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Palestine Small may have started from humble, even small, beginnings, but through hard work and amazing resiliency, she has moved on to great things. Small emerged from a childhood filled with neglect and abuse to an adulthood of addiction and instability. But something inside her knew she could do more – and deserved more. Working with TROSA, she broke free of her addictions and started her life, a life that included getting an education at Durham Tech.
After completing her associate’s degree in May 2012, Small then transferred to UNC-Chapel Hill through the C-STEP program. While at Carolina, Small volunteered as a C-STEP mentor and with a variety of agencies through the UNC-CH Buckley Scholars Program.
By the time Small graduated in December 2013, she had given
more than 300 hours of her time
feeding hungry children, helping
Armed with her bachelor’s degree, Small is now applying to graduate school, hoping to first complete a divinity degree before moving on to law school. She plans to combine her faith with education to help others in situations similar to hers. “Right now I want to use my experience to help others through the Word of God and mesh that with practical solutions like therapy, vocational training, and education. I believe all of these together helped me to become better than I ever thought I could be,” she said.
Small offered these words of advice to others starting down the path of education, “I think we all should continue to press towards the mark and work hard to achieve greatness. We all have unique gifts that embody natural talent, which will help us to achieve greatness. So continue to use your unique gifts and be determined to use that God-given talent to make yourself into anything you desire to be. Be committed to the task, take steps to get there, and keep moving forward.”
When he lived in Boston, Jonas Feit played Fender guitars and worked as a guitar salesperson and Starbucks store clerk. Then he moved to Durham and decided that Durham Tech’s Electrical Engineering Technology program would be a great way to combine his previous technological experiences with some new job prospects.
While in the Associate in Applied Science program, he participated in the solar panel exhibitions at the Orange County Campus, plugging his Fender guitars into amplifiers powered by solar panels to demonstrate the panels’ effectiveness.
When he was about to graduate with his A.A.S. degree in December 2010, Feit wandered into the Arts, Sciences, and University Transfer offices in the Phillips Building and asked the dean an interesting question: “I’m really enjoying school and doing well. [Feit earned a 3.9 GPA at Durham Tech.] What would it take for me to get an Associate in Arts degree so I could think about transferring to North Carolina State University?”
He took 22 credit hours in the Spring of 2011 and 14 in the summer to earn his A.A. degree in August 2011. In the meantime, Feit was accepted into the Economics major at NC State. “Taking Mr. Beveridge’s Economics classes (ECO 251 and ECO 252) turned me on to that field,” he says. “I realized how much I enjoy thinking about the world from a macroeconomic perspective.”
Feit wound up serving as a reader for Beveridge’s recently published A Primer on Microeconomics and A Primer on Macroeconomics and is mentioned in the acknowledgments sections of those books. He completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from NC State in May 2013 and was accepted to the Accelerated Master of Economics Degree program at the same institution. He will finish that in May 2014.
Feit credits Durham Tech’s ASUT department with introducing him to the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement and encouraging him to complete the A.A. before transferring: “Getting the A.A. degree and being protected under the CAA saved me at least three General Education courses at NC State and let me focus on my major requirements. It made everything far easier because I could take fewer Gen Ed courses when I transferred.”
He is pleased to have accomplished so much in the last several years at Durham Tech and NC State – and so are his parents. “The ability to surprise your parents as a non-traditional student is very satisfying,” he says. “I definitely won’t forget Durham Tech.”
Notes from the Field: ASUT Graduate Expands His Horizons in China
Daniel Pigeon graduated from Durham Tech with the Associate in Arts degree in May 2012 and participated in C-STEP and Phi Theta Kappa.
Before moving to China, I was admittedly full of apprehension. What would it be like to live in a place with such a significantly different culture? How could I be an English teacher, when I don’t speak a lick of Mandarin Chinese? I had been accepted to UNC through the C-STEP program, but had already deferred enrollment for one year in order to teach English in China. Plus, I had been planning this trip for months—and had already used virtually all of my life’s savings to purchase a pricey plane ticket. Having passed the point of no return, all I could do was cross my fingers and hope for the best.
