Author Archives: Stephanie Turner

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

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 marketing department receives three awards in regional competition

The Durham Tech Marketing and Communications Department won several awards in the 2018 National Council for Marketing & Public Relations (NCMPR) Medallion Awards competition.

The new Durham Tech Today e-newsletter received a second-place award in the Electronic Newsletter category. The College also took third place in both the Specialty Publication and Folder Design categories. The awards were announced at the annual District 2 conference in Atlanta earlier this month.

The department won first place in 2017 for Best Print Advertisement and third place in Feature Writing in 2016.

The Medallion Awards recognize achievement in design and communication at community and technical colleges in each of seven districts. The regional competition is exclusive to marketing and public relations professionals at two-year colleges.

District 2 of the NCMPR consists of states in the southeastern United States in addition to Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas.

Durham Tech students receive Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarships

Durham Tech President Dr. Bill Ingram poses with Durham Tech students Ednah Sangaka and Brandi Crosson, who received the 2018 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship.

Two students from Durham Technical Community College have been named as
2018 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholars.

The students, Ednah Sangaka and Brandi Crosson, were among 207 Phi Theta
Kappa members recognized this year. They each received a $1,000 scholarship.

“It has been such a joy to watch these young ladies grow into leadership roles
within our chapter,” said Kimberly Boyce, faculty advisor of Beta Tau Phi, the
Durham Tech chapter of Phi Theta Kappa.

“They both have been wonderful assets to our team and have pushed themselves
beyond their comfort zones in order to get involved with the great things that Beta
Tau Phi is doing and has planned this semester. I can’t wait to watch things unfold
for these two remarkable students.”

The Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship Program helps defray educational
expenses for new Phi Theta Kappa members while they are enrolled in associate
degree programs.

More than 1,200 people applied for the scholarship. The winners were selected
based on academic achievement, community service, and leadership potential.

“The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation has a long history of providing financial
assistance to outstanding students at community colleges,” said Jane Hale
Hopkins, Executive Vice President and President-Elect of the Coca-Cola Scholars
Foundation. “We are proud to partner with Phi Theta Kappa to make it possible for
more deserving students to achieve their educational goals and support
tomorrow’s leaders of the global community.”

Phi Theta Kappa is a premier honor society recognizing the academic
achievement of students at associate degree-granting colleges and helping them
to grow as scholars and leaders. The Society is made up of more than 3.5 million
members and nearly 1,300 chapters in 10 nations. For more information,

For more information about the Durham Tech chapter, visit

Durham Tech Small Business Center, Corporate Services moving to Chesterfield Building

Durham Tech is launching a new downtown Durham location.

The Durham Tech Small Business Center and Corporate Education department will be housed in the redeveloped Chesterfield Building in the 700 block of West Main Street.

The new location will open in Fall 2018.

“The Chesterfield, with its focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, is a great fit for our Small Business Center and Corporate Services team,” said Beth Payne, Dean and Department Head of Corporate Services at Durham Tech. “The new location will have a mix of offices, a computer lab, classroom and collaboration space, as well as a resource library for small business owners and entrepreneurs”

The Corporate Education department at Durham Tech offers continuing education and training to organizations, covering such topics including management and leadership development, interpersonal skills, communications, and employee health and safety.

The Small Business Center at Durham Tech is part of the North Carolina Small Business Center Network and offers the following services ranging from courses and advice on marketing, sales and business plans, to technical assistance and business seminars.

The six-story Chesterfield Building was originally built in 1948 and operated as a cigarette manufacturing factory for the Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company. After being vacant for nearly 20 years, Wexford Science + Technology redeveloped the property in 2017.

Other tenants include Duke University, BioLabs NC, Nutanix, and Validic.

“We look forward to bringing our services for corporate clients, students, and entrepreneurs to The Chesterfield and to have the opportunity to forge new and stronger partnerships that support our business community,” Payne said. ”There is so much history and so much potential – and the amazing atrium. We’re excited about our future at The Chesterfield.”

Durham Tech partners with children’s nonprofit, Durham Public Schools to provide free eyeglasses to kids

A child gets fitted for eyeglasses by Durham Tech graduate, now instructor, Lance Reese.

Elyse Yooley remembers what it felt like to wear her first pair of glasses.

“It was like, ‘Whoa, there are actually leaves on those trees,’” she said.

This fall, Yooley will enter her second year of the Opticianry Associate Degree program at Durham Technical Community College.

As a second-year opticianry student, Yooley will join her classmates in participating in Project SIGHT. Project SIGHT is a partnership Durham Tech has with the East Durham Children’s Initiative, or EDCI, and Durham Public Schools to provide children of low-income backgrounds with free eyeglasses.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the outcome of what I will be doing and seeing the kids’ faces when they put on the glasses,” Yooley said. “I want to see the kids’ faces when they see the leaves on the trees.”

