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Student Profiles

Frank SimmonsLay-Off Sparked a New Career in the Electrical/Electronic Field
The scenario went like this. Frank Simmons drove to his manufacturing job, thinking it was a typical evening on the night shift. Then his supervisor handed him what he quickly realized was his final pay check.

Simmons, married with two children, was stunned. His supervisor said it was because of the economy. Thankfully, Simmons already had a second job as head football coach and track coach at Neal Middle School. That source of income allowed him to spend some time seriously researching careers. “I didn’t want to get stuck doing something I didn’t like. But I also wanted something that I could do for a long time --- a job with longevity,” he said. As he did his research, he thought about his own father’s career. “He was an electrician, and he never got laid off. All those years, he’s been doing a job he enjoyed and getting good promotions.”
After further research, Simmons enrolled in Durham Tech’s Electrical/Electronics program during the evening. His instructors made what might be called a “dry subject” fascinating. “Mr. Crutchfield’s [the program director] classes are like a suspense novel. You have to be in class the next day to hear what happens next. His lectures make you think,” Simmons said.

He went on to earn three certificates and will soon earn his associate’s degree. Now Simmons works as an exhibit technician with the Durham Life and Science Museum. “Everything I learned at Durham Tech, I use sometime during the day,” he said.  Simmons believes his degree will provide him with the skills to move into many different fields, such as becoming a contractor, an electrical engineer, or a small business owner.

Simmons also realizes the family irony. “My dad was an electrician with Virginia Power, and he was always gone,” Simmons recalls. “I said I’d never be an electrician. But now I am.”  He just hopes his new career doesn’t involve too much travel.

In Durham Tech’s Electrical/Electronics program, students become proficient in installation and maintenance of electrical wiring; transformers; AC and DC motors; motor control circuits; lighting circuits; and programmable logic controllers used in residential, commercial, and industrial applications, and other areas. Students completing the Electrical/Electronics Technology program earn either an Associate in Applied Science degree in five semesters or a diploma. The day diploma program may be completed in three semesters or the evening program in five semesters. Certificate options are also available to add on skills.
For more information, contact crutchfieldj@durhamtech.edu or visit the Electrical/Electronics program page.

Lester BarriosChoosing Networking Technology Was the Perfect Career Connection
Occasionally students enroll in one program at Durham Tech, but then they find it’s not the right fit. Durham Tech’s advisors and instructors provide resources and guidance to steer students into a program that is a great fit.

Lester Barrios first enrolled in the Associate Degree Nursing program. He knew ADN graduates were in demand. But as time went on, he began to feel that nursing was not for him. With guidance, he enrolled in the Networking Technology program. Barrios had taken computer science courses in the past. “When I began taking the Networking courses, it was love at first sight. The instructors gave me problems to solve, and I solved them right away.”

The Networking Technology program offers instruction in administration of network devices and networked operating systems. These include server and workstation configuration and management. Courses are offered that map to specific vendor certifications, including CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+, and Linux+, Microsoft MCSA, Cisco CCNA, and Novell CLP and CLE. Students learn to configure, install, and troubleshoot a network from the server/desktop to the switch, to the router, and to the Internet.

Barrios entered the Networking Technology program two years ago. In May, he proudly walked across the stage to receive his associate’s degree. “The program taught me everything network engineers do,” he said. “I learned about installing and setting up a network. I learned about troubleshooting and what to look for when customers have problems with their connection.” He also learned about working with customers.
Barrios says the field is not just about connecting computers but looking after computers. “It’s about monitoring viruses and making sure emails are clean,” he said.

According to Barrios, one of the most valuable aspects of the program was the cooperative experience with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Computer Science.
Barrios enjoyed Durham Tech’s small classes, both the lectures and the hands-on labs. His instructors were always accessible, he said.
Students can earn an Associate in Science degree in five semesters by attending classes full time or eight semesters part time. Both day and evening classes are offered.

