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Student Profiles

Ashley GardnerStudent Plans a Career That Combines Medical Care with Spanish Interpretation
“Education is the most important treasure I can give to you,” said Odarely M. Bejar’s mother, a teacher in Mexico. Over the years, Bejar came to understand the truth of those words. Bejar moved from Mexico to the United States with her mother in 2001. She excelled in her studies at Northern High School in Durham, where she was a member of the National Honor Society. After high school, Bejar enrolled in Durham Tech’s Spanish Facilitator certificate program. Because she was interested in the medical field, she then enrolled in the Medical Spanish Facilitator certificate program. As a student, Bejar was able to practice her skills at UNC Hospitals, shadowing professional interpreters as they helped patients and families who did not speak English communicate with doctors and nurses who did not speak Spanish. While on the job, she also learned much about the medical environment. Soon Bejar’s skills were called on throughout the hospital.

Her volunteer work for her courses led to another interest. Bejar is now enrolled in Durham Tech’s Associate Degree Nursing program. She attends courses during the week. On weekends, she works part time at UNC Hospitals, using her facilitating skills. “I always love going to work,” she said. She would like a job that combines her medical and facilitator expertise, perhaps in patient relations.

For more information visit the Spanish Certificates program pages,  or contact Sara Juarez at juarezs@durhamtech.edu or call 919-536-7200, ext. 8053.

Latoria LennonOne Health Career Led to Another for This Busy Student
College classes, homework, an internship, a job, a 2-year-old child. There is busy, and then there is Latoria Lennon busy. She rises early to get to work at 6:30 a.m. She studies at night after her daughter is asleep, often from 10 p.m. into the wee hours of the morning. How does Lennon do it? Her focus and determination keep her on track to complete an associate degree in the Health Information Technology program.  

Lennon worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant for five years. “I loved the patients, but I realized I didn’t want such a hands-on job,” she said. One day Lennon visited her aunt at her medical coding job in a physician’s office, and Lennon was fascinated with the work. Not long afterward, she enrolled in Durham Tech’s Health Information Technology program. Students in this program learn to process, analyze, compile, and report health information.   

Initially Lennon planned to obtain a one-year Comprehensive Coding diploma. But because she excelled in the work, the program director encouraged her to obtain an associate degree. Lennon learned to classify, code, and index medical diagnoses and procedures. She now knows how to coordinate information for cost control. She has learned about quality management, statistics, and how to monitor governmental and non-governmental standards. “The instructors make sure you know what you need to know,” she said.

Lennon’s days – and nights – are as busy as ever. She cares for her daughter and is completing a 144-hour internship at both Durham Regional Hospital and Duke University Medical Center. She has continued her job as a pharmacy technician at Duke University Medical Center. Lennon said it helps that many of her Durham Tech courses are online.

“Coding is an ideal job for me,” she said. “I love analyzing the health information. You’re investigating and solving a puzzle. You are trying to make sure that claims are being filed correctly and paid properly. It’s a career that is expanding every day.”

Graduates of the Health Information Technology program find employment in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, long-term care facilities, health insurance organizations, outpatient clinics, mental health facilities, and home health organizations. Upon completion, graduates are prepared to pass the entry-level coding certification examinations offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) or the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC).

For more information, call 919-536-7246, ext. 5204, or visit the Health Information Technology program page.

Wincent FontenelleStudentís Longtime Dream of Being a Nurse Becomes a Reality
“My father died young, leaving my mother with seven children,” said Wincent Fontenelle, a native of Belize. “My mother had an extremely difficult struggle because she didn’t have a good education,” she said. “Mother always told us to get a good education.” Fontenelle wanted to be a nurse, but she said the training standards in her native country were not as strict as those in the U.S. So she chose the solid field of accounting. She was good at her job, but she didn’t particularly like it.

