UMO student weathers life’s storms and learns to dance in the rain

WHITEVILLE — Coming from eastern North Carolina, Pandora McInnis knows how to prepare for a hurricane – plan ahead, monitor, ready, and recover. She also knows that life is often like a storm. The Whiteville native has weathered a lot during her 46 years. Her faith, her family, and her persistence to never give up, are the things that have helped her to learn to dance in the rain.

McInnis grew up in a single parent household.

“My mother married right out of high school and had me one year later,” she said. “After she and my dad divorced, my mom raised me and my two sisters on her own. She worked tirelessly at a sewing factory to make certain we never lacked for anything.”

Her mother’s attitude is what has inspired McInnis through much of her life.

Mcinnis graduated from Whiteville Senior High School in 1989 and immediately enrolled at Southeastern Community College. Not certain what degree she wanted to pursue, she took core classes that would transfer. In 1996, she enlisted in the United States Army.

“My military experience was an awesome adventure,” McInnis said. “During my tour in Korea, my First Sergeant heard me singing and suggested that I audition for the Army Chorus. I did and I was selected.”

In the Army Chorus, McInnis sang at several military-posts for the General and other high ranking officers. She also performed duties as a 77Foxtrot Specialist and as a 92Y Supply Sergeant. She left the military after eight years, with the title of E-6. In 2012 Mcinnis was motivated by her sister to revisit her desire to earn a college degree.

“When my sister began to pursue her master’s degree, I said to myself, ‘There is no way I am going to allow my little sister to surpass me. No way, no how.’”

Mcinnis enrolled in the business management program at the University of Mount Olive (UMO) in Wilmington seeking her bachelor’s degree. She felt the degree would best the way to move up with her current employer, Branch Banking and Trust (BB&T), where she works as a Lien Processor.

“I felt that was the best choice for me to advance in my career,” she said.

While completing her degree McInnis had a motorcycle accident that left her hospitalized and immobile for a period of time. Just as she was getting back on track, Hurricane Matthew hit. The home she shared with her Mom and sister was completely destroyed, along with all of their possessions.

“Clothes, shoes, furniture, and electronics were all gone,” she recalled. “I’ve always been thankful and grateful for almost everything, but this situation taught me to be even more so. Yes, we lost our home, but we could have lost our lives. Family and friends were very supportive and helpful through it all. I now realize that there are blessings in ever bad storm.”

Through it all, McInnis kept her energy focused on obtaining her bachelor’s degree.

“I was tempted to take time off from my classes, but I was determined to keep going. In fact my schooling was one of the things that really kept me motivated and kept me pushing forward. Now that graduation is within my grasp, I am so glad I stayed strong.”

McInnis is on track to graduate August 26. She has already planning to seek her MBA with an Emphasis in Management and Leadership, and one day earn her doctorate.

“If you choose to wait for the storm to pass, what are you missing?” she pondered.

Life has taught McInnis that opportunities can slip by if you don’t take them when they come. “It really is a personal choice whether or not you enjoy life or you choose to be miserable. I believe you should take every opportunity, and when life’s storms hit…learn to dance in the rain.”

Pandora McInnis prepares to enjoy life by weathering the storms. McInnis prepares to enjoy life by weathering the storms.