin Hewins graduated high school in 2012, she enrolled in college to start on a path toward career success. On the advice of friends and family, she decided to pursue nursing because it was a solid profession.
“Everyone told me I’d always have a job as a nurse,” she said.
A native of Greenville, South Carolina, Hewins’ plan involved becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and then paying for college by working in the profession part-time. But just after her first semester at Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, life had other plans. Her mother became seriously ill and was hospitalized shortly after Christmas, leaving Hewins’ younger brother and terminally ill grandmother without care.
“I could have gone back to school, but I was needed at home. I had to figure out what to do,” Hewins explains.
As her friends returned to college, Hewins stayed behind to care for her family. At the same time, she stuck with her original plan, earning a CNA certification from Greenville Technical College in 2013. With her credentials, she was able to begin working full-time as her mother’s health
When her grandmother passed away, and as her mother’s health improved, Hewins knew she had a choice to make: she could continue working as a CNA or she could move forward toward her goal of finishing her college education.
Because of costs and the distance from home, returning to Voorhees College (over two hours away in Denmark, South Carolina) no longer seemed practical. “But I said, ‘I’m not going to settle,’” she recalls. “I had friends who had gone to SMC, so I applied.”
In the fall of 2014, Hewins began taking classes to earn an associate’s degree in biology, continuing to work part-time as a CNA, and sticking to her original plan to become a nurse. Money was tight, and even though she had family members who helped with tuition, Hewins was determined to be as independent as she could. During her sophomore year at SMC, she went home every weekend to work, in addition to holding down a work-study position in the campus library.
When she wasn’t working or studying, Hewins got involved in campus life at SMC, participating on the cheerleading squad, the year book staff and even competing for Miss SMC (she was second runner-up).
At the same time, she was beginning to realize that nursing wasn’t for her.
“It wasn’t as rewarding as I’d hoped. I don’t think you should pick a career based on salary and stability if you don’t also love it.”
A different plan was beginning to take shape for Hewins. In high school, she’d had some experience working with children with developmental disabilities, including her brother, who’d been born prematurely. In Dr. Mary Jane Farmer’s psychology class, Hewins enjoyed discovering how learning takes place – specifically for disabled children.
“It reminded me of those times with my brother and how fascinated I was by how the therapists helped him learn. These children, like my brother, couldn’t help being different from others,” she said. It was really stressful for their parents; most of them didn’t know what to do.”
“In my Developmental Psychology class, Corin was always ready to pipe up – whether to volunteer any information that enhanced our class discussions or to ask questions,” says Farmer. “Like many of my students, it was a joy and a delight to have Corin Hewins.”
Drawn to a career that will allow her to both help and teach others, Hewins listened to what life was telling her and changed her plans. This spring, she was accepted to USC-Upstate, where she’ll complete her education – not in nursing, but in early childhood education (with a minor in psychology).
To help pay for school, she’ll work as a paid intern for the Greenville Family Partnership.
“It’s been hard to pay for my education, but I’m happy I’ve been through it. I gained a lot of strength,” Hewins said. “I hope to find a job, like everyone, but I really hope to meet someone who is in my shoes, and help them. I’m an advocate for people who haven’t had such an easy path.”