Durham Tech helps students ‘build futures’ through community-wide initiative

three faculty and two students smiling, students are holding certificates

L to R: Shahiyd Viney, Peter Wooldridge, Ben Lock, Maryah Smith-Overman, Diontae Johnson Jones

Eight Durham homes now have been shaped up due to the efforts of the pilot class of the Building Futures Program.

The 14-week program launched in September and is made possible because of the Transformation in Ten Initiative, which includes Durham Tech, the City of Durham Neighborhood Improvement Services Department, Rebuilding Together of the Triangle, StepUp Durham, and NCWorks NextGen.

Throughout the course, students have been taught construction skills at Durham Tech in order to repair a few homes in their neighborhood. Their graduation is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 14.

“Our president (Dr. Bill Ingram) is fond of saying that the most important word in our title is community, and this is absolute example of what that means,” said Dr. Peter Wooldridge, Vice President of Corporate, Continuing, and Public Services Education at Durham Tech.

Building Futures was designed to help prepare local residents to enter the high-demand construction workforce. The residents targeted are ones who face obstacles to employment training.

“There is a need for construction labor and for more folks to get into construction labor to help rebuild the homes of families who need our help and support,” said Dan Sargent, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together. “We are really excited about the potential for this program.”

The homes that the pilot class repaired belong mainly to the elderly and disabled.

The first project student Diontae Johnson Jones completed was a wheelchair ramp.

“I seen how happy they were. It just made my whole body like warm, so after that I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to … put my all into (this program). So that’s what I did. I gave a 150 percent the whole entire time,” Jones said.

Graduating with Jones will be Shahiyd Viney and LaRico Steele.

The connection these students had with the homeowners wasn’t lost on Tyler Momsen-Hudson, Field Operations Manager at Rebuilding Together who worked with the students on-site.

“They make great connections with the homeowners (and) are very respectful to the owners,” he said. “The homeowners have taken to them, too. (The students) see it’s helping the homeowners, and they like that aspect to it.”

When the students came to Durham Tech, they were taught by Construction Trades Instructor Ben Lock.

Jones admits that Lock could be a tough teacher but was ultimately “fun” to work with.

“Mr. Ben told me personally that, ‘I see potential in you,’” Jones said. “When someone shows you that type of care, you can’t help but respect it.”

The students earned certifications in Carpentry I, Lead Paint Remediation, and OSHA. They also were paid $12.50 an hour and given their own hand tools.

“The whole idea of earn while you learn is becoming more prevalent,” said Alexis Franks, Project Manager with NextGen. “Employers need to be able to get skilled talent and get experienced talent, and this is the way we can kind of attack both.

If this is not a desired, long-term pathway, this was career exploration for (the students). … I’m proud of them. They’ve done really well.”

The idea for the program began through conversations exchanged between StepUp Durham and Rebuilding Together. For more than two years, the two organizations were trying to figure out how to make their general vision come to fruition.

It was when Durham Tech, along with the City of Durham and NextGen, stepped forward that the pieces fell together.

“These folks had a similar vision of how we can be better together and recognized the training needed (in this field), the career opportunity there,” said Tim Wollin, Program Director with StepUp Durham.

Durham Tech’s involvement with the program went beyond the teaching element. Maryah Smith-Overman, Director of and Instructor in the Construction Trades program at Durham Tech, helped Lock shape the curriculum and helped Wooldridge and representatives from the other Transformation in Ten Initiative partners map out the program.

“I have to say thank you to Maryah Smith-Overman and Ben Lock,” Wooldridge said. “They’ve done an amazing, wonderful job with the program, and, of course, StepUp, Rebuilding Together, and NextGen have been a pleasure to work with.”

StepUp and NextGen have supported the students by prepping them for interviews, helping build their resumes, and introducing them to potential employers.

On Dec. 6, representatives from each of the program’s partners gathered at one of the home sites to commemorate the conclusion of the first pilot class.

“It is wonderful to see this,” said Steve Schewel, Durham Mayor, at the event. “I want to congratulate you all (the students). I know it is not easy learning new skills, not just the technical skills, but the professional skills. … I know you are going to do great things, and we are going to be counting on you to do great things.”

Schewel presented the students who were in attendance with certificates of participation.

Recruitment for fall 2019 will begin in the spring. For more information, contact Wollin at tim@stepupdurham.org.

Durham Chamber CEO, president joins Durham Tech board

Geoff Durham

Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce’s president and CEO Geoff Durham has been appointed to the Durham Tech Board of Trustees.

Durham was appointed by the Durham County Board of Commissioners in October and will be sworn in on Dec. 4. He will replace former board member Darcel Dillard who resigned earlier this year.

