Category Archives: Spotlight On

From parenthood to Durham Tech, Yun thriving as NC State Goodnight Scholar

By 21, Madeline Yun was the general manager of a Chipotle in Sacramento, California. But she knew she wanted more than burritos and cilantro-lime rice.

“It was a big deal for a 21 year old, but at that point in my life, I knew I could do so much more,” Yun said. “I had the ability. I just needed to be in the right position to get there.”

The change she was searching for came in 2014 when her mother earned a promotion within her company and moved the family to Durham.

That same year, Yun became a new mother.

“After I had my daughter, Cora, I realized I wanted to create a stable life for us,” said Yun, now 25. “I didn’t want to always have to work and barely make ends meet so I decided to go back to school. It was the perfect time because she was so young.”

Yun enrolled at Durham Tech in Fall 2015.

College was a challenge for Yun at first, but it turned around quickly.

“I didn’t know what it was like to be in college because I had never been,” Yun said. “When I first started, I had forgotten how to study and I hadn’t spoken to professors before. I got to dip my toes in and try it all out at Durham Tech.”

As she worked toward an associate’s degree in engineering, she also worked part-time in the computer lab on campus.

Yun says it was challenging as a student parent.

“I struggled with the guilt of putting my daughter in daycare at such a young age,” Yun said. “There were moments where I felt like I was giving up too much precious time with her for a journey that I wasn’t sure would be beneficial for us. Self-doubt and guilt are obstacles I am learning to navigate as a student parent. Looking back, I am so grateful for the family, friends, and teachers in my life that encouraged me to continue.”

Yun graduated from Durham Tech in May 2017 and transferred to North Carolina State University where she is now majoring in Chemical Engineering. She credits Durham Tech for helping her find her career path.

“I didn’t start at Durham Tech thinking I wanted to be an engineer, let alone a chemical engineer,” Yun said. “While taking chemistry, I thought, ‘Wow, this is really cool.’ I like the aspect of being able to use math to describe things in our world.”

Two months before she graduated from Durham Tech, her math instructor, Dr. Margaret Memory, announced the upcoming deadline for NC State’s Goodnight Scholars Program, which is a comprehensive scholarship program that awards full rides to students in STEM fields.

“The program gives you opportunities to be a better leader after you graduate and to pay it forward and serve the community that has done so much for you,” Yun said.

Yun quickly applied and was notified in April that she was a recipient.

“It was one of the best days of my life,” Yun said. “I was on cloud nine. It’s not just a full ride scholarship, it’s people saying, ‘We want to invest in you and we think you’re going to be a future leader,’ and that was a huge confidence booster for me.”

The NC State Goodnight Scholars Program chooses 50 first year recipients and 10 transfer student recipients every year. Yun and Luis Aguilar Angel were both Durham Tech transfer students awarded the scholarship.

“Being a Goodnight Scholar has already impacted my life in enormous ways,” Yun said. “Getting to be in situations where I get to learn from leaders that are out there right now is big. It also gives me an opportunity to be an advocate for transfer students, which I have a real passion for.”

Yun anticipates graduating from NC State in 2020 and wants to gain work experience at a local biomanufacturing company before starting her own company for chemical synthesis and machine learning. She eventually wants to sell that company and possibly venture into politics to become an advocate for education.

“Education gives us an opportunity to rise above our circumstances,” Yun said. “My mom worked so hard in the restaurant industry to support us and give us opportunities and now I’m going to school to be an engineer to give my daughter more opportunities.”

Durham Tech provides Idada-Parker, family ‘opportunity to live American Dream’

Valerie Idada-Parker first met Marilyn Slaughter in a Durham church pew. Idada-Parker had recently voyaged from Nigeria to Durham and was looking to start her new life in the U.S.

It was 1988 and Idada-Parker didn’t know anyone yet in the Triangle. She was expecting her first child and was thinking about her future.

In stepped Slaughter, a fellow parishioner at the church and an executive assistant at Durham Technical Community College, with information about the College’s Single Parent Program.

“I can’t quantify Marilyn’s help in words,” Idada-Parker said. “She not only recommended Durham Tech highly, she made sure that I did not struggle financially. She would always tell me about scholarships in the pipeline and without the Single Parent Program, I don’t think it would’ve been possible for me to go to school.”

