Through her faith, Chasty King turned her life around and will graduate from Gaston College in May
Chasty King will graduate from Gaston College on May 14, 2021, with an Associate in Applied Science degree in Human Services Technology Substance Abuse. For King, earning that degree is highly significant because it represents the culmination of a journey that has been fraught with struggles.
King, now 29 years old, first enrolled in Gaston College in 2009 and obtained her GED. She started taking college courses in 2011, but by that time she was struggling with drug addiction and mental illness and her classwork suffered. She failed all her classes and dropped out. She re-enrolled in 2013 and once again failed all but one of her classes. “Time and again,” she said, “finding ways and means to get more drugs became greater than finding ways and means to maintain a passing grade point average.” Despite the attempts by some of her instructors to help her through her substance abuse issues, King left the College again.
A Gaston County native, King had originally chosen to attend Gaston College because it was local, and she could get financial aid. However, when she wanted to return after having dropped out, she was no longer eligible for financial aid because previously she had not adhered to the requirements of maintaining the appropriate GPA. Nevertheless, she did choose to go back to the College because of the kindness she had been shown. “I vaguely remember opening up about my substance abuse problems and receiving an empathetic response,” she said. “My teachers really tried to work with me by giving me second and third chances with assignments. I will never forget that.”
King suffered through years of substance abuse, mental illness, incarcerations, and an abusive marriage until the trajectory of her life changed when she followed the advice of a childhood acquaintance and turned to the Bible to find the truth she had been seeking. With that, she became, “…a girl who fell in love with Jesus and will not shut up about it!” She considers August 1, 2016, to be her recovery date and she has been drug-free ever since.
King’s most recent return to Gaston College was in 2018. She started attending on a part-time basis because she was still being denied financial aid and she could not afford full-time tuition. In her appeal to justify receiving aid, she had to write up a case explaining her addiction and mental illness and she had to include proof from credible sources and documentation of her illness. She also submitted other reports and records that confirmed her serious issues. “In addition,” King said, “I had a letter of recommendation from someone who knew me from my past who also knew about the strides and changes I had made.”
Her appeal for financial aid was granted in July 2019. Ungina Perkins, Director of Financial Aid and Veterans Affairs, commended King on the great progress she had made in turning her life around, and said, “Just know it is not how you start the race, but how you choose to finish.” With the renewed financial aid, King was able to finish her degree.
“I have had the privilege of serving as Chasty’s instructor and co-advisor in the Human Services Technology Substance Abuse degree program beginning in the Fall 2018 semester,” said Marlena Thomas, Lead Instructor in Human Services Technology. “Chasty has demonstrated traits of leadership in the classroom and in her internship, in which she has taken charge of activities and tasks that have been given to her. She takes pride in her coursework and maintains quality work throughout each semester. Chasty has exhibited a passion to help others, and she has demonstrated leadership and professionalism during class discussions, blackboard discussions, and role plays.”
King’s leadership and compassion go beyond the classroom. She became a North Carolina Certified Peer Support Specialist in 2018 and began working in that role at Olive Branch Ministry, a faith-based harm reduction agency, in May 2019. She is the president and co-founder with April Payne of The Calling, a non-profit organization founded in May 2020, which reaches out to and provides spiritual support to those who are homeless, substance abusers, or incarcerated. She also is the author of “SEPTIC: Being Cleansed from the Inside Out,” a self-published book that chronicles her journey from a troubled childhood, through struggles with addiction and mental illness, to her recovery and commitment to her faith-based mission in life.
When King re-enrolled at Gaston College in 2018, for the third time, her GPA was a 0.40. Currently, according to her web advisor, her cumulative GPA is 3.897. “Today, I am grateful that with the help of Gaston College, I now hold a degree in Human Services Technology Substance Abuse,” said King. “Not only has my education been continued, but all the staff, especially Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Elliott [Chair of Human Services Technology], has made a huge impact on my life. I could not have done it without them and the support of my Gaston College classmates.”
After graduation, King will focus on Gratitude Press, LLC, the new business she started in early 2021. She will design faith-based T-shirts and mugs with catchy phrases and/or designs from her own artwork. She also wants to devote more time to her writing. “I plan to write more books as well as help a couple of inmates write and publish their own,” she said. Currently, she is working on a book about gratitude.
She intends to keep working at Olive Branch Ministry as well as with The Calling. “Ultimately, one day I would love for The Calling to have enough funding to buy a home that would become a transitional house for men in Gaston County who are either struggling with addiction and/or homelessness, or are returning to society after incarceration,” King said. “I’d like to have enough funding for us to be able to get a piece of land where we would build tiny houses to help people get back on their feet and, ideally, to provide a salary for April and myself to manage and operate it.”
King continued, “Perhaps in the future I will continue my education to obtain a four-year degree, and maybe even my Certified Substance Abuse Counselor credentials. For the next year or so, I plan to concentrate on what I’m doing now so I can re-evaluate exactly what it is that I want to do with the rest of my life.
“Above all else,” said King, “my main pursuit is Jesus, and in following Him, I know I can’t go wrong.”