Durham Tech alumna, health care advocate to deliver 2024 Commencement keynote address

Durham Tech graduate and health care advocate Luzita Francis will be the College’s 2024 spring Commencement keynote speaker.

Francis had been a single mom of three for eight years when she enrolled at Durham Tech. One of her children graduated from Durham Tech’s Middle College as valedictorian. Her two sons also attended Durham Tech. One earned an architectural certificate. Her other son graduated from Durham Tech at the same time as his mother, and both Francis and he transferred to UNC-Chapel Hill. The two graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill together, as well. 

“Luzita is one of Durham Tech’s great success stories, and her path illustrates how valuable the College can be for returning learners, as well as the impact the College had on her children,” Durham Tech President J.B. Buxton said. “She has also made her mark as an advocate for greater equity for Latinos in health care. We are appreciative and proud of her efforts to improve the quality of life for everyone in our community.”

Francis chose to attend Durham Tech when she moved to Durham because she wanted to finish her studies.  

“I just knew from my research that community college was the way to go to get into a four-year college,” she said. “It was the most economical and the best way to do it. Durham Tech made it very easy to go.”  

Durham Tech provided her the pathway to do work toward transferring to a four-year institute while she was also working full time as a Spanish interpreter at Duke Regional, where she developed an interest in health care.  

“It was a job where I felt like I was helping,” she said. “I felt like I was helping people 100 percent. That’s an important part of what motivates me.”

Francis got her associate in science through the College’s University Transfer program. At Carolina, she studied public health and health policy and management. She was the first community college transfer to the School of Public Health at Chapel Hill, which is ranked second in the country. She also was the only Latina in her co-hort. She went on to earn a master’s degree in health administration and is currently pursuing a second master’s degree in information science.  

“I have big dreams for myself,” she said.  

Born in England, Francis grew up in Indonesia and graduated from high school in Colombia. She said Durham Tech helped her gain confidence in writing in English, particularly with the help of Lea Bingham, who is now assistant dean but at the time was Francis’ English teacher.

Francis said she chose to go into health policy because she was not seeing Latinos’ voices being heard and saw an opportunity to have an impact. She has worked to promote the UNC program and Durham Tech’s University Transfer programs to other Latinos.  

She has had the opportunity to meet with high-level officials to discuss health policies and data affecting the Latino community. She sees working with a think tank advocacy group in the future.

“The thing I like about going to Durham Tech is there is no mold,” Francis said. “It is a place where you can define the path — find your own path and follow it — it’s the one that will make you happy. With Durham Tech there are so many options.”

Commencement is May 7 at 7 p.m.  at the Durham Performing Arts Center.