HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Wallace State Community College has become a family tradition for many families, and every year, especially during Community College Month and in the lead up to commencement, Wallace State celebrates multi-generation graduates, and generations of alumni within families.
The Dias, of Hayden, exemplify the positive imprint an entire family can have on a college, and vice-versa. Members of their family, like so many others, recognize the relative bargain a community college education provides – in access to better jobs as well as for completing the first two years of a bachelor’s degree, with credits guaranteed to transfer.
Willie Dia began his Wallace State path in the late 1990s and three of his children – Emily, Joshua and Noah – have carried on the Dia legacy at the college over the past few years.
Willie Dia earned his Diesel Mechanics certificate in 1999. While at Wallace State from 1997-1999, Dia served as a co-op student with McGriff Industries and also worked at Southern NationaLease in Bessemer. He attended Wallace State to enhance the skills he had learned at McGriff Industries, and to use postsecondary training to further advance his career.
“Without the education I received at Wallace State, I would not have been able to adequately support my wife and children throughout my life these past 20 years,” Willie Dia said.
Since earning his certificate, Willie has worked at FedEx Freight, UPS Freight, Estes Express Lines, Averitt Express and The City of Vestavia Hills. He currently works for the Jefferson County Commission.
“The most rewarding thing about attending Wallace State was the kind and generous staff who really cared about me and my future success. The most beneficial thing I received is a quality education from a well-qualified instructor. Larry Holmes remains one of the best mechanics I have met in my 20 years as a diesel mechanic. He was a very skilled mechanic and an excellent teacher. He supported me while I struggled with having a young family and being a full-time student and full-time worker,” Willie Dia said. “My greatest success is that my children have the opportunity to attend college and become productive citizens who endeavor to make life better for others.”
Willie Dia’s children have indeed succeeded at Wallace State. All three have earned scholarships along the way after graduating from Hope Christian School.
Emily Dia graduated from Wallace State last May with a business education degree. Emily is currently a student at UAB, where she earned a Presidential transfer scholarship, and is on track to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2021.
Emily Dia attended Wallace State, also through a Presidential scholarship, from 2016-2019. She was very active on campus during her time at Wallace State, becoming a member of multiple student groups, including the Rotaract Club, Phi Theta Kappa and the Student Government Association. She was the 2019 Homecoming Queen and one of the college’s 2019 All-Alabama Academic Team recipients.
Emily said attending Wallace State helped her mature personally and academically.
“Many of my high school friends didn’t think a community college would be as good of an experience for me as a large university. However, I was so surprised at how many friends I made. I had a wonderful experience at Wallace State. I made some of the best friends there and received an excellent education,” Emily said. “Everyone knew my name and cared about me. Wallace State, the City of Hanceville and Cullman shaped me into a more caring and loving person. I will forever be grateful for the experience that I had as a student at Wallace State.”
Joshua and Noah are current Wallace State students.
Joshua has already earned an Automotive Service Technology degree at Wallace State and is currently pursuing a Diesel Technology short-term certificate.
“Wallace State has given me the tools and skills I need to be confident and prepared to succeed at a job. Wallace State has allowed me to pursue my life goals,” said Joshua Dia, who has earned scholarships at Wallace State from TRIO and the Future Foundation.
Joshua credits a handful of people for helping him through his Wallace State journey, including Adam Frazar, Leigh Ann Courington, Christy Hicks, Mary Leah Moss and former Dean of Applied Technologies Jimmy Hodges and others.
Noah Dia’s story at Wallace State is the newest among the family.
Noah enrolled at Wallace State last fall and is a computer science major. He hopes to join Emily at UAB upon graduating from Wallace State.
“My family has told me all of the many benefits of being at student at this college. The education they’ve received has helped them work towards their goals, and Wallace State offers the program I’m interested in at an affordable price,” Noah Dia said. “When I enrolled, I expected to be educated through quality professors and classes. What I did not expect is just how much I enjoy the entire experience that I’ve had through clubs offered like Rotaract and Campus Ministries, as well as the scholarship programs through Lion Leader and TRIO.”
Because of the education he earned at Wallace State, Willie Dia had the goal to pave a comfortable life for his family. That legacy continues today.
“The kind and generous staff at Wallace State have made an indelible impact on the hearts of my children and for that I’m forever grateful,” Willie Dia said.