Years later, Fontenelle married and moved to Durham, where she thought about changing careers. “I was in the hospital and noticed that the nurses’ work was really interesting,” she recalled. “I talked to them about their jobs. Some of them had gone to Durham Tech.” She remembers vividly the moment she thought, “This is what I want to do.”

Fontenelle enrolled at Durham Tech, taking prerequisite courses while waiting to be accepted into the Associate Degree Nursing program. “It’s a tough program,” she said. “But with the help of my husband, Pius, and my family, I had the support system I needed.” The instructors are excellent, she said. She thinks the curriculum provided her with all the skills needed to be a nurse.

Fontenelle benefited from many hands-on clinical opportunities at Duke University Medical Center, V.A. Medical Center, Wake Medical Center, and UNC Hospitals. Today she has a job in the Intensive Care Unit at Duke University Medical Center. She enjoys working with patients, as well as with the staff and managers. Fontenelle is also pursuing her bachelor’s degree in nursing at UNC-Greensboro. “The field allows for a flexible schedule, which is great for nurses with families,” she said. She believes that the single most important trait for a nurse is compassion. “I always think, what if it was me lying in that bed? What would I want my nurse to be like?” she said. 

The classroom portion of the Associate Degree Nursing program is taught during the day. Clinical experiences are flexible, with day and evening rotations available at health care facilities throughout the Triangle area. Students are required to have CPR certification and be a certified Nursing Assistant I before entering the first Associate Degree Nursing course.

Students completing the five-semester Associate Degree Nursing program are employed in hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics, physicians’ offices, industry, and community health agencies. Graduates are eligible to apply to take the National Council Licensure Examination. The program is approved by the North Carolina Board of Nursing and is a candidate for accreditation by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.

If you are interested in the Associate Degree Nursing program, please attend one of the sessions listed on the back of this publication. More information is also available on the Associate Degree Nursing program page. You may also email questions to shawd@durhamtech.edu.

Michael SimoskyYoung Father Enters the Family Business of Nursing
When it comes to a career, some people feel a real tug to follow in the footsteps of a parent. Michael Simosky is following in the footsteps of both his parents. The former Colorado resident’s father is an emergency nurse, and his mother is a pediatric nurse. After graduating from Durham Tech’s Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program, Simosky now works as an LPN at Duke University Medical Center in the Primary Care department. Simosky, a father of two young children and husband of a Duke Pharmacology and Cancer Biology Department research scientist, said that the Practical Nursing program was challenging. However, the instructors care about the students’ success. “The teachers are always accessible,” he said.

According to Simosky, real camaraderie existed among the students. He helped organize study sessions with other students and has kept in touch with many of them. They all have obtained jobs in hospitals, nursing homes, or other facilities. Simosky has enjoyed his work so much that he decided to continue his education through Durham Tech’s LPN to Registered Nurse (RN) program. He takes courses on the weekends so he can work during the week.

Practical nurses play an important role in implementing a patient’s health care plan. They work under the direction of physicians, dentists, and registered nurses in caring for and monitoring a patient’s progress. Program graduates are awarded a diploma in Practical Nursing and are then eligible to apply to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN), a requirement for practical nurses to practice their profession. Practical nurses are employed in hospitals, nursing homes, extended-care facilities, clinics, physicians’ offices, and other health care agencies.

Courses in this program are offered during the day, and new students are enrolled in the Fall Semester. The program involves both classroom and clinical activities. Clinical experiences take place at Duke University Medical Center, Durham Regional Hospital, Lincoln Community Health Center, and other area health care facilities. The program is approved by the North Carolina Board of Nursing and is a candidate for accreditation by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC).

For more information, contact wilsons@durhamtech.edu or call 919-536-7234, ext. 8147, or visit the Licensed Practical Nursing program page.

