Thursday, December 13, 2018

Trident Technical College: More than Meets the Eye

Brittany Person
Future Alumni Essay Contest
2018 Winner

In the year 2018, one is told he/she can achieve anything. Inspirational conferences with high-profile guest speakers pose the questions, “Do you want to change your situation?” “Do you desire to change your career?” “Do you want to better your life?” They follow up with a resounding, “You have the ability to change it!” “The sky is the limit!” “The only one stopping you, is you!”

Going back to school can be daunting. While the above optimistic outlook may ring true for those with unlimited time and resources, some are in need of additional support. For individuals like me, the vision is there but the details are often blurry due to one circumstance or another. My particular challenge is balancing school with a full-time job with unconventional 14-hour work days.

However, after attending Trident Technical College, I have learned first-hand what it means to be a part of an academic community that is determined to help you succeed. Whether you are the stay-at-home parent or the parent that runs his/her own business from home; whether you are a current high school student seeking college credit, or the non-traditional student going back to school for an additional degree, Trident Technical College is more than meets the eye, helping dreams become a reality one opportunity at a time.

As a former Special Education Teacher, I met the academic and social needs of kindergarten through sixth grade students at underserved schools in Charleston County. Being exposed to the unexpected medical needs of my students motivated me to join Charleston County Emergency Medical Services as an EMT. As an EMT, I provide pre-hospital medical care for the very community in which I live. Emergencies include anything from car accidents to severe allergic reactions. While intense traumas get my adrenaline pumping, my passion is for respiratory emergencies. As for the next leg of my educational journey, I am going to further my education in the field of Respiratory Therapy. In this area of medicine, I will meet the ever-growing need of respiratory related health issues that affect my community, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic bronchitis and so much more. Though challenging, I know with the help of Trident Technical College, I will earn a second degree and live out my passion.

Trident Technical College does more than just educate students, it affects change in the community by producing leaders and skilled workers. Through their Emergency Medical Technician Program, for example, Trident Technical College provides the hands-on training and the life-saving techniques necessary to truly make a difference. These procedures include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), administering intravenous fluids and treating life-threatening injuries, just to name a few. As a First Responder, I have the unique privilege to do life with the very people I serve. Every day I anticipate meeting the medical needs of the citizens of Charleston County. What’s more, Trident Technical College allows me to go to school while I work thanks to the flexible programs. It means so much that I do not have to sacrifice the job that I love in order to further my career. When I am finished with my program, Trident Technical College will have helped me earn another degree that further extends my reach into the medical community and will ultimately save lives.

Trident Technical College is able to provide the push a student needs to change the trajectory of their future. The College offers a variety of diplomas, associate degree programs, program certificates and continuing education opportunities. Students exit confidently with the credentials to secure jobs that are in high-demand within our community. Trident Technical College is competitive, yet has relationships with larger universities which allow academic credits to transfer with ease. For convenience, classes are offered at multiple campuses ranging from Berkeley County, St. George, North Charleston, Downtown Charleston, Mount Pleasant, West Ashley and St Paul’s Parish. Instruction comes in a variety of forms including in the classroom, distance learning and hybrid formats. Professors make themselves available to students via email, telephone, as well as during office hours. Career counseling, instructional tutoring, testing centers and disability support services are all available free of charge. Financial assistance is available to students through loans with flexible payment plans, as well as scholarships and work-study programs. I never would have thought going back to school could be affordable and convenient. I have personally taken advantage of many of these opportunities including the hybrid classes, multiple campus locations, one-on-one time with instructors, and the use of testing centers.

In short, for those who need more than just the notion that the unimaginable is achievable, Trident Technical College offers the community resources and the support system needed to achieve one’s wildest dreams.

It is the year 2018 and you can dream big, knowing that you can achieve anything. With the help of Trident Technical College, you can watch all your dreams come to fruition.

Climbing the Mountain We Call “Life”

Darren Gilbert
Future Alumni Essay Contest
2018 Runner-up

Years of hard work, education, dedication and savings landed me in Mount Pleasant with my own restaurant about 16 years ago. My son was four years old at the time and my wife worked with me. Life was grand and all was well. 

Then, after four years in operation, road construction blocked off the entrance to my restaurant and I was forced into bankruptcy. Devastated and depressed, I trudged forward trying to recover my losses. After six more years of working at various capacities I finally landed a great job on Hilton Head and was next in line to be promoted to Executive Chef with a fully paid transfer to another property in another state. I was on my way to redemption when misfortune struck again. 

I injured my spine and spent the next three years getting surgeries, going through rehab and wondering if this was all life had left to offer. The loss of ability to work combined with severe depression cost me my house, 2 cars and eventually my marriage of 18 years. The crippling depression that followed required medical attention. The following two years were filled with experimentation with various depression medications. Full comprehension of the warning labels became clear when I decided I had enough and drove my car into a tree but I only suffered a cut elbow from the glass that broke when my car rolled.