“For nearly 60 years, Durham Tech has been providing high-quality, affordable education programs to students that support long-term economic growth and a work-ready community. I am honored to serve an organization with a track record of improving workforce development and preparing citizens for long-term success,” Durham said.

Durham has been with the Chamber since 2016. Prior, he served as the President/CEO of the economic development organization, Downtown Durham, Inc. While at Downtown Durham, downtown experienced tremendous investment and growth across industry sectors. Geoff facilitated the development of new office, laboratory, and co-working spaces which provided new opportunities for existing businesses to expand and new businesses to relocate to Durham.

Geoff has 20 years of economic development experience. Prior to coming to Durham, Geoff served as the Director of Economic Development in Fairfax, Va., and worked for Montgomery County, Md., as the Urban District Manager of Downtown Silver Spring.

Durham graduated from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., and earned professional certification in economic development from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and in commercial finance from the Council of Development Finance Agencies.

“Geoff will bring a unique and appreciated perspective to the Board of Trustees. We believe his intricate knowledge of the community will help Durham Tech better serve our residents, and I look forward to working with him to continue supporting the College’s students, faculty, and staff,” said Dr. Bill Ingram, President of Durham Tech.

Durham’s term on the board will end June 30, 2020.

The Durham Tech Board of Trustees consists of 14 voting members and governs Durham Tech. Members are appointed by the North Carolina Governor, Durham County Board of Commissioners, Durham Public Schools Board of Education, and the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

The Trustees serve four-year terms and set local policy for the College. A representative of the Durham Tech Student Government Association serves as a non-voting trustee.

Durham Tech takes first place in engineering competition for second consecutive semester

L to R – Muffy Vestal, Michael Gatlin, Claire Cronin, Joseph Turner, Ian Leonard, Joshua Viau

The Durham Technical Community College team placed first in the Rube Goldberg Engineering 150 Competition on Saturday.

More than 80 teams, including five from Durham Tech, competed for the top spot and a $700 cash prize. The competition was hosted by Wake Technical Community College.

Similar to the popular game of Mouse Trap, a Rube Goldberg machine is a complex contraption in which a series of devices perform simple tasks linked together to produce a domino effect. The competition required students to create machines that operate within a timeframe of 30 seconds and two minutes, with an end goal of popping a balloon.

“This was a great opportunity for us,” said Joseph Turner, member of Durham Tech Team Double Stack. “It was cool to get involved in the process of design and see what works and what doesn’t work. It was also an opportunity to practice soft skills like delegating tasks and making deadlines.”

The team created an alien-themed project from scratch that used rolling balls, gears, pulleys, and a rolling toy car to lift cutouts of the five team members into a spaceship.

Two Durham Tech teams tied for first place at the competition last semester.

“We knew Durham Tech did really well last time, so there was some definite pressure,” said Claire Cronin, another Durham Tech team member. “We tried our best not to think about it because we didn’t want to stress ourselves out.”

The team was under the supervision of Muffy Vestal, the new Engineering Coordinator at Durham Tech, who teaches her students how to think outside the box.

“If they don’t come away knowing everything, I want them to know how to find what they are looking for, and I want them to be able to solve problems on their own,” Vestal said. “I think this competition is a great opportunity for students because it really cements the engineering design process.”

Vestal said she was especially impressed with how well the team worked together to develop their project.

“I saw them struggle incorporating their ideas, but they overcame it,” Vestal said. “They stumbled but got up and encouraged each other. Not just on their own team, but team to team. We’re really building a culture of engineering students.”

Durham Tech will compete to defend their title at the next competition in April 2019.

Let’s celebrate December anniversaries and birthdays!

December Anniversaries (Years)
Christine Kelly-Kleese (25); Randy Egsegian (25); Tom Murphy (18); Glenda Morris (11); Travis Brown (9); Andy Kleitsch (7); Anita Moore (5); Dawn Tevepaugh (4); Lori Heiger (3); Tracy Johnson (2); Patronia Marshall (1)

December Birthdays (Day)
Dwight Williams (4); Delbroah Jones (4); Veronica Lee (7); Richard Lawrence (7); Brian Stevenson (10); Carolyn Henderson (11); Erik Townsend (11); Gloria Gay (12); Ingrid Charles (16); Rasha Dumarieh (18); Craig Smith (18); Andrea Thomas (20); Alfreda Gregory (20); Mary Moore (20); Toni Brown (20); Cynthia Hill (20); Thomas Beveridge (21); James Weeks (21); Barbara Pinter (22); Paula Wilder (24); Maria Steele (24); Candace Nolan (29); Erin Popov (29); Haji Dove (29); Janemarie Baker (30)

NASA “Hidden Figure” discusses life, work during Durham Tech seminar

Dr. Christine Darden talks to students in the TLC before her Science Seminar presentation in the Collins auditorium.

