NOVA Alum Credits Man Up for His Success

September 21, 2023

Carlton Reid battled a health crisis that kept him from attending middle and high school. During this difficult period, he was being homeschooled and took a class at NOVA. However, things did not go well. Nevertheless, he persevered and returned to NOVA later to pursue college success. Carlton not only graduated from NOVA, but he also credits NOVA with preparing him to succeed at his four-year school.


Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I was homeschooled in middle and high school while dealing with early-onset mental illness. During high school, I took one class at NOVA, and the person who helped me enroll was Richmond Hill, who later became Dr. Hill. Although I wasn't healthy enough to finish the class, I eventually returned to NOVA as a full-time student.

I started at NOVA’s Woodbridge Campus in summer 2016, right after high school, so I could get a head start. I have achieved academic and professional success, despite my mental illness, due to a combination of medicines, my support system and medical professionals. I am not defined by my mental illness as much as I am by the people that support me.”

What brought you to NOVA?
Even though I took the standardized tests every year of high school, and I took the SAT, I lacked faith in myself. I studied alone while being homeschooled. My Dad graded my schoolwork when he returned home from work, but I wanted to prove to myself that the work I did had meaning beyond my home.

Because of the lack of community, I had little confidence to leave the house and attend a four-year college immediately after graduating from high school. But I felt there would be more opportunity to transfer to a challenging school after graduating from NOVA. As a result, I went straight to NOVA to earn an associate degree to build my confidence and prove that I had graduated from high school at the same level as those who attended public or private schools.

Can you share an anecdote about your time at NOVA?
While attending NOVA, I saw this flyer on the wall that said, "Man Up." I thought, I want to man up. I want to grow as a person. You know what, I'll join.

My Man Up mentors taught me how to be professional. I gained confidence in my speaking skills and saw examples of what I could be in the students who were a year ahead of me in the program. I actually became a senator for student government.

Man Up taught me how to be a man of color and instilled in me a belief that knowing my story and where I came from mattered. What I appreciate the most about the program is that I learned how to put myself out there. And I'm very thankful for all the growth the program gave me, and I'm still growing to this day!

The mentors provided a space to grow in confidence, so NOVA became a launching pad for me. I attended and graduated from William & Mary with a philosophy degree. Without my mentors, I would not have had the confidence to graduate from that prestigious school.

NOVA was my transition period. If NOVA wasn't there for me, I would have had to jump headfirst into the deep end of college, and I don't think I would have done so well.

NOVA eased me into college, and I learned how to thrive at the College of William & Mary. NOVA gave me the tools such as how to plan my week, being on top of things and talking to my professors. NOVA taught me how to advocate for myself, and because of that, I did better at William & Mary than I would have if I had jumped straight in.

What professors or classmates from NOVA do you still stay in touch with?
After NOVA, I re-connected with Rommel Aguilar, one of my Man Up mentors; Dr. Hill, who started Man Up on the Woodbridge Campus and other alumni to plan a Man Up reunion. Basically, I stayed in touch with the people who impacted me the most. At the reunion, I also reconnected with members I missed over the years.

Professor Cedric Howard was a big part of my life during my last year at NOVA and a Man Up mentor. I realized that the mentors at Man Up were mentors for life, not just limited to NOVA.

What were your educational goals?
I graduated from NOVA in spring 2019 with a liberal arts degree and transferred to William & Mary. I am very grateful. The liberal arts degree positioned me perfectly to transfer to William & Mary, and most of my NOVA credits were accepted.

What are your career goals?  
After graduating from William & Mary in the spring of 2021, I have worked as a freelance speechwriter, and I am exploring opportunities to work for the government. I’m also looking to develop my music. I’ve been making music for the past five years, so I’ve been looking to take lessons and grow there too.

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA?
You get what you put into everything you do. Not to say you have to do everything, but whatever you do, invest in yourself, invest in the people around you. This is not only a concept from the Bible. It is a fact of life. We reap what we sow.

You can't even fathom how people can return to you and invest in you. I was in student government as a senator, I was in Man Up and I took honors classes at NOVA.

It's always good to show up. That's the first step. But then you have to say, ‘Today is the day that I will put myself out there and trust and have faith that whatever I do will not be wasted.’

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