Adrianna Zepeda of Mount Olive grew up humble and appreciative. She is quiet and reserved, and can be described as more of a listener than a conversationalist. Anyone that knows Zepeda, knows she is a selfless person, always willing to help others. Likely, these traits were nurtured by the fact that she was raised by her grandparents. Then, when Zepeda was just nine years old, her grandmother died. “After that, my grandfather and I pretty much took care of ourselves,” she recalled.
Zepeda graduated high school and shortly after became a mother. Determined to provide for her son’s needs, she accepted a job with Carolina Turkeys, now Butterball. After a few years, she met and married her husband, who was finishing his degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. They decided to start a family together, and Zepeda set out to earn a degree in nursing. However, the heavy load of being pregnant, working full time, and going to college proved too much to handle. So, Zepeda put aside her own dreams for the sake of her family.
“For years, I placed my education on the back burner,” she said. “There was never a right time to start, because something always came up. Four kids later, I finally made the decision that I wanted a change in my life.”
The year was 2019, and the change was prompted by a University of Mount Olive representative visiting Butterball to talk about educational opportunities. Zepeda was interested, but hesitant. “I was worried that I was too old to start a new career,” she admitted.
By this time, Zepeda had been employed with Butterball for 19 years. There was a lot of self-doubt about whether or not she could make it as a college student. In the end, Zepeda decided to enroll in UMO’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program. “It was the best decision I have ever made,” she said. “It taught me that there is not a ‘perfect’ time to start your journey. Rather, you must take a leap of faith and work hard to achieve your goals.”
Zepeda chose the ECE program, because she wanted to make a positive impact in the lives of children. Her own children, were her inspiration. “There is no greater feeling in the world than knowing that you have changed someone’s life for the better,” she said.
Finding creative ways to help children understand concepts and objectives is something that Zepeda enjoys. In fact, after graduating in August of 2021, she has a desire to teach art, and to do so in the Duplin County school district where her own children have flourished. Most of all, she wants to be an encourager and an inspirer – to let children know that their dreams are important, and that they can do anything they set their minds to. It is a lesson she learned on her own.
“Before enrolling at UMO, I felt stuck,” she admits. “I didn’t see anything in my future that would change. UMO has helped me see that there is so much opportunity out there to do what you love to do. I no longer feel stuck in my routine. My life is filled with purpose and I am looking forward to my future.”
Zepeda and her husband, Juan, have been married for 15 years. They have four children Jose-18, Loreli-12, Eva-11, Athena-8, and baby number five is on the way. While working full time, raising a family, and earning her degree, Zepeda has maintained a high GPA, landing on the University’s Dean’s and President’s lists.