The single parent program offsets childcare costs for students that are single parents.

In addition to helping Idada-Parker enroll in the College, Slaughter helped her find a new career. Idada-Parker had received an accounting degree in Nigeria, but she was open to new opportunities.

“Marilyn suggested the nursing program at Durham Tech because I could get a job quickly,” Idada-Parker said. “I got my license in practical nursing in one year and started working immediately. When I realized I liked it and could make it a career, I decided to go back for another year and become a registered nurse.”

Slaughter said the experience changed her own life, too.

“It feels great that I was able to inspire someone,” Slaughter said. “Valerie is a fighter, a go-getter, and so determined. She’s been an inspiration to my family also.”

Despite crossing the world to a new life, Idada-Parker said Durham Tech helped make it a smooth transition.

“Durham Tech was a great foundation for me,” Idada-Parker said. “It helped me coming from another culture to this culture because it was a small community. You meet people in the hallways and cafeteria – it had a real family atmosphere. It was like a cocoon before you’re thrown into the world.”

Idada-Parker also pointed to Dr. Louise Gooche, a former longtime program director and instructor in the Practical Nursing Program at Durham Tech. Idada-Parker said Gooche helped to coordinate child care in the evenings, which was available at neighboring North Carolina Central University.

“Dr. Gooche was very approachable and helped students that had children,” Idada-Parker said. “She connected me to child care at NCCU so that I could take night classes. Times like this made being at a smaller college much easier to navigate.”

By 1994, Idada-Parker earned her License in Practical Nursing and two associate degrees in Liberal Arts and Nursing from Durham Tech. Since she earned her bachelor’s in Nigeria, Idada-Parker was able to transfer directly into the master’s in nursing program at the University of North Carolina. She graduated in 1997 and became a Family Nurse Practitioner.

“Knowledge is never wasted. Even if you never use it, you should always look for ways to get educated,” Idada-Parker said of her advice to future students. “Always look for an opportunity to get knowledge, a certification, or a license. Always look for opportunities to educate yourself.”

Idada-Parker continued her education at UNC and in 2011 earned a post-master’s certificate as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner and in 2014 earned her doctorate in nursing practice. Today, Idada-Parker is a clinical faculty member at the UNC School of Nursing where she supervises clinicals for students in the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners Program. She also is a doctor at Reliable Health Services in Durham, which provides health and wellness care.

Idada-Parker said Durham Tech also has impacted her family’s life. Her daughter, Odinaka, enrolled in the inaugural class of Middle College High School, a magnet school at Durham Tech. By taking college level courses and passing placement tests, she earned her high school diploma in 2007 and her associate’s degree in 2008.

“My daughter told me about Middle College High School at Durham Tech and because I knew how powerful this thing was, I said, ‘We need to do it!’ ” Idada-Parker said. “It was a smaller community, so she didn’t get lost, it kept her on track, and saved her two years of college. It was amazing.”

Her daughter transferred to East Carolina University as a junior and then enrolled in Duke University’s Physician Assistant Program. She is now a Physician Assistant in Raleigh.

When Idada-Parker’s brother, Joseph, came to the U.S. to visit, she encouraged him to obtain a student visa and also enroll at Durham Tech. They sought advice from Patricia Hemingway, an international student counselor, and Joseph later earned an associate’s degree in accounting. He passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant exam immediately after graduating and is now a CPA at Price Waterhouse in California.

“Durham Tech provided us an opportunity to live the American Dream,” Idada-Parker said. “Patricia Hemingway and Marilyn Slaughter were Americans that didn’t know us, but gave us an ear. We came to a foreign country, speaking differently and were accepted as we are. We were provided opportunities to get the same education that other Americans were getting without discrimination.”

Brown credits Durham Tech as catalyst to success, passion for service

When Zamir Brown enrolled at Durham Tech in 2012, he struggled with generalized anxiety, which made it difficult to make connections with his classmates and instructors. He recognized its effects early on and decided to no longer let it hold him back.

“We can craft ourselves to be the person that we want to be and I learned that at Durham Tech,” Brown said. “I had no communication skills. I did not know what it was to be a leader or how to work as a team. But by exposing myself to different opportunities at Durham Tech, I was able to craft myself toward the person I wanted to be.”

