KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - An Alabama man held a graduation ceremony of his own in The Great Smoky Mountains. Zachary Andrews earned his Master’s degree in counseling from the University of Montevallo.
“I got my undergraduate and played baseball for two years and got a degree in kinesiology. Two years ago I went back for my master’s degree in something completely different. I went back and got it in counseling,” said Andrews.
He decided to skip out on the big graduation ceremony and hike Mount LeConte instead.
“Mount LeConte, in general, is one of the most special spots in my personal life, it houses a lot of great memories and great adventures,” said Andrew’s. He posted a photo on a popular hiking page of him receiving his “diploma” while on the trail.
“It was last minute and I found a stick along the way that looked like a diploma and I was like hey man can you do this for me and we had a random guy on the summit take a picture for us,” said Andrews.
People thought it was a creative idea.
“The decision to go back to school was mine and there’s no fanfare with that kind of pursuit. I did it for myself because it was something I felt driven to do. To be on a pretty much empty mountain. It just kind of symbolizes the reason you did it, you’re not doing it for anybody else, I’m doing it for myself,” said Andrews.
He’s accepted a job at a nonprofit and will be counseling kids.
“It was kind of like climbing to the top of the mountain. One of the most fun parts is climbing the mountain it’s just getting to the top, but there is that sense of freedom when you get to the top. You can kind of bomb down the other side and enjoy your hard work and let go,” said Andrews.
Andrews wants more people to break the mold and choose to celebrate their successes by doing what brings them the most joy. He did walk across the stage when he graduated with his undergraduate degree. He wanted to share that success with his parents, but he says this time it was about celebrating the way he wanted to.
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