North Carolina native Dr. Christine Darden dedicated 40 years to NASA, and on Wednesday, Nov. 14, Durham Tech students, faculty, and staff were given an insight into her life and work at NASA.

Darden is a retired mathematician, data analyst, and aeronautical engineer who was featured in the hit book, “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.” The book, written by Margot Lee Shetterly, focused on four African-American women who worked at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Va., to help America lead in aeronautics, space research, and computer technology. Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory is now Langley Research Center.

Darden’s presentation was titled “Dreaming and On Their Shoulders.” It was part of the College’s Science Seminar series.

During her presentation, she recounted moments from her life and time at NASA and discussed her research on supersonic flight and sonic booms. Students, faculty, staff, and community members, including middle school students, packed the auditorium in the Harold K. Collins Building on Main Campus to hear her speak.

“Having things like this for students is powerful,” Darden said after her presentation. “We don’t always know how events like this impact our audience but I think very often it does have a positive impact on them.”

Darden stated up front that she wasn’t one of the women featured in the movie version of “Hidden Figures.” She was in college during the movie’s time frame, when NASA was trying to launch American astronaut John Glenn into orbit.

“I watched John Glenn’s parade in Hampton when he came back from orbit,” Darden said.

However, Darden accredited the work of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson, who were featured in both the book and movie, for paving her way into NASA.

“In 1967 when I was looking for a job, NASA will still hiring (human) computers because they had done a great job,” Darden said. “I was sort of standing on their reputation to be hired into NASA.”

“Human computers” referred to women who used tools like pencils and slide rules to crunch numbers and write complex programs.

The addition of human computers allowed for women’s entry into the workforce at Langley, according to Darden. Women began working for Langley in the 1930s.

An executive order issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940s widened the entryway to allow for African-American women to be hired.

Three weeks after Darden applied to work at NASA, she was hired. It was two years before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

After working in the pool for several years, Darden approached her supervisor to ask why men of the same educational background as her were being hired as engineers. Taking that step led Darden to become one of the center’s only female aerospace engineers.

“When you think you are going to have to take a risk, you weigh the pros and cons of that and decide whether it is worth stepping up there to do but often you won’t get anywhere if you don’t step out and do some things,” Darden said.

Among her first tasks was to create a computer program for sonic boom.

She is now considered one of the world’s experts on sonic boom prediction, sonic boom minimization, and supersonic wing design, according to NASA’s website.

“Hearing Dr. Darden speak about the challenges that she has overcome through her planning, intelligence, and bravery was inspirational,” said Julie Hoover, a geology instructor at Durham Tech. “Women in STEM still have to pick their battles, even in 2018, so I particularly appreciated the advice she gave the students to be persistent and take risks when trying to reach their goals.”

Hoover herself has had some run-ins with NASA as she is the faculty sponsor of NASA Swarmathon and The Unacceptable Risks GOAT/RAM High Altitude Student Payload teams, both of whom compete in NASA-connected competitions and projects.

The Science Seminar Series has occurred for 19 years. Darden, who is based in Virginia, is one of the only out-of-state speakers to be invited, according to Dr. Steve Leadon, who co-hosts the series with Dr. Kathy Zarilla. Leadon is the interim chair of the science program and a biology instructor, while Zarilla serves as the undergraduate research/project-based learning, student learning, and instructional services coordinator and teaches biology and microbiology.

Naomi Feaste, a Durham Tech instructor in the high school equivalency programs, is the one who recommended Darden to Leadon. Feaste attended the same high school as Darden and heard Darden speak at a high school reunion Feaste attended, according to Darden.

Before Darden’s seminar at 3:30 p.m., she spent more than an hour answering questions from a room full of students in the Teaching-Learning Center.

“I was pleased to be invited here,” Darden said after her seminar. “I have found it very invigorating myself to meet a lot of different people and hear their questions and talk to them about what I did. … It has been a great day for me. I’ve enjoyed it, and I hope it has some meaning here.”

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Durham Tech math team takes third overall in state competition

L to R: Sam Dod, Daniel Christie, and Robert Furuya, Ivan Renjel. Team won 2nd during afternoon competition.

The Durham Technical Community College Math Team achieved another top three finish in the ninth annual North Carolina Mathematical Association of Two Year Colleges’ Math Competition (NCMATYC) on November 10 at Davidson Community College in Thomasville.

Thirteen schools from across the state brought 93 students to the competition, which is made up of an individual calculus test in the morning and collaborative problem-solving in the afternoon. Durham Tech student, Ian Clark, finished fourth in the morning competition, while a team of Sam Dod, Ivan Reniel, Daniel Christie, and Robert Furuya finished second in the afternoon competition; leading to a third-overall finish for Durham Tech.