For more information, email bulbrookh@durhamtech.edu or visit the Networking Technology program page.

Landis StricklandNo Hurricane Could Deter Student from Getting an Education
Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans almost four years ago. For Landis Strickland, it still seems like yesterday. He remembers the frantic evacuation, then his return to find his townhouse and car destroyed.

Strickland, a Durham native, joined the Navy after graduating from Hillside High School. He was stationed first in Norfolk and then in New Orleans, where he served as a Navy firefighter and firefighting instructor. In New Orleans he found time to enroll in business administration courses at Delgado Community College, completing two semesters before Katrina hit. 

“Getting an education was important to me. I wanted to have more opportunities," said Strickland, who received tuition aid from the G.I. Bill.  Delgado Community College was severely damaged by the hurricane, and closed for many months. Strickland decided to return to his family back in Durham and think about his next step. His positive experience at Delgado paved the way for him to enroll at Durham Tech. Here he found the same campus atmosphere – small classes, student-friendly faculty, and counselors that spent time helping him plan his future.

"I was in Business Administration but they encouraged me to consider University Transfer," said Strickland, who did well in his courses and had a 3.4 GPA. Math is his favorite subject. He liked his Humanities courses as well, and found Critical Thinking valuable. He didn't care for his English courses in the beginning - that wasn't his strength. “But I had discipline. I told myself, ‘I'm going to learn to love English.'" And he did. 

He attributes his success at Durham Tech to the faculty and staff and to his determination:  “You have to really want to succeed and stay focused. Then things will happen,” he said. “At Durham Tech, if you get discouraged, there's always someone to talk to."

With the tough economy, Strickland saved much money by attending Durham Tech. He took the same courses offered at a four-year school for a fraction of the cost. While in college, Strickland participated in Visions – the Minority Male Mentoring Initiative and he was selected to receive the Schwartz Scholarship. Strickland graduated from Durham Tech this spring and plans to attend North Carolina Central University.

For more information, visit the University Transfer program page.

Mark SanchezA Daughter’s Illness Leads to a New Profession for Dad
Some people enter a profession because of something that affected them personally. For Mark Sanchez, the week his little daughter Kaylee spent in the hospital resulted in a desire to learn more about respiratory problems. As an infant, Kaylee was diagnosed with Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, which infects the lungs and breathing passages and can cause lifelong problems.
Sanchez recalls talking to one of the respiratory therapists caring for his daughter. The therapist was a graduate of Durham Tech’s Respiratory Therapy program.

At the time, Sanchez was on the waiting list for admission for another allied health program at another institution. He became fascinated by what respiratory therapists do and what they did for his daughter. He decided to visit Durham Tech and find out more about the program.

Sanchez was accepted into Durham Tech’s Respiratory Therapy program for the Fall Semester 2007. The two-year program includes classroom instruction, clinical laboratory, and in-hospital clinical practice. The clinical laboratory provides skills training and evaluation. The clinical phase at local hospitals provides opportunities to master these skills.  

Sanchez loved his first biology courses and found the human body fascinating. He then learned about ventilators, specialized computers, and other equipment.
After his first three semesters, he began work as a respiratory care assistant at UNC Hospitals. Sanchez has now completed his second year in the Respiratory Therapy program and graduated in the Spring.

“This has been a more intense year. It’s been a time that we really build confidence in performing the duties,” he said, looking forward to being part of a team that includes doctors, nurses, and others who work closely with patients. He plans to work at UNC Hospitals this summer. Next fall, he plans to enter UNC-Charlotte’s Respiratory Therapy online program to pursue a bachelor’s degree.  Sanchez, who is vice president of the college’s Respiratory Care Student Club, would like to specialize in children’s respiratory ailments. That was, of course, how it all started.   

