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PENDLETON --- Glen McElreath enjoyed his time spent working in the restaurant industry, managing and opening new restaurants, training staff and traveling over the past 10 years.  As he approached the age of 30, the husband and father of four – two teens and two under the age of 7, began to think about the future and providing for his family. 

“I didn’t want to be in my 50’s and working in the restaurant industry with no retirement fund.  I needed Plan B.  At the time I didn’t see a future for me and my family.  I needed a career, not a job,” said the Iva resident.

He knew he needed a college degree to achieve his goal of owning his own business but wasn’t sure how to get there.  “I was debating where to begin college and my sister suggested I start out with a smaller college like Tri-County Technical College,” said McElreath, who took his first college class at age 28.  “I could get my feet wet and see where it takes me.  I knew Tri-County had a good partnership with Clemson University so I enrolled in university transfer classes.  I was intimidated.  It had been 10 years since I had been in a classroom.    I was in classes with 18 and 19 year olds. Initially, I second guessed myself, especially when it came to math,” he said.

It didn’t take him long to get acclimated.  McElreath graduated Tuesday (May 9) --debt free -- with an associate in arts and has been accepted to Clemson University this fall.  He will pursue a bachelor’s degree in management with a focus on international business.  He transfers with a 3.73 GPA.

“Everyone here has been so helpful. I am so grateful for the opportunities Tri-County has given me.  College was important to me for another reason.  I wanted to get an education to instill in my children that education must be a priority.”  McElreath and his wife, Dana, have two children, Rafe, 6, and Alayna, 4. They also became legal guardians of his two half sisters, Hilda, 18, and Megan, 16, when his mother and stepfather passed away three years ago.  The girls lost both of their parents within a six-month period when they were 13 and 15.  “My wife and I worked with DSS to gain custody,” he said.  In under a week they were living with the McElreath family. 

While a student, McElreath worked a 30-hour-a-week job at The Eating Place in Iva while maintaining a full academic course load.  “After the kids were in bed, there were late-night study sessions,” he said.  “I began to soak up the knowledge in all of my classes.  Each instructor has a different teaching style and classes are open to conversation.  Instructors are passionate about what they do and it comes through.  Tri-County is a great place to start my education.  It’s affordable (he received a full Pell Grant) and it’s do-able.”

Now that he has met his short-term goal of earning an associate degree, he’s looking at the next one – earning a degree from Clemson.  “I have an amazing family --  my support system includes my in-laws and my sisters. Because of my family and my Tri-County family, things have gone smoothly.  I’ve developed friendships with my instructors that will carry on,” he said.

“Glen is an exceptional student.  He works, goes to school full time, and together with his wife manages a household off four children.  He does all of this with a wonderful spirit and kind heart,” said Lara Wrightson, social sciences instructor, who was McElreath’s political science instructor.  “I have been so impressed by his innate goodness.  He is an excellent student and consistently elevated the discourse in the classroom with his insights and critical analysis.  Everything he says has a great deal of value and the students paid attention when he contributed.  He didn’t dominate the conversations  -- he was there to listen and learn,”[i] she said.

“Glen is a great example of how students take advantage of the opportunity to advance their education. It’s wonderful when a faculty member learns a lot from a student.  He enriched the classroom experience and he enriched my teaching experience,” said Wrightson.