Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Path to Success

As the 11th of 14 children, Kathy Simmons knows what it’s like to be a part of a close-knit family.

Which is exactly why she has made her way back to Trident Technical College 33 years after graduating in 1985.

Kathy’s path back to TTC began with her desire to fulfill two goals – advance her education and travel – and she figured the best way to accomplish both was through the military.

So Kathy joined the Air Force in 1987, and did indeed accomplish both goals. She received her Bachelor of Arts while stationed in Minot, North Dakota, her Master of Arts from Erskine Theological Seminary and she has completed 60 hours toward a Doctor of Education from Walden University. She saw much of the country and spent time overseas in Korea.

After the military, Kathy found herself back at TTC in the Admissions and Registrar’s office, and it was there she realized she really wanted to stay in education and help students find success. But a wise mentor once told her that in order to advance your career, you have to be willing to relocate. So Kathy took a job at a small college in Orlando as the college registrar, and then onto university registrar at a larger college in Oklahoma.

But Kathy missed her large, extended family back in Charleston, so she and her son moved back in 2016. Not long after, she was hired at TTC as the director of The Hub, a new student success center to help streamline the onboarding process and the path to graduation.

“I always knew I would come back to TTC. It is such a great place to work and The Hub was an excellent opportunity for me to bring my skills back to the college,” says Kathy.

She is very excited for the new opportunities available to TTC students at The Hub. Through the new Navigate software, students, with the help of dedicated Navigators, will be able to explore careers that fit their goals, design an academic plan and build their schedule out in advance, giving them a clear direction and streamlining their college experience.

Kathy says it will save students time and money. “There were so many students that were taking classes they didn’t need or changing majors because they weren’t sure, so Navigate helps students better determine what is right for them from the start.”

Kathy knows how frustrating it can be, as she was once in their shoes. She says, “When I was as a student here, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do either.”

That’s why Kathy is so passionate and dedicated to helping students find their path to success.

“I want students to feel like they, too, are a part of the TTC family. And by sharing my story with them, they can see that starting their journey at TTC can lead to success, just as mine did.”

Click here for more information about The Hub and Navigate program.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Diapers and Degrees: My Quest to Success

Andrea K. Davis
Future Alumni Essay Contest - Runner-up

Have you ever had to change the world’s smelliest diaper right in the middle of an exam for an online class? Well that honor has been bestowed upon me a few times during my time at TTC, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. While motherhood has its own unique challenges, attaining my degree has been a milestone I’ve been actively pursuing since relocating to Charleston. TTC has not only been a financially SMART investment, but has also given me the ability to connect with others in my community.

The quest to my success has not been one of comfort. Being a college student requires your undivided attention. When you’re taking multiple classes, it is not uncommon for deadlines to sneak up on you. Although working ahead in classes where I am able has been somewhat of a lifesaver, unfortunately that option isn’t available for all of my classes, so I have to do my best to stay on top of each assignment. The real challenge of this strategy is combining completing schoolwork with the never-ending demands of motherhood. Not only does my one year old require my exclusive attention, but I also have an eight year old son on the autistic spectrum whose favorite phrase to me as he plays his games is “hey, look at this” every five minutes. If college doesn’t work out for me, I may have a promising future in the circus because this is the ultimate juggling act.

In pursuit of my degree, I’d rather not be so broke that our family meals consist of ramen noodles, bread and water. As much as it is important for me to pursue higher learning, I also have a responsibility to make sure my household is in a good financial state. While attending TTC, I have not placed myself in financial ruin and I feel like I am receiving a quality education from knowledgeable professors. My decision to continue my education was not solely based on finances. I’ve also gotten the opportunity to invest in my community. I’ve always had a passion for writing. Unfortunately, I was not motivated to pursue this ability to its fullest potential for a long time. Trident Technical College has not only given me a platform to share my passion for writing and highlighting important issues in my community, but I’ve gained a job doing so as an editor for the Trident Times. This connection with the campus has given me ties to the community and I am now able to share events and views that our students and community find important.

