Army veteran and her son find an educational home at WCC

September 21, 2023 Fran LeFort

Barbara Hughes, embracing son, Zhakharius Holloway


In the three decades since serving in the U.S. Army, Barbara Hughes had bounced between Monroe, Michigan, and Los Angeles, raised three children and worked a variety of careers – including as a legal secretary and a massage therapist.

Last June, she’d just moved to Ypsilanti in search of opportunities that would lead to a more prosperous future for her and her youngest child – now nearly 16-year-old Zhakharius Holloway – when a Facebook ad about the first ever Vet Fest at WCC caught her eye.

You might say the rest is history. Their visit to Vet Fest would prove to be a game changer for both Barbara and her son.

Barbara soon enrolled at WCC and, with assistance from the Wadhams Veterans Center and other support resources, established a clear path to her ultimate goal of opening a center to help young people or veterans manage today’s pressures and difficulties.

This fall, Zhakharius will join his mother on campus as a 10th grader enrolled at Washtenaw Technical Middle College.

“I don’t live far from the college so my son and I walked over,” Barbara recalls about her first visit to WCC. “From that point on I decided ‘That’s where I’m going to school because they honor vets’.”

She inquired about registration and veterans resources– WCC’s Wadhams Veterans Center is a gold-level provider – and started classes a month later.

“After 30 years since I’d been in school it was kind of hard – and it still is being a single mom and trying to raise my last of three babies – but I don’t think I would have enrolled as quickly as I did if WCC hadn’t helped me immediately,” Barbara says.

“The Vet Center has been awesome, and my teachers have been wonderful. I run into a lot of good people who are very helpful.”

While her “baby” Zhakharius isn’t so small anymore, the duo enjoys a close mother-and-son bond and look forward to coming to school together this year.

Zhakharius is eager to explore the many educational and career training opportunities available to him as a dual-enrolled student. Having trained with the Civil Air Patrol for three years in Monroe, he’s considered following his mother’s military footsteps, perhaps with a focus on cybersecurity.

“I just want to learn a lot more and experience a lot of different classes and subjects so I can find out what I’d be interested in," he says.

Hughes is enrolled in a Human Services program for social work, which will allow her to take three years of credit at WCC and transfer to Eastern Michigan University to complete her last year toward a bachelor’s degree.


This story appears in the Fall 2023 edition of Launch magazine. See complete issue.

Tags: Fall 2023, Launch, Student Succes, Vet Fest, Veteran, Wadhams Veterans Center

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