Respiratory program provides second-chance career

Many people think of an education as a route to a better financial life and in our complex and highly technological economy, advanced education is not only a good idea, it’s becoming more and more of a necessity.

Many people also tend to think that more is better and implore young people to work towards baccalaureate and graduate degrees, equating more education with more earning power. While that model holds in a lot of cases, there are two-year degrees at Robeson Community College that can lead to financially and personally rewarding careers. The implication here is that financial rewards aren’t the only factors to be considered when a student is trying to figure out his or her particular route into the world of work.

Marcus Williford found a financially rewarding career and a lot of personal satisfaction in helping others with his degree in Respiratory Therapy from Robeson Community College.

Williford graduated from St. Pauls High School in ​1992​ and worked in local manufacturing for three years before joining the Army in 1995. After stints in Darmstadt, Germany and Ft. Hood, Texas, he deployed to Bosnia in 1996 for a peacekeeping mission with Operation Joint Endeavor and got out of the Army in 2000. ​

Williford worked as a fiber optic installer for a large telecommunications company for a while, but was laid off during a lull in the industry. Then he worked as a security guard at Cape Fear Valley while attending RCC for a degree in Information Systems Networking. When he got laid off from a tech job again, he decided to shift his career focus. Williford’s roommate had graduated from the respiratory therapy program.

”Talking to him, I knew that it was a stable field to go into,” Williford said.

Working this time as a security guard at Southeastern Regional Medical Center and then as an emergency room secretary, he returned to RCC to study respiratory therapy.​ When asked why he chose RCC, Williford said, “I had previously gone to RCC for Information Systems and had even served as SGA Ppresident, so I knew that it was a good school.​

“​I had a great experience. I loved my instructors and classmates.”​

​Since completing the program in 2009, Williford worked for six years at Cape Fear Valley in Fayetteville in the Neonatal and Pediatric Intensive Care Units and in the pediatric area of the Emergency Department. He earned Neonatal-Pediatric Specialty certification from the National Board for Respiratory Care, and a bachelor of science in Respiratory Therapy from UNC Charlotte. For the past three years he has been with McLeod Medical Center in Dillon, S.C.

“I love taking care of my patients,” said Williford.

But while Williford is financially compensated for taking care of human patients, he has found that is not the only arena in which he finds personal satisfaction. He also works to make the world better for four-legged beings as a volunteer with Carolina Boxer Rescue and a foster “parent” for dogs in need of a new home.

His duties with the Carolina Boxer Rescue include transporting dogs, doing home visits as part of the adoption process, fundraising and helping organize events. Williford currently serves on the board of directors of the Pawz Foundation in Wilmington that organizes a large multi-rescue annual event to give back to rescue groups in Wilmington and around the state. (He encourages those interested to check out He has served on the board of directors of Boston Terrier Rescue of NC and was a co-founder and board member of Boston Terrier Rescue Team of the Carolinas. ​

As would be expected, when it comes to rescuing animals, Williford practices what he preaches, which is evident when he starts talking about his own pets.

“I have two boxers, one from the Robeson County Animal Shelter and one adopted from Carolina Boxer Rescue; two Boston Terriers, one from Boston Terrier Rescue of NC and one from Boston Terrier Rescue Team of the Carolinas; and one Yorkshire Terrier from Yorkshire Terrier National Rescue. ​I love helping animals in need.”

If you think a career in Respiratory Therapy or one of Robeson Community College’s other offerings might meet your needs, new classes will be starting on Aug, 15. You can apply online at, visit our admissions office on campus, or call 910-272-3342.
Michael Williford, a graduate of RCC’s Respiratory Therapy program, also works to rescue dogs, and has permanently adopted several himself. Williford, a graduate of RCC’s Respiratory Therapy program, also works to rescue dogs, and has permanently adopted several himself.

Dennis Watts is the Public Information officer for Robeson Community College.

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