Road to Success
Shawn McFarland has spent years on the road, working as a truck driver, a telephone system installer and a pizza delivery driver. Now he believes he's on the road to success through his studies at North Central State College.
The 35-year-old Galion resident experienced a few bumps along the way.
“I didn’t finish high school. I struggled with math and flunked the math portion of the Ohio proficiency test every time I took it. I would have received a certificate of attendance rather than a diploma, so at 18, I decided to drop out,” McFarland recalls. “I moved down south to Knoxville (Tenn.) and drove truck.”
After a few years behind the wheel, McFarland’s road led him back to north central Ohio. “I got a job with a company installing IP phone systems. I traveled all across America and Canada installing phone systems for the International Association of Machinists,” he said. “It was a good job. But18 days before Christmas in 2008, I got a letter saying they were dissolving the company.”
After a few months on unemployment, McFarland decided to go back to school. “I got my GED through Pioneer and then immediately came here,” he said. But like many nontraditional students, McFarland began to have doubts about his ability to succeed in college. “I was asking, ‘Why am I here?’ I was thinking I was so much older than the typical college student,” McFarland said.
That’s when McFarland’s road led to Jimmie Mudra in NC State’s Student Success Center. “I was on the ledge, ready to jump off, but he talked me down,” McFarland said.
“I explained the average age of our students is 31 and that we have many students in their 50s, so he wasn’t that much older than other students,” Mudra said.
An academic adviser, Mudra talked with McFarland about his interests and helped him get started on the road to a college degree.
“I’m in the DMT (Digital Media Technology) program. I’m having a lot of fun and learning a lot,” McFarland said. “It’s hard work, but I’m still here.”
McFarland said he was originally interested in gaining skills necessary to work in film production, such as where a friend works, with Precinct 13 Entertainment in Crestline. But earlier this year his road took another turn.
“I was delivering pizzas in my mini-van and the price of gas was skyrocketing. I was spending $150 a week on gas between going to school and delivering pizzas,” McFarland said. “I decided to drop a class so I wouldn’t have to come to Shelby five days a week. Then I heard from an NC State graduate that the local TV station, WMFD, had an opening for a videographer. I had taken a photography class here and done well, so I applied and was hired. Turns out a number of NC State grads work there so they are familiar with our program.”
McFarland now serves as a videographer for many of the station’s sports shows and has produced packages for its sportscasts. In addition to working the camera, he has learned behind-the-camera skills, such as digital editing and production. In fact, his work at WMFD will fulfill an internship requirement for the NC State DMT program.
“I even did a segment on bass fishing this summer where I was in front of the camera,” said McFarland, an avid fisherman in what spare time he has.
This summer, McFarland’s road led him to cover auto racing for WMFD. “In the summer, we do a lot at Mid-Ohio (Sports Car Course in Lexington),” McFarland said. “The station told me I would be working with a ‘racing consultant.’ When they told me his name, I said ‘that sounds familiar.’ Turns out it was Jimmie Mudra, the guy who helped keep me enrolled at NC State.”
McFarland and Mudra had the opportunity to interview many of the famous drivers who visited Mid-Ohio this summer, including IndyCar racers Danica Patrick, Helio Castroneves and Will Power. McFarland even had the opportunity to do a ridealong with Mario Andretti. “I loved it!” he exclaimed. “I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face after I got out of the car.”
While still planning to complete his NC State degree, McFarland believes the WMFD opportunity offers a different career path than he originally envisioned. “I would love to move to a bigger market, like Cleveland, and be a videographer for a TV station,” he said, “as long as it is somewhere near the water where I could fish.”
McFarland and his wife, Jessica, have two daughters, ages 9 and 14. “One great thing about going back to school is they see what I’m going through to get my degree,” he said. “It’s cool to set an example and show them that while I dropped out of high school, I learned that education is important. I went back and am getting my college degree.
“I’ve had great support from my wife and she is thinking about going back to school herself after I finish.”
The Galion resident encourages others whose roads have led them somewhere other than where they want to be to consider pursuing a North Central State College degree.
“If you have a desire to get a degree, and you have spousal support, you can do it here,” he said. “There is so much support available for you. If you fail, it’s 100 percent on you. The instructors want to see you succeed. If you struggle, there is always someone there to help you.”