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.”