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GMC alumnus Randy Toms credits GMC with success in life

GMC alumnus Randy TomsGMC alumnus credits GMC with success in life
At 48, he resisted going back to school . . . but GMC wouldn’t let him off the hook!

After finishing his 24-hour shift as a Warner Robins firefighter, Randy Toms arrived home to find his wife and daughter waiting at the kitchen counter. “They were grinning like they were up to something and that’s never good,” he laughs. “They sat me down and my daughter said, ‘Dad, I want you to go to college.’ I explained I didn’t want to go to college, but she wasn’t buying it. She said she knew I’d sacrificed to send her to private school and she wanted me to give GMC a try.”

Randy considered his daughter’s words and decided to get busy, looking for ways to wriggle off the hook. “The first hurdle I counted on was my work schedule. But my boss said we could work it out. Then I knew the cost would keep me out. But my boss said the city would pay for it,” he says. “I was quickly running out of reasons and starting to worry I’d actually have to go.”

Yet Randy kept faith in his resistance campaign, even as he passed the entry test and enrolled at GMC’s Warner Robins campus. “I was truly a terrible high school student, so I was confident I’d fail GMC’s required algebra course and be done,” he recalls.

Fortunately, his teacher, Linda Faraone, had a stronger will. “I tried to quit that class five times, but Ms. Faraone wouldn’t let me. She made special practice sheets and makeup tests for me, and spent many hours after class helping me learn the material,” he says. “That fifth time I quit, she literally followed me down the hall and pulled me back into her classroom.”

Randy managed to pass algebra and, at Ms. Ferone’s suggestion/insistence enrolled in her statistics class the next semester. That’s when everything clicked. “I understood statistics right away and could even help my classmates,” he says.  “And it dawned on me… maybe I always had wished I’d gone to college.”

The next year, at 49, Randy graduated from GMC with a degree in general studies—and a whole lot more. “Regardless of whether that degree made me a better firefighter, it made me feel better about myself,” he says. “It gave me the confidence to do things outside my comfort zone.”

Which is just what Randy did. In 2012, he retired after 27 years in the Fire Service, entered the Warner Robins mayoral race and celebrated a handy win.

Today, from the mayor’s office, he shares high praise for the GMC staff and faculty who helped prepare him for this exciting, challenging and unexpected chapter in his life. “What they have at GMC is special. They get you ready, whether it’s for more school or to go to work. They set you up to succeed.”

Randy now encourages others to follow their secret desire to expand their horizons. “I always thought I wasn’t college material, but GMC proved me wrong. Even if you don’t think you’ll fit in, even if you think you’re not ready for college, give GMC a try,” he says. “They can give you an opportunity to do great things you thought you’d miss, just because you assumed you didn’t fit the college mold.”

And as for Mayor Tom’s family…they knew it all along. And they couldn’t be more proud.