While receiving a quality education at an affordable price is great, the real reward comes when you can pass on knowledge and opportunity to others. One of my goals after leaving college is to continue my work with the community and inspire others to pursue higher learning as well. For example, I am currently a volunteer at a grassroots organization in Charleston called Girls Rock Charleston, where we use music and creative arts as a vehicle for social change while building confidence and power among system involved girls. This is the only organization that serves as an alternative to incarceration in South Carolina and many are not aware of that. As a volunteer, I am appealing to young girls who may not have thought college was an option for them. They now have an example in me of what they can achieve at TTC.

While changing dirty diapers and taking exams for online classes may not seem like an ideal way to spend a day, I would not have it any other way. In pursuit of my degree and living my life as a mother, I have been taught that you don’t have to sacrifice financial freedom for education. You can make a SMART investment in yourself, your family and community. You can also help perpetuate success in the future when you choose to attend TTC. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

From Food Stamps to Financial Stability

Meagan Hayes made the decision to go back to school after a string of bad days at her waitressing job. It was the off-season, business was slow, tips were bad and she was picking up evening and overnight shifts just to make ends meet. This meant she could not be home with her 4-year old son to make him dinner, bathe him, read to him and tuck him in.

“I just decided I had had enough. I didn’t want to raise my son the way I was raised: with a mom who was working two jobs to keep a roof over our heads and barely home,” she says.

Going back to college was always a dream for Meagan, but the thought of it was overwhelming. As an addict four years into recovery and a single, working mom, her days were challenging enough. Trying to find a way to pay for school, jumping through hoops to get enrolled, changing her work schedule to attend classes was daunting and scary.

But she was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was and a few days later, after buying her books, wearing her diner uniform, she stood in the parking lot of TTC’s Palmer Campus and snapped a selfie.

“I knew it was a life-changing day that I would want to remember forever,” says Meagan.

Meagan is working on getting her degree in human services with a focus on addiction, and wants to put her education and experience to good use by helping others turn their lives around. She wants to empower them to be a contributor - not a strain - on the community.

“I will be going from a single parent on food stamps that works at Waffle House to a financially stable member of society, and I want to help others do the same,” she says.

Meagan procured a criminal record in her wayward years and knows that finding gainful employment as a convicted felon is challenging, a problem many addicts face.

“They get to the point where they want to turn their life around and do the right thing, but can’t find a job. As a result, they return to criminal behavior and eventually end up in jail,” she adds.

Meagan is already making an impact. Taking classes at TTC has given her an enormous sense of accomplishment and she has already inspired others in her life to make similar changes. She told her story through the 2017 Future Alumni Essay Contest and was chosen as a runner-up in the contest. She hopes that others who read it will be encouraged to make changes of their own.

“Who can better inspire an addict struggling with the choice of life or death then a person who chose a better life? I am a person that was in the trenches of addiction and lost everything. I know how hopeless and impossible it can seem. Thankfully, I persevered and now I am living proof that a better life is possible through education.”

Thursday, March 29, 2018

From TTC to MIT

You could say that Trident Technical College alum Tom Pinckney started attending college when he was about 10 years old. He would often go to work with his dad, who taught accounting at TTC, so that he could get access to the computers.

“I really liked playing around with computers, mostly games, but it was the beginning for me,” says Tom.

As he got older, he started sitting in on some of the computer programming classes and completing assignments from the classes, like writing programs to do payroll and other business tasks. He eventually decided he would just take all of his classes at Trident Tech, as opposed to traditional high school. He went on to take classes at the College of Charleston and then graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for undergrad and grad school.

“I like to tell people that Trident Tech taught me all of the practical things about programming and MIT taught me all the theoretical things, so between the two I was covered,” he laughs.

Tom is Senior Director of Engineering at eBay. He manages teams that build the company’s search, recommendations and computer vision products - 200 people across locations in San Jose, New York, Shanghai, Tel Aviv and Berlin. In 2008, he decided he wanted to give back to TTC and started a scholarship for programming students called the Top Programmer Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded to one student each year who is majoring in computer programming and has received an A in two key programming classes.

“I really just wanted to help other people to develop programming skills with either a first career or perhaps a new mid-life career,” he says.

This year’s recipient of the Top Programmer scholarship is 56-year old Sherri Broyles, who is returning to school to pursue her degree in computer programming to help her in her accounting job. Like Tom, she wanted to learn how to write programs that will automate many of things she does in her job.

