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Veteran goes from incarceration to classroom and inspires all who meet him

Hudgens and Burley

David Hudgens (left) is from a rough background. In prison, he determined he would turn his life around.  At NOVA he has earned his A.S. in Business Administration and is within a few courses of completing an A.S. in Math. He is now a student in NOVA’s innovative BIS program, a partnership with University of Virginia.

David Hudgens, dressed in his usual shirt and tie, could easily pass for a professor as he walks the halls of Northern Virginia Community College’s Alexandria Campus. Hudgens’ past is one of military service; but also drug and alcohol use, depression, low self-esteem and incarceration.

Hudgens draws his strength and determination from his family and friends, Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR) – the rehabilitation program he’s involved in – and the NOVA professors and students who have since embraced and encouraged him. After serving 14 months in prison, Hudgens was released in 2013 and enrolled at NOVA in January 2014.

Since then, he has earned his A.S. in Business Administration and is within a few courses of completing an A.S. in Math. Currently, though, he is a student in the innovative B.I.S. program, a partnership between NOVA and University of Virginia in which classes meet on NOVA campuses. On completion, Hudgens will hold a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.

“As far as coming to NOVA, this was always something I wanted to do. While I was incarcerated, my son got his college degree and that hurt because he graduated, and there were milestones in his life that I was not a part of. But it was an inspiration for me to want to go back for myself,” Hudgens said. “I started at NOVA very nervous. I’m more than twice the age of these students. Even my son is older than most of the kids in the class.

“At that time, I was 48 years old and I was thinking, ‘What are you doing, Dave?’ But I can truly say the student body, the advisers and the teachers just opened their arms and I was able to open up to some really close people and some of my professors about my past. They gave me a lot of inspiration, motivation and encouragement.”

Through OAR, a church group he’s training with to become a counselor and his education at NOVA, Hudgens said he’s learning to like himself, to better himself and also how he can contribute to those around him.

“The thing is, now I can have goals and ambition even with my background. I continue to work with those in the community and with current prisoners and ex-offenders. I just share myself and my story to give them some inspiration and encouragement,” he said. “And it’s not a one-way street; it’s a two-way street because there are many people I’ve met over the past two years who have come back and you just never know the seed you sew or who it’s going to nourish.”

Hudgens is a walking inspiration on NOVA’s Alexandria Campus. One of the people strongly influenced by him is his friend, study partner and fellow NOVA student Anton Burley. Like

Hudgens, Burley is a Washington, D.C. native studying business administration with aspirations of improving himself.

“I learned from David that I have to dress for success,” Burley said. He also regularly wears a dress shirt and slacks. “We have an age difference, but we talk about the programs he works with on a daily basis. From that, as well as what he has gone through, I can learn. He’s basically like a big brother saying, ‘Hey you can overcome whatever. You can come back to school and be a better person than what people perceive you to be.’”

With a 3.76 GPA and working on his BIS with University of Virginia, Hudgens’ achievements are admirable and continue to uplift him and those around him.

“I participate in study groups with other students more and more, and I’m doing well. Just getting to understand the different concepts and topics, really made me feel good about David on the inside,” Hudgens said. “Before, I was dissatisfied with David. I was so spiritually empty on the inside. But now I know how to love David. I know that in order to share joy and happiness with someone else, I first have to have it within me.”


Read more about Hudgens’ journey to success at Arlington Magazine.


Media Contact: Raytevia Evans | 703.425.5839 | REvans@nvcc.edu


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Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.