Once I was off all the dangerous medication and back to reality, I reluctantly decided to look into the possibility of a new career in an attempt to get out of the hole I was in. Social Security Disability Services directed me to Vocational Rehabilitation but after 6 months of going back and forth with them, they decided they couldn’t help and terminated our relationship. My counselor’s last words were “Have you looked into Trident Tech?”

I knew of the college because I hear it discussed everywhere I go and my son was enrolled there, fresh out of high school, for the manufacturing certificate. Trident’s willingness to create courses that meet the needs of the community is apparent with several certificates and programs being offered which allow students a fast track to employment with area businesses. These are top companies who hire thousands of workers with great starting pay and job security. Without a college so connected to the community, these businesses would surely have gone elsewhere so Trident Tech is clearly a major part of the community it serves. My son was excelling in his courses due to the top notch and dedicated instructors so I decided to drive over and speak with someone in admissions to see what might work for me.

Always greeted with a smile and an open door, I was delighted to meet such a wonderful group of people. Before I even enrolled, I was offered free counseling services and tests to figure out what profession would be best given my disabilities. From choosing a career that would work for me to walking me through the financial aid process and registering for classes, I was lead and encouraged every step of the way.

In the two short months I’ve been here, I have met some fascinating instructors and staff who have taken a sincere interest in my future. The instructor of my very first computer programming class, Mr. Brady, went out of his way to stress the importance of community support in finding employment here in the Low Country. He is tied in with and active in several local groups throughout the community. During nearly every class, he urges students to join IT clubs and attend meetups in an effort to help jump-start our careers and make connections with the people who matter. There is even a student IT club with meeting times worked into the class schedule. This is where I was able to meet the majority of the IT faculty who all had my best interests at heart. They too stressed the importance of being connected to the community, eagerly answered all questions in depth and voiced an open door policy should I need any help as I progress. From planning my next classes to providing online links for the local meetup groups, they have helped more than I could have possibly imagined. Even with their busy schedules, they find time to promptly reply to my emails. Responses are professional with confident and experienced tones that always provide the help I need. I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am to have found my way into this organization with all these wonderful people. I feel like I’ve already “won”, yet I’ve only just begun. I can’t wait to see what the next term brings!

As a 47 year old disabled chef, I feel like Trident Tech has become my savior and my last shot at restoring my life. This is the fourth college I have been enrolled at over the course of my life but it is by far the most connected to the community it serves. I’ll be eternally grateful for being a part of the community that’s intertwined with Trident Tech!

TTC: A College that is Truly So Much More

Anna Adamian
Future Alumni Essay Contest
2018 Runner-up

It started out as a pipe dream, a longing that I never thought I would ever be able to accomplish, let alone attempt. I had very little money, I did not own my own vehicle, and I had an overwhelming fear of failure and the unknown.

Since I was a child, I had dreamed of going to college, yet I always pictured myself strolling down the halls of an ivy league school touting a prominent degree. After graduation from high school, this dream unfortunately, faded into the oblivion as a series of extremely personal tragedies encompassed my life and I wrestled with the thought of graduating from college with a magnanimous debt…something I had vowed not to do. 

After five long years of inactivity, a former graduate suggested that I attend Trident Technical College. At first, I declined the suggestion because it directly conflicted with the scope of my lifelong dream but after several months of contemplation, I decided to give my silent dream its own fighting chance. 

I remember a sense of uncertainty engulfing my soul as I arrived at Trident for the first day of class and stared at a campus I was beholding for the first time in my life. I remember feeling the same ardent fear that had prohibited me from attending college for all those years but then I also remember feeling a small whispering courage taking root and propelling my feet to walk to my class in building 500, room 131, where my life changed forever. 

I quickly learned that Trident Technical College is so much more than a public place for the masses to obtain a degree, it is a force for change and a positive influence on our society. At Trident Technical College one does not need to feel embarrassed for starting college late because Trident has proven itself to be a place that welcomes anyone from any race and sets us all on a new path towards success and service.

To me, Trident is a prominent school because it goes beyond merely delivering diplomas and seeks to give each and every student an education heavily steeped in life’s most valuable lessons. From the syllabi to the various class schedules, Trident promotes time-management, communication, and self-discipline; three of most critical tools needed to be successful in any atmosphere. Trident also defies the general opinion that students need a big-name degree from a big-named school in order to have a successful career and replaces that mentality with the true mindset that any person who is willing to apply themselves can achieve the equal status of success. Trident’s open embrace of equality and dedication to the success of each student has kept me at Trident for as long I can attend. 