She says, ”Automation will help me provide support to my clients, many of whom are small business owners here in the Charleston area."

Eight TTC students have received the Top Programmer Scholarship since Tom started it in 2008, and he hopes that many more will be able to benefit from it.

He says, “When I receive a thank you letter from a scholarship recipient, it makes me feel as if I am truly making an impact. I am grateful for the education I received at Trident Tech and feel very fortunate that I can help others do the same.”

To learn more about TTC Foundation scholarships, click here.

Innovation Rewarded

Skip Godow 
Skip Godow spent much of his career in higher education encouraging others to never be satisfied with the current state of affairs, no matter how good it is.

"Good is the enemy of great and we should always be striving for great," says Skip. "That takes creativity, imagination and innovation."

This is why he started the SKIPs (Strategy + Knowledge = Innovation Prize) at Trident Technical College in 2013. He wanted to help create a culture of innovation by rewarding those that make exceptional contributions in order to transform the student experience or improve on the administrative process.

When Skip was the VP of Continuing Education at TTC, there was an "Innovator of the Month" award, which empowered employees to look at innovation as part of their jobs.

"It was amazing to see how many people in the division came up with (and implemented) new ideas," he says. "Instead of thinking that we had to do things the way we always did them, we had everyone looking to find better ways."

This year's SKIP winners, which were announced last week, exemplify the kind of innovation that Skip envisioned.

Teresa Coke (left) and Dawn Higdon
Dawn Higdon and Teresa Coke in TTC's Web Services department won in the non-instructional category for the TTC Scholarship Essay Module. The project involved developing and building a scholarship essay module which allows students to submit their essays electronically. They are then saved and assigned to evaluators who read and score them - all within the security of the college's intranet.

Keith Rumrill, director of development, manages the scholarship process and says that the new module has already saved countless hours of manpower. 

"This year over 400 essays were submitted, and each one needs to be read and scored by three different people. Having a central point of access for students, evaluators and administrators reduces the time required to manage the essay portion of the application and selection process," he says.

In the instructional category, Anderson Jackson, Carter "Lee" Burns and Laurie Boeding from Information Systems won for the IST 290 Problem Solving Internship.

Anderson Jackson (left), Laurie Boeding and Lee Burns
The team developed a new curriculum for IS students to solve a real-world Information Technology problem. Working with Roper St. Francis Innovation Center, a class of programming students was tasked with coming up with a viable solution to a complex problem for the scheduling of in-patient physical therapy. Students in the course investigated the information technology problem, dissected it, worked with customers and then provided a practical solution to the problem.

According to Dr. Laurie Boeding, dean of Business Technology, the members of the Innovation Center were so impressed that they agreed to continue an ongoing relationship for additional process improvement opportunities for future classes.

"We are hoping to begin another class to help the Clinical Biotechnology Research Institute (at Roper St. Francis) to modernize their Alzheimer's patient data," she says.

Skip was very pleased with this year's winners and was elated to hand each team a check from TTC Foundation for $1,000 and each member a hand-sculpted trophy.

"Trident Tech is truly committed to giving access to higher education, and the faculty and staff there are passionate about their students," he says. "This is just one small step to reward them for exceptional work." 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Beaux Jardins

Marie Arnaud, right, of the Charleston chapter of the French
Alliance, congratulates Eleis Lester on her selection for the
horticultural internship in Paris.
Eleis Lester, a horticulture student at Trident Technical College, has been selected for a gardening internship this summer in Paris at the Garden of Bagatelle, an 18th-century landscaped park and chateau.

Eleis is the fourth TTC student to participate in the internship sponsored by Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and the French Heritage Society in Paris. The local program, established in 2011, also receives support from the Alliance Française de Charleston.

She said Magnolia and the Alliance Française “together have created one of the most unique learning experience in our region, and I am delighted to represent Charleston in France this summer. The best learning happens in new places with new people. I can’t wait!”

Eleis earned a double degree in the history of mathematics and science and ancient Greek and French in 2000 at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md. The internship at Bagatelle, Eleis said, will give her an opportunity “to combine a life-long intuitive love of plants with a mathematical understanding of their behavior and preferences.”

