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From homeless, to head of the class

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Each student at Friday’s CFCC graduation rehearsal has a different story of how they got to this point. Thirty-nine year old Lorie Pacheco’s is particularly inspiring.

“I lived on the streets for two an a half years. I didn’t think anybody was ever going to help me again,” she said.

For 2 years, Pacheco spent long nights studying to become a paralegal. Those nights were spent in a homeless shelter. After bouncing from town to town, and living on the streets, Pacheco eventually found help in Wilmington. She found a temporary home at First Fruit Ministries, a women’s transitional housing shelter.

A roof, a warm bed and plenty of encouragement gave her what she needed to go back to school.

“Those are the outcomes we want for everybody that comes here,” said First Fruit resident director Donna Venezia. “Whether it’s a simple ‘I want to get my GED’ to ‘I want to go all the way, a Master’s degree.'”

Pacheco said heading back to school did come with some apprehension.

“I was a little nervous at first because there is a stigma attached to the homeless. Homeless doesn’t equal stupid or lazy, it’s just a circumstance, and you can overcome it,” she said.

It’s a message Pacheco has passed on to many women back at the shelter. Five others have since enrolled at Cape Fear Community College.

“What your age, what your circumstance, there is help and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

600 students including Pacheco graduated Friday at the Schwartz Center. Pacheco already has a job lined up at Hagar & Associates law firm. She plans on getting her Bachelor’s degree, and then applying to law school. She’s had luck personally as well. Pacheco gets married Saturday.

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The pressures of college could make anyone think twice. For one student at Cape Fear Community College, pressure of everyday life added on top makes graduation day mean so much more.

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