Respiratory Therapy courses are held during the day, and clinical rotations are scheduled during the day and in the evening. Graduates of this five-semester program are awarded an Associate in Applied Science degree, which meets the requirements of the National Board for Respiratory Therapy. Graduates may sit for the National Registry Examinations and earn the credential of Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).

For more information, visit the Respiratory Therapy program page or email millerr@durhamtech.edu.

Gina CottonGStay-at-Home Mom Finds Happiness in a Rewarding Surgical Technology Career
Gena Cotton loved being at home with her three children, staying busy with their activities. But as they grew older, her husband took note. “He said I should think about a career because I wouldn’t know what to do with myself when they were gone,” Cotton recalled. She agreed. She wasn’t the type to sit around idle, watching daytime TV.

Cotton, who was only 40, thought about life without children. What was she going to do with the rest of her life?

Earlier Cotton had attended East Carolina University and had worked for several years as a dental assistant. “I was always interested in the medical field,” she said. A friend mentioned Surgical Technology as a possibility. Cotton recalled the time her son had surgery on his broken hand. She remembered how helpful and efficient the surgical assistant was. 

She checked out Durham Tech’s Surgical Technology program and learned that she could receive a degree in just three semesters. She took the prerequisite courses she needed and soon enrolled in the program. “The instructors explain everything so well,” she said. She gained real-life clinical experience at UNC Hospitals, Person Memorial Hospital, and N.C. Specialty Hospital. In fact, the clinical experience at N.C. Specialty Hospital resulted in a job after she earned her degree.

Cotton’s duties include preparing all implements for surgery, draping and preparing the patient, and assisting during the surgery. She is also responsible for maintaining aseptic conditions. She assists primarily during orthopedic eye surgery; ear, nose, and throat surgery; and plastic surgery.

Cotton has been employed as a surgical assistant for more than a year and a half. “I was nervous at first,” she recalled “But the doctors I work with are awesome. You learn a lot on the job.” She says Surgical Technicians must be team players. “You work with five or six people,” she said. “You need to come to work every day with a positive attitude, ready to take on what you have to do. There’s a great sense of accomplishment.”

Surgical technologists work in hospital surgical units, same-day or ambulatory surgery units, labor and delivery units, or in sterile processing or supply departments. Some surgical technologists work in medical sales or education. Graduates of Durham Tech’s Surgical Technology programs are eligible to apply to take the national certification exam administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. 

For more information, call 919-536-7233, email holdent@durhamtech.edu, visit the Surgical Technology program page or attend an information session.

Mia RothwellWhether Enrolling in or Choosing a Program of Study, Durham Tech is here for You!
Mia Rothwell was a single parent holding down a full-time job when she learned about the Clinical Trials Research Associate program at Durham Tech. It sounded like a field she would love. But how could she possible make it work? Her family immediately offered to keep their granddaughter while their daughter attended classes at night. Rothwell said she also received strong support from Durham Tech's Student Development and Support staff. It began when advisors assured her that no, at age 22, she would not be the oldest student in her classes!

Rothwell was able to talk to Clinical Trials Research Associate Program Director Melissa Ockert right away. "She was very helpful," Rothwell recalled. "She explained all about the courses and the order in which I would take them." Academic advisors guided her through the registration process, and other college personnel explained about financial aid. "Even though I felt nervous, I was able to jump right in," she said.

Rothwell first took her prerequisite courses and then entered the Clinical Trials Research Associate program. Taking some of her courses online helped with her busy schedule. After two and a half years, Rothwell's proud family watched their daughter walk across the stage to receive her associate degree. "It was a challenge," she said. "My daughter has lots of activities, so sometimes I was up to midnight studying. But there was never a time when I felt like, 'what do I do now?' There were always people at Durham Tech who wanted to help."

Rothwell is employed at DCRI/DUMC Biostatistics and Bioinformatics.

For more information call 919-536-7233, ext. 8127, email ockertm@durhamtech.edu, or visit the Clinical Trials Research Associate program page.

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