Brown got involved on campus to help cope with his anxiety. He started working at the bookstore and student call center in addition to joining the Student Senate, Safety Committee, and Gamma Beta Phi.

“My time at Durham Tech was a springboard,” Brown said. “I still had anxiety, but by volunteering and participating in campus activities, I learned active skills to cope with it. It was not easy. It took time and constant exposure.”

Brown enrolled at the College because it offered the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program (C-STEP), which creates a pathway for students to enroll in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after successfully completing their associate degree at Durham Tech.

“I saw Durham Tech as a good opportunity to get my feet wet and I wanted to have an opportunity to go to UNC,” Brown said. “It really allowed me the opportunity to not be overwhelmed the first two years of undergrad and still learn what study habits are good for me.”

His initial plans were to major in physical therapy, but advice from Mary Marsha Cupitt, former Advising Coordinator in the Arts, Sciences, and University Transfer department at Durham Tech, changed his trajectory.

“She pushed me to do more than I would have otherwise,” Brown said. “She told me there was a track for transferring to UNC for physical therapy, but she wanted me to take the harder classes. She wanted me to do more than just enough and said it was better to set the bar high and be more than qualified than to have exactly what is needed.”

Brown changed his program of study to an Associate in Science on a pre-med track and later earned a bachelor’s in medical anthropology at UNC.

In addition to finding his career path, Brown credits Durham Tech for helping him recognize the importance of service and giving back, a critical part of his life today.

“You have to participate in the community because if you’re able to provide and give back to the community then the community will provide and give back to you. It will serve as a safety net.” Brown said of his advice to future students. “That safety net I started to develop at Durham Tech has really formed my understanding of how things work and how important community is in providing health for populations.”

After graduating from UNC last year, Brown, 24, moved to Kenmore, Washington to attend Bastyr University where he is now pursuing a master’s degree in public health and last month, was notified that he’d be receiving the Les Griffith, ND, Student Award, the highest student award given at Bastyr. After he graduates in 2019, his greatest aspiration is to start or participate in a nonprofit that is dedicated to community building in marginalized communities of color.

“I feel like Durham Tech was the catalyst to a lot of the success I’ve had academically in recent years,” Brown said. “Even getting this award now, shows the seeds I planted when I graduated from Durham Tech have sprouted and begun to forge in a way I wished and hoped they would so many years ago.”

Culinary program brings value as Durham food scene heats up

Culinary students gather around Chef Betty as she teaches them how to make a penguin garnish.

Durham Tech culinary students watched as Chef Betty Redwood carefully pieced together an olive, carrot, mozzarella slice, and toothpick into the shape of a penguin.

It was garnishing day – and students were excited to make their first penguin.

It was the second night in the kitchen for students in the Culinary Arts Career Training Program and Chef Betty’s food art offered a taste of what is to come during the four-month program.

“I love watching the students come in on the first day,” Redwood said. “They’re not always sure where they want to go in culinary, but by the end of the program they know exactly what they want. Like garnishing, not everyone is good with this, but one of them is going to find their niche.”

For Khadijah Anderson, 29, the dream is to open her own Caribbean food truck.

“I’ve always wanted to start my own business and this program will give me the tools I need to build the foundation of my future,” Anderson said. “I want to brush up on my culinary skills, get certified, and learn about sanitation and safety for my business.”

For Joshua Byker, 21, the culinary dream will start in Durham. Byker’s family is opening a new tea house in town and asked him to serve as the manager before he moves to Boston to open his own restaurant.

“I’ve been cooking since I was six years old so this is all I know,” Byker said. “I took cooking too seriously before. It was always just a career, but because of my experience in this program it has become more of a passion. My classmates are great, they’re so positive and we treat each other like family.”

Four days per week, three and half hours per night, students split their time between the classroom and the kitchen. In addition to safety and sanitation, the program provides students with opportunities for culinary training, traveling to local culinary establishments, networking with food service professionals, and attending entrepreneurship seminars.

As Durham’s culinary scene reaches nearly 800 restaurants, the need for the program grows.