Tony Bertauski, Horticulture Program coordinator at Trident, gave Lester high marks, calling her desire to learn “second to none.” Outside of the classroom, Tony said Eleis volunteers at Hampton Park and participates in the Lowcountry Native Plant Society.
The Garden of Bagatelle

Eleis is no stranger to programs offered by Magnolia to assist student who are interested in horticulture. She also received the Archibald Grimke' Scholarship from the Magnolia Foundation last year. The TTC Foundation scholarship is named for 19th century attorney, journalist and diplomat Archibald Grimké. Born into slavery in 1849 on a Lowcountry rice plantation, Grimké was one of the first black students enrolled in the Harvard Law School. He was a cousin of the Rev. John Grimké Drayton, who in 1870 opened Magnolia's gardens as Charleston's first tourist attraction.
When Eleis was selected for the Grimké scholarship, she said, it will “allow me to enroll in classes that I could not otherwise afford as well as purchase important books and resources that will be vital to my career. Upon graduating, I hope to work in the public sector, helping municipalities design and maintain public spaces with a focus on native plants and sustainable practices."

Eleis is scheduled to graduate this spring.

Other TTC students selected for the internship are: Kathrine Reeves White, 2011; John W. Odom III, 2015 and Ashley Wiggins, 2017.

A Night to Remember

As Belinda Sherman stood alongside her Culinary Institute of Charleston classmates and took her bows at Trident Technical College’s annual fundraising gala A Night in the Valley, it hit her that she was finally doing something she felt good about.

 "I think it was the culmination of so many changes in my life and so many new emotions,” says Belinda. “I almost had to pinch myself to believe that I was living in this beautiful, amazing moment."

Belinda is a mother of three, two of which are in college as well – one at USC, Aiken Campus and the other right here with her at TridentTechnical College in the pre-nursing program. As a first-generation college student, this makes her extremely proud.

"I was determined to raise my kids to believe they can accomplish anything and they were most definitely going to be something. Unfortunately, I was not encouraged and was told that I would never amount to anything. "

But it's even worse than that.

Belinda was sexually abused as a child by family members and told it was her fault. She fought depression for many years and acted out, getting into trouble just to get attention. After years of therapy, she finally turned a corner. 

"I read this quote once and it stuck with me: ‘Unforgiveness is choosing to stay trapped in a jail cell of bitterness, serving time for someone else’s crime (Anonymous).’ It helped me realize that I would never get over what happened unless I could forgive,” says Belinda.

Belinda knew she still had more work to do. She was living in government housing and receiving assistance to make ends meet. She always put her children’s needs in front of her own, so after they graduated high school and started college, she decided that she, too, would further her education.

“I want my children to know that government assistance is there to help when you need it, but it should be used as a stepping stone, not a way of life,” she says.

When she decided to go back to school, there was no question what she wanted to do. She always loved to cook, so she enrolled at The Culinary Institute of Charleston.

“I started cooking full meals for my family at the age of eight to help my mom out,” she says. “As I got older, I made certain to expose myself and my children to different foods from other cultures.”

Although she was working full-time while taking classes, it was still tough to make ends meet. This year, she received the Kiawah Island Golf Resort Culinary Scholarship through the TTC Foundation, which helped tremendously, in more ways than one.

“Receiving the scholarship has helped us financially, but it also has given me a huge boost of confidence. Nobody ever believed in me before. I want to make my children and myself proud, but also the folks whose compassion made this possible,” she says.

That is one of the reasons why A Night in the Valley had such a profound affect on her. 

“We were all working so hard as a team and I wanted the event to be an amazing experience for the people who give so much to the college,” she says.

The event hosted 600 friends of the college and raised more than $540,000 for scholarships and other programs. Belinda says that gaining real-world knowledge and skills alongside her chef instructors was the pinnacle of the event for her.

“They care so much and it comes across in everything they do, every step of the way. Nobody has ever wanted to see me succeed as much as my instructors do,“ she beams.  

“This experience will stay with me forever.”

Belinda is one of the students featured in the highlight video from the event. Click here to watch.

Check out photos from the event at A Night in the Valley's Facebook photo album