Joel PendergraftLayoff Means a New Chapter for a Long-Time Telecommunications Manager
Joel Pendergraft is one of those lucky people who is turning an avocation into a vocation. An avid rifleman who holds a world record in 1,000-yard benchrest shooting, Pendergraft enjoys tinkering in his garage workshop making rifle parts. After a recent layoff, he plans to use the skills he acquired through Durham Tech's Machining Technology program to become a professional machinist.
Pendergraft enjoyed a 23-year career with Nortel Networks, where he managed an engineering department for a number of years. He and his family moved to Dallas for a couple of years before he was transferred back to the area. In 2001, Pendergraft took a job with an engineering company contracting to Nortel, where he was director of quality. But when the telecommunications industry struggled, Pendergraft was among the many who lost their jobs.

“I had many good years with the company,” he said. “I thought I'd be there as long as I wanted to be.”  But when he left Nortel, Pendergraft wasn't ready to retire and sit home. “I wanted to do something I enjoyed,” he said. Through information he received in the mail, he learned that Durham Tech had a Machining curriculum. “I signed up for just 20 hours,” he said. ”I'd been out of school for so long. I'm a perfectionist, but I feared I wouldn't excel.” He needn't have worried. He worked hard and received top grades. In fact, he was able to complete two semesters of work in one semester, a rare accomplishment.  “I did have the advantage of already knowing much of the material,” he said modestly.  After he completes the program, Pendergraft plans to establish a small home business, contracting with area companies that need hand-crafted parts. Pendergraft also plans to expand his gunsmith business.

Students in Durham Tech's Machining Technology curriculum learn to manufacture mechanical components using a variety of modern machines. These range from basic, manually-operated band saws to state-of-the-art computer numerical control (CNC) machine tools. Students learn to read mechanical blueprints. They master basic machining skills as well as computer-aided manufacturing software to program CNC milling and turning machines. Machining students find employment in manufacturing industries, government agencies, and specialty machining job shops. Most machining students already have a job lined up before they graduate!

For more information, email stallingsr@durhamtech.edu or call 919-536-7234, ext. 8145, or visit the Machining program page.

schepersDurham Tech Graduate Finds His Niche with World Wide Web Consortium
Some people know what they were meant to do. When it comes to choosing a career, they feel a strong Before Doug Schepers enrolled at Durham Tech, he held a few jobs:  cook, waiter, delivery driver, video store clerk, hotel A-V technician, salesman, wine-grape picker, landscaper, taxi driver, and more. Then he became a laboratory technician for a pharmaceutical company. It was there that Schepers learned more about the web and computer programming. “I was excited by how the web was making so much more possible than stand-alone PCs could do themselves,” he said.

Schepers enrolled in Durham Tech’s Computer Programming program in the late 1990s. His instructors had jobs in the computer programming and consulting fields, and he learned much more than theory. Their material focused on how to accomplish pragmatic tasks, he said. Shortly before Schepers graduated, a fellow Durham Tech student told him about a job opening at the company where he worked. He got a job as an assistant database engineer.  Other jobs followed. Along the way, he learned XML technologies, specializing in a web-based XML graphics technology called Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). Schepers and several others started a small international consulting company building web applications. Later he joined the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) as a member company and helped create the next version of the SVG language.

Today Schepers works for the World Wide Web Consortium and is employed by the W3C office at Keio University in Fujisawa, Japan. He is the W3C team contact for the SVG and WebApps Working Groups. He coordinates member companies and promotes technologies. He also writes technical specifications, the blueprints for browser functionality. Schepers likes traveling around the world and developing new technologies. “It’s often challenging, and sometimes political since we are a forum for rival companies to collaborate,” he said.

He advises those considering the field to apply what you learn in your own projects and keep experimenting. “Always set your own standards higher than that of your employers, and put something of yourself in all your projects to keep yourself engaged,” he said. Graduates of Durham Tech’s Computer Programming curriculum learn computer concepts, logic, programming procedures, languages, code generators, operating systems, networking, data management, and business operations.

Graduates find employment as programmers, programmer trainees, programmer/analysts, computer operators, systems technicians, and database specialists.

For more information, email murphyt@durhamtech.edu or call 919-536-7235, ext.8157 or visit the Computer Programming program page.

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