The students at Durham Tech select, fit, measure, manufacture, and dispense the eyewear based off prescriptions submitted by area optometry doctors.

“It is gratifying to think we are going to do something that is going to matter a lot in this kid’s life,” said Gerri Clark, a 2018 Durham Tech opticianry graduate. “One of the best things is putting a pair of glasses on a kid, especially when they can’t see.”

The young clients sometimes come to the Durham Tech optical shop for their fittings.

Tracy Bennett, the Director of and Instructor in the Opticianry program, enjoys observing the moment the kids receive their new glasses.

“You will see them look at their parents and see their parents for the first time,” she said. “It’s really heartwarming. It’s those types of things that keep this going. It keeps us wanting to do it.”

Project SIGHT was piloted during the 2017-18 academic year with the initial goal of providing 100 free pairs. That goal was exceeded by 60 pairs.

A full family was among the recipients.

“One of the kids was -19. A -19 prescription is extremely high,” Bennett said. “For that family to afford a new pair of glasses all in the same year is impossible. … You are talking about a $2,000 investment.

We were over the moon that we were able to get them all fitted for glasses.”

Being a former opticianry student, opticianry instructor Lance Reese understands how this type of community outreach can affect the Durham Tech student.

“We teach our students to go out and work in a retail setting,” he said. “This part touches a section of the population that doesn’t necessarily come up to the retail stores or can afford glasses and teaches our students … to just take care of all people who need glasses.

It gets us out of the building and into the community, and anytime, you can get into the community to help people is a good thing.”

Graduates have also returned to assist with the project.

“I think students leave here with a new appreciation for community service and what they can give back through their profession,” Bennett said.

Project SIGHT is primarily funded by the Durham Tech Foundation and private donations.

Local optometry doctors conduct free comprehensive eye exams, while businesses donate frames and lens.

“We try to provide the kids with some good styles, too,” Bennett said. “We are trying to branch out and work with different vendors to get more name-brand styles.”

The program chiefly has served elementary school students but has reached students as old as 14.

Bennett would like the program to grow and reach any student in the Durham Public Schools system that’s in need. She also would like to educate the public about the importance of eye health and comprehensive health exams.

“We want this to be a sustainable thing,” she said. “We want this to be continuous and to expand it. We see so much value in it.”

The Opticianry program also provides free eyeglasses to other organizations such as Samaritan Health Center and Durham Rescue Mission.

“It is gratifying to know that the work we were doing had real-life consequences,” said John, a 2018 Durham Tech opticianry graduate.

Durham Tech offers the only opticianry degree program in North Carolina.

Summer camp keeps local students’ skills sharp during break

Victor Mendoza plays a game with two summer camp students.

Danielle Dourson admits that she would often forget what she had learned during the school year while she was on summer break.

Dourson was one of the Durham Technical Community College students who helped the children of McDougald Terrace keep their math, reading, and science skills sharp this summer during the Summer Fun Camp. The weekly camp began June 25 and ran until Aug. 3.

“We try new things every day depending on their focus that day,” said Dourson, who finished her studies at Durham Tech this summer. “We try to play games with them and then try to make the game into something fun that’s also academic.”

Durham Tech partnered with Durham Housing Authority, Durham County Library, and Book Harvest to present the free camp to the young residents of the housing community.

“Interacting with these campers is very rewarding,” said Patrick Morris, Durham Tech Center for Academic Excellence director. “It’s been fun working with our partners and seeing how Durham Tech can fit in and what needs we can fill.”

The six-week camp was geared towards elementary and middle school students.

Morris along with Durham Tech students Dourson, Victor Mendoza, and Zac Mills had the campers twice a week. Each week’s lessons and activities were based around a central theme.

The first week, for example, was World Records Week.

“One day, we did this measuring activity where they had to find out how tall they were in inches, how tall they were in crayons, how tall they were in all these different types of measurements,” Morris said.

Dourson liked tapping into some of the campers’ competitive nature.

“What I was doing today was having them race to see who could do the multiplication exercises faster, which I did when I was in third grade,” she said.

Dourson, who is now studying communications at NC State University, said she has served as an after-school and camp counselor and one day would like to have a job working with children.

The Durham Tech participants also provided the campers with more traditional camp activities.

During the week in July that was focused around dinosaurs, the elementary and middle school students engaged in an outdoors scavenger hunt. They were given sheets to complete during the hunt; those who finished the sheets could pick out a prize of a plastic dinosaur.

As the hunt roared on outside, Mendoza stood patiently inside with the prize bag. Winners soon trickled in and approached Mendoza, who would then hold the bag open for the kids to reach in and select their reward.