“Many hiring managers are not concerned if a student went to an expensive culinary school,” Redwood said. “They are more interested in applicants that have the skills and knowledge to get the job done. This is why a large percentage of our students are working in the industry. We focus on teaching them the same skills needed to get the job. This program makes them employable.”

Shanda Alston, owner of Cake Royalty of Durham, completed the Culinary Arts Career Training Program in Spring 2016.

“Working in a professional kitchen was definitely a highlight of the program,” Alston said. “We worked in teams, which prepared us for the real world of culinary arts in a professional environment.”

Alston has been creating custom cakes since 2013 and credits the program with improving her business.

“The program wasn’t simply focused on culinary techniques,” Alston said. “We also focused on business, such as licensing, marketing, and branding. Even during the program, I found myself reworking my entire business model.”

Though students have different interests within culinary, they agree on one thing: Chef Betty adds a dash of something special to the program.

“Chef Betty is such an inspiration,” Alston said. “She often spoke of her business experiences and gave students important do’s and don’ts of the industry. She is patient, encouraging, and all I could’ve hoped for in an instructor. She definitely knows her way around a professional kitchen.”

Chef Betty has taught the program since February 2010 and loves every minute, she said.

“Most students that come here have a love for culinary and it’s fun to watch it come out of them,” Redwood said. “Some students come back to me and have started businesses, food trucks or catering businesses, which has helped increase Durham’s booming food scene. It’s great to watch them build their own business or get the job they want.”

For more information about the Culinary Arts Career Training Program and other continuing education classes at Durham Tech, click here.

Joshua Byker and Sharonda McNeill work together to create a garnish garden.

 

Durham Tech EMS presents research at national symposium

Leah Tilden, an Emergency Medical Services Extension Coordinator at Durham Tech, served as a principal investigator on a research project on flipping EMS classrooms, which she was invited to present at the 22nd Annual National Association of EMS Educators Symposium in Washington D.C. last month.

Tilden’s poster was one of only 10 chosen nationwide to be presented and was chosen as Best Poster Presentation by the National Association of EMS Educators.

Entitled The Big Flipping Question, Tilden conducted research throughout a semester to find out if students who participate in a flipped classroom model perform better on cognitive exams than those in a traditional lecture-style model.

The flipped classroom model is based on learning the core content outside of the classroom, followed by in-class, application-level activities to reinforce the materials learned. After Tilden collected the data, she partnered with eight other EMS professionals around the country to analyze the data and construct abstracts.

Son’s life-threatening condition leads Fahey to Durham Tech

Two tubes ran from Seamus’ neck and other lines coiled around his tiny infant limbs, circulating blood through an artificial lung and returning it into the 96-hour-old’s bloodstream.

It was 2011 and Molly Fahey and her husband watched their youngest son from the pediatric intensive care unit at Duke Hospital as the newborn battled heart failure.

Fahey, now a respiratory therapy student at Durham Tech, described the time as a whirlwind.

“I never thought something like this would happen,” Fahey said. “But it could happen to anyone. You’re not exempt from it. Having him taught me so much about life, you truly don’t control anything.”

When Seamus was born, he didn’t turn pink like most babies, she said, which meant he wasn’t properly oxygenating.

“The doctors did a quick assessment and immediately bused him from Durham Regional to Duke Hospital without me,” Fahey said. “I didn’t know what was happening.”

Seamus spent four days on a heart and lung bypass machine that oxygenates blood outside of the body when a patient’s heart cannot do it on its own.

“Two days later, his heart function miraculously turned around,” Fahey said. “Which also happened to be on my birthday. It was the best birthday present ever. We don’t know why it happened in the first place or why it turned around. It just did.”

Seamus’ heart transplant packet was prepared, but never filed as his parents breathed a sigh of relief. A respiratory therapist trained to care for babies born with life-threatening cardiac failure sat by Seamus in the ICU.

“I had never heard of a respiratory therapist until my son was born with these complications,” Fahey said. “Before I got pregnant, I was taking preliminary courses at Durham Tech to get into nursing, but after my experience with him, I wanted to narrow my scope and respiratory was a natural path.”

Fahey stayed home with Seamus for a few years, who experienced some stormy after-effects of his condition.

“His first 3-4 years were rough,” Fahey said. “My head didn’t even really come up out of water.”