Other Durham Tech participants — all of whom finished in the top quartile in the afternoon competition — were Claire Cronin, Susan Pizzuti, Jessica Chlebowski, Jennifer Wright, Francisco Ortiz Paparoni, and Brooks Byrd.

NCMATYC, founded in 1988, is an organization of mathematics instructors from across North Carolina that work together to establish and maintain communication among teachers of mathematics at two-year colleges.

L to R: Jessica Chlebowski, Francisco Ortiz Paparoni, Susan Pizzuti, Jennifer Wright, Brooks Byrd, Robert Furuya, Sam Dod, Daniel Christie, Ivan Renjel. on knees (Ian Clark). Not pictured, Claire Cronin.

Durham Tech program director wins prestigious respiratory care educator award

Janemarie Baker

A Durham Technical Community College program director has been awarded the prestigious Gail Gane Educator of the Year Award.

Janemarie Baker, Director of the Respiratory Therapy program, was recognized at the North Carolina Society for Respiratory Care awards ceremony on Nov. 12.

The award is given to respiratory care educators who have demonstrated top-notch service and leadership in respiratory therapy education throughout the year, according to the award’s website.

“I was honored to receive this award as there are many smart and talented respiratory therapy instructors in North Carolina,” Baker said.

NCSRC members submit nominees for the award, and the society’s Awards and Scholarship Committee select the winner.

The awards ceremony was held during the society’s 40th annual symposium at the East Carolina Heart Institute in Greenville, N.C. Baker received a plaque to commemorate the accolade.

“The work that we do is so important to the community – not only the education that we provide but the qualified and competent therapists that our program at Durham Tech produces to provide care locally and nationwide,” Baker said. “I am very proud of the program we have and feel that this award is a reflection on the program as a whole, not just one person.”

Baker earned her associate’s degree in respiratory therapy from Delaware Technical Community College. She received her bachelor’s degree in health science from West Chester University and her master’s in business Administration with a focus on health care administration from Wilmington University.

She is a registered respiratory therapist whose background includes working in adult, pediatric, and neonatal respiratory care. Before coming to Durham Tech, she worked as a therapist, ECMO specialist, and manager at UNC Health Care.

Baker has been with Durham Tech since 2013 and took over the program in 2016. She also chairs NCARE, the North Carolina Association of Respiratory Educators.

“Janemarie is committed to the success of her students, ensuring that they are prepared to enter the respiratory care profession,” said Melissa Oakley Ockert, Dean and Department Head of Heath Technologies at Durham Tech.

“Her dedication to the profession, to the program, and to Durham Tech is an inspiration to all of us.”

Community leaders re-elected to top positions of Durham Tech Board of Trustees

Tara Fikes

John Burness

Longtime community leaders John F. Burness and Dr. Tara L. Fikes have been reelected as Chair and Vice Chair, respectively, of the Durham Technical Community College Board of Trustees.

The two were first elected to their posts in the fall of 2017 for the 2017-18 academic year.

Burness, a former Vice Chair, has served on the board since 2009, when he was appointed by the Durham Public Schools Board of Education. He is the retired senior vice president for public affairs and government relations at Duke University and an adjunct professor in the Dewitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

Fikes, retired director of Housing, Human Rights, and Community Development for Orange County, was first appointed to the board by the Durham County Board of Commissioners in 2013 and then reappointed in 2015. In addition to being vice chair, she also chairs the Policies and Personnel Committee.

“The Board of Trustees will continue to benefit from the leadership of John Burness and Dr. Tara Fikes as they both return to their posts as Chair and Vice Chair. The Trustees are valuable and vital to the operations of the College, and we look forward to the upcoming year,” said Dr. Bill Ingram, President of Durham Tech.

Burness has demonstrated his commitment to education through numerous roles. His previous positions include founding chair of the board of directors of the Durham Communities in Schools dropout prevention program; director of the Durham Public Education Network; and interim president of Franklin and Marshall College, his alma mater, from 2010-11. He also has worked at Cornell University, University of Illinois, and Stony Brook University, headed the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership, and is on the board of Private College 529.

Fikes works as an adjunct instructor in the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill. She has chaired the Durham County Social Services Board and has been on the board of the North Carolina Social Services Board Association. She got her Master of Public Affairs from N.C. State and her Doctorate in Public Administration from the University of Southern California.

The Board of Trustees consists of 14 voting members and governs Durham Tech. Members are appointed by the North Carolina Governor, Durham County Board of Commissioners, Durham Public Schools Board of Education, and the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

The Trustees serve four-year terms and set local policy for the College. A representative of the Durham Tech Student Government Association serves as a non-voting trustee.