LUMBERTON — About five years ago at this time, Ross Locklear would be out in a field, wiping his brow while cutting hay or picking peas.
Now, the 26-year-old is looking for a job in the engineering field, with an associates degree under his belt.
Locklear, a Rowland resident, earned both his adult high school diploma and his associates degree with the help of Telamon, a nonprofit that provides employment and training, as well as emergency assistance, to migrant and seasonal farm workers.
He graduated with a 3.96 grade-point average and was recently awarded a $250 cash award from the Delta Association for Rural Initiatives for his accomplishments.
“His success is completely attributable to him,” said Leon Grimes, a case manager at Telamon. “We aren’t babysitters. We don’t tell him to study that extra hour.”
Locklear, who dropped out of high school in 1991, returned to his studies on his own accord in 2008. He decided to see what Telamon could offer him soon after.
“I was able to focus on my studies because they helped me and I didn’t have to worry about certain things like bills and all that,” Locklear said. “I’d have still done it, but it would’ve been harder for me to actually get it done.”
Locklear plans to find a plant job with his associates of applied science in Electrical Electronic Technology, and take online classes at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte next summer to get an electrical engineering degree.
“I definitely want to go ahead and get a bachelors and continue my education in some way,” Locklear said. “The more you know, the more valuable you are as far as the workforce.”
Telamon helps its clients by paying them weekly while they are attending classes to help with transportation or school costs.
“Especially within the population that we serve, there really is no one else that serves that population,” said Enrique Torres, the regional manager of Telamon. “Right now, with the job market as it is, they need that additional training in order to get into the workforce.”
The nonprofit, located at 289 Corporate Drive in Lumberton, served almost 150 individuals in Robeson County last fiscal year. The program’s services are free.
Torres said Locklear is one of their many success stories.
“His last semester, he took a class load of 20 credit hours and I told him, ‘Can you do it?’” Torres said. “’That’s a lot of classes.’ He said, ‘I can do it.’ He proved me wrong.”