When Seamus turned 5 years old and entered kindergarten, Fahey returned to school to pursue a Respiratory Therapy degree at Durham Tech.

“I’m kind of glad I didn’t have the respiratory therapy knowledge to begin with because then I would have known how serious it was,” Fahey said. “In a way, ignorance is bliss when your kid is that sick. So now I can look back on it from a more objective viewpoint.”

Last month, Fahey started the pediatrics unit of the program and went to her first clinical rotation where she worked alongside the same team of physicians at Duke Hospital that helped her son years ago.

“You want to maintain professionalism while you’re in a space like that,” Fahey said. “But I couldn’t help but tell the nurse, ‘You helped us when my baby was here.’ It wasn’t about recognition to see if she remembered my baby, I just wanted to be able to tell her, ‘I remember you when you were amazing.’ ”

After Fahey graduates from Durham Tech in May 2018, she wants to gain a few years of experience working with adults. Her ultimate goal is to work in the same pediatric ICU at Duke Hospital where her son was cared for, she said.

“The Respiratory Therapy program has given me a career path,” Fahey said. “It’s interesting that it took this long, but I’m glad I came to it now because when you get older you have a deeper appreciation for finding something meaningful in your life. This will give me an opportunity to help people and do my best to make a difference somewhere.”

Seamus just started the first grade and is a healthy 6-year-old.

“I feel so lucky,” Fahey said. “I get to look at him and think he’s amazing. He has no residual effects — and he gave me my career path.”

Molly Fahey practices on the Drager VN500, a ventilator used in the Neonatal and Pediatric Respiratory Care Class at Durham Tech.

Durham Tech Alumni Spotlight

Carmen Williams ’17
Owner, Blueprint and Ink


Carmen Williams adjusted her mortarboard as she stood along the red velvet ropes that separated her from a growing line of regalia-clad faculty members.

It was still hours from the 2017 Durham Technical Community College Commencement, but Williams was ready. Alone in the line, she thought about her inspiration – Williams’ mother.

“I did it for my mom,” she said.

With her walk across the wood-paneled stage of the Durham Performing Arts Center on May 10, Williams, 38, became the first member of her family to graduate from college.

Her mother, who couldn’t attend commencement, watched at home via Facebook.
Williams earned an Associate in Applied Science in Architectural Technology after initially attending North Carolina A&T State University after high school. During her freshman year, Williams dropped out and moved back home to Durham to help take care of her mother who was recovering from spinal surgery.

While home, Williams lived job-to-job before settling as a Global Administrator at IBM. But the position was a job, not a career, she said, and Williams began looking at Durham Tech programs.

“I took a drafting class in high school and fell in love with architecture,” Williams said. “So I was excited to see that Durham Tech offered an architectural technology program. I read over the course description and it sounded great, so I applied.”

Williams’ father, an electrical engineer at IBM, was excited to hear she was starting this career path.

“I always looked up to my dad growing up,” Williams said. “He was happy to hear I was pursuing architectural technology and it was great to be able to have conversations about design issues.”

While working and attending classes full time, Williams said she was overwhelmed, but persevered. Halfway through the program, her mom had a stroke, which gave Williams new perspective on school.

“I wanted to make my mom proud and I wanted her to see me graduate. I had to hurry and finish school because I didn’t know how much time she had,” Williams said. “I had to finish no matter what it took so I would study for hours and draft for hours. I would come to class early and stay late. It was a difficult time for me, but at no point did I feel like giving up.”

In addition to her mom’s illness, Williams faced financial obstacles as she paid her own way through school.

“It took me three years to complete the program because there were times I couldn’t afford to pay for full-time courses,” Williams said. “Sometimes I paid for school before I bought groceries, but the sacrifice was worth it.”

To relieve the financial stress, Williams applied for the O’Brien/Atkins Associates, PA Architectural Drafting Scholarship from the Durham Tech Foundation.

“I told my instructor I didn’t think I was coming to school that semester because I couldn’t afford it,” Williams said. “A couple days later, I received a letter in the mail from the Durham Tech Foundation that I had been awarded the scholarship. It was a huge help. Had it not been for the scholarship, I was not coming to school that semester.

