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CCCC graduate honored by N.C. Workforce Development

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Click to enlarge,  Vinson McNeill

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Vinson McNeill


SANFORD —Central Carolina Community College graduate Vinson McNeill has been honored with an Outstanding Adult Participant Award by the 2008 Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Workforce Development.

The awards, sponsored by the North Carolina Commission on Workforce Development, honor individuals and businesses for outstanding accomplishments in workforce development. The Outstanding Adult Participant Awards are given for overcoming great obstacles to obtain workforce skills. Only two are presented each year statewide.

The awards were presented Oct. 23 at the North Carolina Workforce Development Partnership Conference, in Greensboro.

“It was a real humbling experience to me to win that award,” McNeill said. “I was honored but felt humble at the same time. I felt I didn’t deserve it.”

McNeill, a Carthage resident, graduated from the college’s motorcycle mechanics program in May and is now employed at Sandhills Harley-Davidson, in Pinehurst.

He knows what it is like to fail, but his determination to achieve has earned him success. At age 15, he was living on his own. At 16, he had a bad car accident, with serious future consequences. He put himself through high school, graduating from Union Pines in 1989. He drove a tractor-trailer for a while and then got into heavy-duty diesel engine repair.

In 2004, at age 34, McNeill suddenly found that he was having problems with his arms. He couldn’t lift the heavy diesel engine parts, which weigh up to 200 pounds. He was devastated when the doctors said that an old neck injury from his car accident would prevent his ever doing heavy diesel work again. He lost the well-paying job he enjoyed.

McNeill decided to go back to school for a new career. He found encouragement and assistance at the JobLink Career Center and the Mid-Carolina Workforce Board at the N.C. Employment Security Commission, in Lee County.

McNeill had never been a good student, but he loved working on engines. His focus changed from the huge diesel engines to motorcycle engines and he enrolled in the college’s motorcycle program.

Going back to school was easier said than done. He lived in Broadway then and had only an old, undependable scooter — or his feet — for transportation. He had a part-time job in Aberdeen and routinely made the 100-mile round-trip on his scooter in all kinds of weather.

McNeill said that exam weeks always seemed to be a down time for that scooter. One exam week, it broke down completely and he had to cover the 20-mile round trip between Broadway and Sanford on foot.

Now, he’s graduated, doing work he loves, and has earned well-deserved recognition. Of his struggles, McNeill simply said, “If you want something bad enough, you’ll go for it.”

Wayne Graham, lead instructor for the college’s motorcycle program, said, “Vinson did an outstanding job here. He was a fast learner and a hard worker. It’s great he won the award.”

Leon Jackson, his caseworker at Workforce Development, nominated McNeill for the state award.

“Vinson has overcome numerous obstacles,” he said. “He’s made great accomplishments and I am very proud of him.”

The other recipients of the 2008 Excellence in Workforce Development Awards were: Katrina McCain Jones, of Whiteville, the other 2008 Outstanding Adult Participant Award recipient; Betty Jean Caulder, of Laurinburg, and Sherman Rankin, of Salisbury — Outstanding Youth Participant; career counselor Stacy Peek, of Asheville — Outstanding Achievement; and Classic Leather Furniture Co., of Hickory, and Country Legends WIST 98.3 FM, of High Point — Outstanding Employer.