A city of almost three and a half million people called Ningbo—17 times the size of Durham—has become my new home. I am teaching English to kindergarteners, which is challenging yet lots of fun. The education system is structured a bit differently in China, and kindergartens are separate schools that house 4-, 5-, and 6-year-olds. I have 26 classes a week with about 15 students in each class, for a grand total of more than 400 students! This may be the biggest gripe I have with my job—with so many students, getting to know the kids on a personal level, or even remembering their names, is next to impossible. The classes are only a half hour each, which is a saving grace when working with the younger classes. Attention spans tend to be short.
After almost three months of living and teaching English in China, I am admittedly still full of apprehension. The times when I feel completely overwhelmed, while far less frequent than my first week here, have not yet fully subsided. Nor do I expect them to. After all, I spent 24 years living in the United States, following its customs and cultural norms (and learning the language!). I can only imagine that it would require a similar length of time to truly learn how an entirely different society functions (and learn the language!). I have come to believe that the majority of the value in this experience is derived from the moments when I am most confused, uncomfortable, and otherwise out of my element. These moments demonstrate both the difficulty and the beauty of living in China.
Other ASUT Student Profiles
Durham Tech was good to me. Early on, I took the ACA College Transfer Success class and made it a goal to transfer to NC State for engineering. Durham Tech was close; it was clean and organized. I always had a comfortable, quiet place to study and a green, sunny place to eat lunch. My classes were small, and my teachers were helpful. I formed lifetime friendships with people I met at Durham Tech. Thanks to the affordable tuition, financial aid, and a weekend job, I was able to transfer to NC State debt-free. I enjoyed my time at Durham Tech and am thankful that it helped me realize my goal.
William T. Lewis Jr.
Just months after moving to the United States from India, I enrolled at Durham Technical Community College as a way to eventually move into a four-year university. I knew very little about the academic system in the United States. Although I spoke and understood English quite well, my understanding of American culture was limited. I am glad Durham Tech became a stepping stone for my college career, because the college’s rich diversity helped me to adjust better. The teachers and the friends that I found there were supportive of me. They also helped me to better understand the American education system and cultural system.
The teachers from Durham Tech were incredibly easy to talk to and were extremely kind with their guidance. Opportunities like Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society and Carolina Student Transfer Excellency Program (C-STEP) at Durham Tech enabled me to go further with my academic goals and be more of a well-rounded individual. The teachers who taught me at Durham Tech were understanding of my qualms about fitting in.
I earned my AS degree from Durham Tech and transferred to Carolina in Fall 2009. Even though my initial semester after transferring to UNC- Chapel Hill was extremely difficult, I was able to pull through and be on the dean’s list for my last two semesters there. Though I had to change my study habits after my first semester at UNC, my academic experiences and positive encourage-ment from my mentors at Durham Tech helped me to work hard and wisely for my successes. Today, I have an Anthropology degree with a Religious Studies minor from UNC- Chapel Hill. I credit this to the advantages and openings that I experienced at Durham Tech, my parents, and God's grace.
Develop a Solid Foundation for Transfer to a Four-yaar College or University
“DTCC is not just a community college. It is a wonderful place where university transfer students, regardless of their background, get a solid foundation to transfer to a university of their choice. My experience at DTCC is unforgettable. With the support and help of my instructors and DTCC's staff, I was able to focus on school work and to eventually succeed. DTCC was indeed the bridge to my academic success. It was there that I got the crucial foundation to pursue my higher education.”
"I am pursuing a degree in engineering coming from a non-engineering background and moved to the Triangle for its education. This decision was difficult because mathematics was not a foundation for my previous careers, and I had to start all over from Trigonometry at Durham Tech.