Standing by her side throughout the program, Williams attributes much of her success to Rick Lawrence, an instructor and director of the Architectural Technology program at Durham Tech.

“He’s just a phenomenal person and teacher,” Williams said. “Sometimes I’d tell Mr. Lawrence that I felt behind in class, but he’d say, ‘I’m not worried about you, you’re going to do great things, just keep at it.’ That was one of the most encouraging things, to have a teacher that knew me as a person.”

Giving back to the Architectural Technology department was a priority, Williams said.

Her dream came true last month when she was offered an adjunct instructor position to teach three courses in the Architectural Technology program at Durham Tech during the fall semester.

“I’m most excited about being able to transition from student to teacher,” Williams said. “Having sat in those same seats, I know how valuable the knowledge is that I will be passing on to students.”

In addition to teaching, Williams started her own business, Blueprint and Ink, a consulting firm that specializes in residential construction and renovations.

“I graduated high school 20 years ago, so you can always finish,” Williams said of her advice to future students. “You can always go back and pursue your dreams. It may not be in the timeline you’ve set for yourself, but it’s always attainable.”

Durham Tech Alumni Spotlight

Lauren Shampine ’07
Occupational Therapist, Heritage Healthcare at Person Memorial Hospital


Lauren Shampine said she was like most high school seniors, excited to go to college and start a new chapter in her young life. But at the end of her freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Shampine felt singled out among her peers who had all chosen majors and career paths. Without one to call her own, she decided to move back home and take classes at Durham Tech.

“Durham Tech changed   everything for me, I fell in love with school again,” Shampine said. “I liked my professors, my classmates, and the campus. I owe this school so much for helping me find my way.”

Shampine pursued an Associate in Arts degree during her two-year tenure and attributed much of her success to the faculty and her academic advisor, Dr. Peter Wooldridge, vice president of Corporate Education and Continuing Education at Durham Tech. She later transferred to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

“I met with Dr. Wooldridge every semester to talk about what classes would be best for other colleges and the best fit for what I wanted to do,” Shampine said. “If I didn’t have an advisor who took the time to pick out the right classes, I might not have gotten into UNC-Charlotte.

Shampine ultimately decided to pursue a career in occupational therapy, a path that was first rooted in a high school experience. During her junior year, her mother was recovering from major surgery and needed around-the-clock care. Shampine and her family stepped up as caretakers, which sparked an interest in healthcare she didn’t know she had.

Occupational therapy was always in the back of her mind, but it wasn’t until her time at Durham Tech that she decided to pursue it as a career.

“I wouldn’t be in the career that I’m in today without Durham Tech,” Shampine said. “It allowed me to have my own timeline to figure out what I wanted to do instead of being forced into something. It took a lot of the pressure off. Universities make you pick a major in your first year or two, but at Durham Tech everyone had their own path.”

After graduating in 2007, Shampine earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at UNC-Charlotte and later earned a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy at New York University.

“Give yourself the time to figure out what you want to do,” Shampine said of her advice to future students. “Don’t let societal pressure make you think you need to know immediately after high school.”

Now 31, Shampine is an Occupational Therapist for Heritage Healthcare and currently contracted with Person Memorial Hospital in Roxboro.

“It took me a few more years to figure out my career path than other people,” Shampine said. “But now I’m set up for the rest of my life.”

Durham Tech Alumni Spotlight

Syreeta Lynn, ’04
Senior Clinical Monitoring Associate, PAREXEL International


When Syreeta Lynn returned to campus as a guest speaker at the 10-year anniversary of the Clinical Trials Research Associate program at Durham Technical Community College, she told a story of struggle and determination.

“I was a single parent to two children, in school full-time, working full-time, and doing field work,” Lynn said. “There were times I didn’t think I was going to make it, but it all worked out in the end. I knew I was where I was supposed to be and doing what I was supposed to be doing.”

Prior to enrolling in the Clinical Trials program in 2001, Lynn was hired for an entry-level call center position at a pharmaceutical research organization. Just two weeks on the job, the supervisor recognized her potential and offered her a promotion as an In-House Clinical Research Associate. The position ensured compliance with FDA protocols during clinical trials and at that time, was typically filled by nurses.