Mendoza, a former elementary school teacher, said developing a connection with the campers took a little bit of time but, after a couple sessions, the connection started growing stronger.

“They are really nice. They are really cool,” Mendoza said as the campers approached him. “They are just high energy but that’s just kids.”

Mendoza and Mills continue to help elementary and middle school students living at McDougald Terrace by tutoring them and helping them with their homework after school.

Danielle Dourson helps a summer camp student with an academic exercise.

Durham Tech, Duke Energy launch new Electrical Line Technician program

Durham Tech President Bill Ingram, Duke Energy District Manager Indira Everett, and Durham Tech Board of Trustees Chairman John Burness ready to cut the ribbon in celebration of the new Electrical Line Technician program at Durham Tech. The program will begin in Spring 2019 in partnership with Duke Energy.

The new Electrical Line Technician program at Durham Technical Community College was officially launched at an event at the College’s Northern Durham Center campus on Tuesday, Aug. 21.

The program was created in partnership with Duke Energy to help fill future regional job openings. A nearly $200,000 Duke Energy grant is funding the program.

“North Carolina will need an estimated 1,400 lineworkers for each year for the next five to six years,” Rufus Jackson, Duke Energy Vice President of Distribution, said during the event. “The need is there.”

The need for additional lineworkers is due in part by a plan to update the electrical grid and current linemen retiring.

“As we work to build an even better grid that is engineered for the future and improves the way we serve customers, our need for skilled lineworkers will be even greater,” said Jackson.

The new Durham Tech program will begin in Spring 2019 at the Northern Durham Center campus. Courses will cover elements of electricity, overhead pole and electrical line construction, safety codes and applications, and transformer/meter installations.

Students will be able to earn certifications in OSHA 10 and CPR and their commercial driver’s license in addition to being prepped to enter the workforce as entry-level technicians. The North Carolina Community College System has approved the program as a pre-apprenticeship program.

Durham Tech President Bill Ingram said partnerships like Duke Energy help meet important community needs and provide a talent pipeline for industry.

“It is partners like Duke Energy that keep our College moving forward and help not only the students who come through our doors but help us meet the needs of our surrounding community,” Ingram said.

Durham Tech was one of two North Carolina community colleges awarded a grant this year to start an Electrical Line Technician program, according to Indira Everett, Duke Energy District Manager.

“I’m delighted to see this wonderful partnership come to fruition,” Everett said at the event. “I applaud the way President Ingram and Durham Tech continue to partner with all the businesses in the community to ensure we all engage in moving the needle for our Durham citizens.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony on the grounds of the Northern Durham Center marked the celebration of the new program Tuesday.

Check presentation at ribbon cutting ceremony on August 21.

New Café at Durham Tech brings fresh approach

Executive Chef Jordan Fulchiero (left) and Shalonda Royster (right) prepare lunch at the Cafe at Durham Tech.

As a new academic year begins this week, Durham Tech students and employees won’t have to look far for a quality meal.

The new Café at Durham Tech offers fresh breakfast and lunch throughout the week under the leadership of Executive Chef and Café General Manager Jordan Fulchiero.

To start off the day, café goers can pick from a selection that includes pancakes, scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, Applewood bacon, sausage, and fresh fruit.

Breakfast prices range from $0.50 to $5.50.

The café offers a spread of lunch options such as fresh salads, Angus beef burgers, Portabella cap mushroom sandwiches, daily chef specials, build-your-own sandwiches, pizza, hot dogs, and soups.

Customers can complement their entrées with such side dishes as tofu fries or onion rings and then satisfy their sweet tooth with options like cookies and blondies. Gluten free alternatives for salads and sandwiches are available.

Most lunch options average between $4.25 and $7.25.

The café reopened in April in the Phail Wynn, Jr. Student Services Center (Building 10) on Main Campus. It is open Mondays through Thursdays from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. with only Grab n’ Go options available on Fridays.

“Durham Tech has done so much for Durham and the surrounding communities, and to be a part of something that contributes to the greater good of the community where I raise my children is a privilege,” she said. “One of my favorite memories from college was meeting up with all of my friends and grabbing lunch. It was a much needed break before classes started again in the afternoon.”

Fulchiero’s personal passion for the environment influenced her approach to Durham Tech’s eatery.

She and her employees support local farmers by purchasing produce from the Durham Farmers Market and working with US Foods to obtain locally sourced produce.

Some of the café’s items such as napkins, boxes, and containers consist of unbleached, compostable, molded wheat fiber paper. The staff also uses non-aerosol sprays.

Orders can be placed in-person or online at!/.

The café also provides catering. For more information, email

For more information on the Café at Durham Tech, visit or find it on Facebook at @CafeAtDurhamTech.

Shalonda Royster