“I am currently enrolled at NC State but I'm taking Calc II at Durham Tech this semester and have a few things to say about Durham Tech. In my opinion, the quality of Durham Tech's education is equal to that of NC State. In fact, it is better for beginning and intermediate courses because Durham Tech's learning environment is more supportive. For instance, Durham Tech has a full-time tutorial center available to its students at no cost. NC State does not have such a formal support program, and the atmosphere can be competitive, with less supportiveness among students.
“I have come a very long way in my mathematical proficiency at Durham Tech and could not have done it elsewhere. I feel we are fortunate to have Durham Tech, and at such an affordable cost. Durham Tech is a wonderful resource of, and credit to, North Carolina. For the student pursuing an undergraduate or Master’s degree, taking courses here to transfer out later is a very good strategy.”
Born and raised in Belém, a city at the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil, Natalia Silva Harwood remembers carrying loads of dirty laundry in baskets on her head from the homes of wealthier families to her home. There her mother would pump water and wash the clothes before Natalia and her brother carried them back to their owners. One of her friends taught Natalia a few words in English, and she became fascinated by the language. When her father brought home a discarded English textbook he found in the trash, then-ten-year-old Natalia spent hours learning the words by using the book’s glossary. “Ever since I was little, I was focused on getting an education,” she recalled.
As a teen, Natalia met one of her mother’s employers, Silvia, who worked for a cultural exchange organization that teaches English as a Second Language and facilitates study abroad in Brazil. “Silvia became my guardian angel. She paid my tuition to attend a private school to learn English,” said Natalia, who eventually went to work for Silvia advising students interested in studying abroad.
In the fall of 2001, having moved to the United States, Natalia decided to enroll at Durham Technical Community College. It took her four years to finish her Associate in Arts degree, and she is quick to encourage first-generation college students and international students not to rush or feel discouraged if their programs take longer than expected. “It takes time to adjust. If you are first-generation and you don’t have a support network, it takes a while to understand the system, how things work,” she said.
After Natalia graduated from Durham Tech, she completed her Bachelor of Science in Management degree online through the University of Phoenix while working to support herself. Then she applied and was accepted to George Washington University in Washington, DC. She completed a Master of Education degree in school counseling. Of her accomplishments she said, “I had to beat so many odds coming from a bad environment. In Belém, if you get a college degree and then graduate with a Master’s from George Washington, you’re a star!”
At Durham Tech, we agree. On March 1, Natalia began her new job at the college as a program assistant for the Center for the Global Learner. She will work with international students and program directors on educational programs and support systems that encourage cultural exchange and global education. Natalia credits Durham Tech faculty with encouraging her to continue her education. The faculty here “just get it,” she said. “They have knowledge and patience. They guide students through the steps and walk with us – until they realize we are ready to do it on our own. Then they let go and let the students shine, but they are still there if we need them.”
Natalia Silva Hawood
I enrolled in the University Transfer program at Durham Tech because it was close to home and, to tell you the truth, I was pretty happy with the money I was saving. When I transferred to the Engineering department at NC State, I was scared that the courses at a large university, famous for having a great engineering program, would be too hard, but I quickly realized that the courses weren't that much different from the ones at Durham Tech. In fact, I found the math classes at Durham Tech to be a little more demanding than the ones at NCSU. I think it had something to do with the smaller class sizes and the personal interaction that you get with your professors at Durham Tech. Since I received my Associate in Science degree at Durham Tech, I have graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, and I'm finishing my Master of Science degree in the Structural Engineering and Mechanics graduate program at NC State. I really enjoyed my time at Durham Tech and made two of my best friends there, too. They came to NCSU also to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering as part of the transfer program. I would recommend the University Transfer program at Durham Tech to anyone looking to save some money or looking to boost their college appeal for the admissions office at a large university. I believe that one of the main reasons I got accepted into the engineering program at NC State was because of how well I did while at Durham Tech.