Leon Bradford becomes first Durham Tech student to receive distinguished Dallas Herring Achievement Award

headshot of leon bradfordLeon Bradford, a Durham Tech student, has been selected as the Dallas Herring Achievement Award recipient by the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS). This is the first time a student from Durham Tech has been selected for this statewide award.

The award was established by the System in 2010 to honor the late Dr. Dallas Herring, one of the state’s earliest champions of community colleges.

Bradford was notified earlier this month during a Zoom call with Durham Tech President J.B. Buxton.

“It’s surreal, this feels like a dream,” he said. “I had to hold back tears as I expressed my sincere appreciation. I had family members in Colorado and North Carolina on the Zoom call in tears. There are so many people like me in the world. We have to keep pressing on. I am so grateful for all who have been in my corner.”

The award is given annually to a current or former student who best embodies Dr. Herring’s philosophy of “taking people where they are and carrying them as far as they can go.”

As a child, Bradford’s pediatrician told his parents that he would never be able to attend college and would likely not graduate high school with a regular diploma, Bradford recalled. His classmates called him “slow,” but Bradford said he simply processes information differently, which led him to develop his own learning skills and resiliency.

“My personal journey has been painful, and I hesitated to share it, but my family encouraged me to share my story as it could help encourage others,” he said.

Bradford also received the Christine Kelly-Kleese and Tony Kleese Resilience Award.

“From his first interaction with a Durham Tech recruiter at a college fair, Leon has deliberately developed authentic relationships. He connected regularly with his advisor, faculty, and staff who championed him when he excelled and guided him when things got tough,” said Christine Kelly-Kleese, Chief Strategy Officer at Durham Tech. “Leon's resilience and perseverance have served him well. Those traits along with his ability to develop authentic relationships will carry him forward to continued successes.”

Bradford is graduating with an Associate in Applied Science and his long-term goal is to be an entrepreneur.

“Durham Tech offered the bridge I needed to get to my next chapter. The College has helped me to prove to those who said I could not do it, that I can do it,” he said. “It takes hard work and dedication. There are people at Durham Tech to help you. Utilize your resources, stay focused, and learn from your failures. The sky is the limit.”
Contact Marcy Gardner, Content and Social Media Coordinator, at gardnerm@durhamtech.edu