“It was unheard of for someone with only a high school diploma to be offered that position,” Lynn said. “I started doing the work and I absolutely loved it. The first assignment paid $12/hour, but the second assignment paid $25/hour. I remember thinking, I’ve got to do this. I love it, possessed the key skills and personal qualities to be successful, and it’s a great way to make a lucrative living.”

As soon as Lynn started the new position, she began looking for educational opportunities to advance in the industry. She chose Durham Tech because it was the only school in the area that had a two-year program for clinical trials.

“Durham Tech gave me the clinical research foundation that I needed to hit the ground running,” Lynn said. “The Clinical Trials program was a life-changer. Though I was in the industry before I came to Durham Tech, I wouldn’t have been able to sustain a career in the industry without this degree.”

The program required students to do four field work internships to gain experience and Lynn’s third rotation was with PharmaLinkFHI, now Novella Clinical.

“Before I completed the rotation, they called me asking if I’d entertain the idea of permanent, full-time employment,” Lynn said.

Lynn had a full-time job before she graduated from the program and now has 17 years of experience in the industry. She attributes much of her success to Melissa Ockert, the dean and department head of health technologies at Durham Tech. In 2001, Ockert was the program director and taught Introduction to Clinical Trials.

Lynn said she didn’t know what to make of Ockert to start.

“The work she gave us was overwhelming and at times I didn’t think she wanted us to succeed, but it was actually the total opposite,” Lynn said. “Once I was able to sit back, listen and learn, I realized that Melissa was amazing. There was no better person to teach the class, if you didn’t embrace her you were selling yourself short. She knew a lot and she was willing to share what she knew. Melissa was instrumental in my success both in the program and after graduation.”

The road leading up to Lynn’s enrollment at Durham Tech was not an easy one, but she says it made her a stronger person. Originally from Newark, New Jersey, Lynn moved to Durham when she was 10 years old and lived in a housing project with her mother.

“There are very few, if any, people in the projects who are aspiring to new heights in life,” Lynn said. “The struggle motivated me. As a child I couldn’t change my environment, but I knew when I was old enough to change it, I would. Once I had my son, shortly after high school, I kicked it into high gear. I watched my mom struggle all of our lives and I knew that was something I didn’t want for my children.”

Lynn, 42, is now married with four children, four step-children, and working from home as a Senior Clinical Monitoring Associate at PAREXEL International.

“You must have a willingness and a capability to learn to succeed,” Lynn said of her advice to future students. “You can’t be willing, but not be capable or be capable, but not be willing — you must have both.”

Eight years after graduation, Lynn earned a Bachelor of Science in Health Services Administration from Drexel University. Her daughter, 16, is currently enrolled in Middle College High School at Durham Tech, a program that allows high school students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and associate’s degree.

“Without this degree, my life would be a struggle,” Lynn said. “Durham Tech is a hidden treasure and the Clinical Trials program has totally changed my life. For those reasons, I will always be indebted to Durham Tech.”

Incoming Durham Tech student receives Centennial Scholars Award

(L to R) Alexandra Zagbayou - Executive Director, Student U; Holly Guss - College Adviser, Student U; Meg Solera, Co-Chair, Scholarship Committee, Durham Rotary Club; Laura Vasquez, recipient of the Century Scholarship; Blanca Vasquez, Laura’s mother, Dr. Bill Ingram

(Left to Right) Alexandra Zagbayou – Executive Director, Student U; Holly Guss – College Adviser, Student U; Meg Solera, Co-Chair, Scholarship Committee, Durham Rotary Club; Laura Vasquez; Blanca Vasquez, Laura’s mother, Dr. Bill Ingram

Laura Vasquez, recent graduate of Riverside High School and incoming student at Durham Tech, has received the Centennial Scholars Award from The Rotary Club of Durham. Every year the club awards this scholarship to Durham Public School graduates that have achieved academic excellence and need assistance to continue their education.

To be eligible for this scholarship, students must be active participants in Student U, a program that empowers students in Durham Public Schools to own their education by developing the academic skills and personal well-being necessary to succeed in college and beyond.

Vasquez will be attending Durham Tech this fall to study Computer Science. Her sister, Brenda Duran Velazquez, was a recipient of the Centennial Scholars Award last year and also attends Durham Tech.