BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Monday was the day John Barber has waited for since he was 10-years-old. It’s the day he graduated from college-- something the once-homeless man often wondered about.
He walked across the stage at the 107th Commencement program at Gardner Webb University and received his Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration.
"I knew I wanted to do this, but at times it was difficult" he said. "This is a dream come true, but I'm not done."
Barber has dealt with a lot of hurdles in his 35 years of life. As a child, his father was killed, and his mother lost her house and was forced to live in the family station wagon. She would drive around to different neighborhoods every day, and Barber said he didn't know how bad things were for his mother because he was so young.
"I thought it was a game, we tried to make the best of things."
As an adult, Barber, who had dropped out of high school, was able to return and get his diploma and start a family, but his hurdlers were not over. The sluggish economy caused his to experience to be the same as faced as a child. Only this time he was very aware of what was going on.
"I don't ever want to have my family go through that again," Barber said
Just a few years ago, Barber was without a job and forced to live in hotel with his wife and children. Some of the couple's children went to live with relatives as Barber, who worked as a cook, struggled to get by.
"When the economy went south, so did my job," he said.
Barber's hours where cut from full to part time, then he was laid off; bills mounted, and that's when he was evicted from the house he was renting. It happened around Christmas. They moved into a hotel.
"We tried to make the best of things. We had a little four-foot tree in the corner of the room," Barber recalled.
He was able to get back on his feet, get a place for his family, but he knew his only path to a better life was through continuing his education which he did.
On the advice of a friend, Barber enrolled in Gardner Webb's GOAL program, which is designed for students who wish to obtain their degree as they work full time jobs.
Barber said he is not stopping with a bachelor's degree; he enrolls next spring in the master's program and plans to continue until he gets his doctoral degree.
"Maybe then I'll stop," he said with a smile.