Technically, I was eligible to graduate this summer and was contacted by many colleges such as the Citadel and Cornell College seeking my early transfer, but I opted to stay at Trident for another year because Trident has become so much more than just a place for me to get my degree. Trident has become a place in which I feel that with every passing semester I am building critical skills that I will then be able to translate to my future career in the business world.

Trident has also set an outstanding example in giving back to the community and encouraging its student body to be involved in something greater than themselves. All across Trident’s campuses a spirit of care, concern, and compassion permeates the atmosphere as instructors and faculty members encourage students to take initiative in humanitarian roles that are important to them. Many students, including myself, have responded to this call and formed groups that have made a tremendous impact on our surrounding community. 

Take for instance the impact made in our community when the Phi Theta Kappa honor society founded an initiative that supplies food to our less fortunate students on campus. This gracious deed was then followed by the International Club, a club that devoted time and skill to help raise money and supplies for Puerto Rico after the Island was nearly decimated by a powerful hurricane. To list all the positive and impactful programs Trident is involved in would be too long for the scope of this essay, but I can attest to the fact that Trident’s desire to serve their community eclipses any goal of personal advancement.

To conclude this essay, I want to share a few personal experiences I have witnessed every time I share with someone that I am attending Trident Tech. Recently, I was at an event that hosted the Mayor of Summerville, Wiley Johnson. As we chatted, he asked me where I was attending school and when I replied Trident Tech, he said “Oh, that’s a very smart choice”. I also happened to speak recently with an agent from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division who asked where I was attending school, when I told him I go to Trident Tech he replied, “Oh, that’s a very smart choice”. Recently, I was also speaking to a friend, who I deeply admire and respect, about her career as business woman and entrepreneur. She recounted how she went to a prominent school and obtained a pricy degree but as we talked, she told me something I will never forget, she said, “Anna, if I could do it all over, I would go to Trident and get my degree from them”. When I asked why, she said, “Because it is a really smart choice”. 

To me, those three quotes sum up my experience at Trident Tech. Yes, Trident Tech is a smart choice for anyone looking to obtain a degree, but the real reason why Trident is such a good choice is because Trident dares to go beyond merely delivering diplomas and seeks to impart valuable lessons that will transform their alumni into compassionate citizens and powerful leaders.

A Different Plan

Ebony Scott
Future Alumni Essay Contest
2018 Runner-up

Life has a way of changing the course of your life without consulting you first. My dreams were always to grow up, go to college, get a job, and live a happy life. My life took a slightly different course forcing me to appreciate the things that were not a part of the "grand idea."

Attending Trident Technical College means so much more than getting a degree for me because for me Trident Technical College is God's plan. When I say God's plan, I mean that I applied and was accepted into the Nursing program twice, but God had other plans for me. My life has never been easy and at times, I sometimes find myself questioning God and his plan for me. I speak to him and ask God, "how is this my life?"

At the age of 20, I gave birth to a son who was later diagnosed with Autism. I buried my older Brother at the age of 26 due to a massive heart attack and buried my Mom at 27 due to multiple illnesses. At 30, I relocated to Charleston where I had no relatives. After being accepted into the Nursing program, I gave birth to a daughter diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease and Vaginal Atresia at the age of 33. These life events were the catapult and driving force behind my desire to become a Nurse. There was no other path for my future because I always wanted to be a Nurse ever since I was a child. I always had a desire to help people and since I've always cared for loved ones, there was no other choice but to become a Nurse. Major events in my life forced me to make some changes and change my life course.

Trident Technical College has been a major factor in my life. For me, Trident Technical College is not just a college, Trident Technical College is an obtainable dream; an obtainable dream that I am able to make fit into my everyday life. Since I was unable to start the Nursing program due to the needs of my children, I re-evaluated my life and looked at the skills that I possessed. I realized that I have always been good with money and had to figure out how to use my talent to make more money and provide a way for my family. I reviewed my transcript and looked at the courses offered by Trident Technical College. I realized that I could obtain an Accounting degree online within two years without having to quit my job since I am the sole provider for my family. The college campus is about ten minutes from my home, making it very accessible and easy to get to when I must take a test. Due to my work schedule and caring for my children, I am able to take classes online and complete my assignments once my children go to bed. When things get challenging, my Advisor seems to know when to check in with me to see if there is anything that she/he can do to assist me. Being a single parent, I am able to afford the tuition for Trident Technical College which lightens my stress level as I work towards a degree in Accounting.

Sometimes you need a village, you just have no idea how your village will look. My Grandmother once said "it takes a village to raise a child." I think that the saying goes beyond that. I feel that it takes a village just to navigate everyday life. Through all my hardships there has been many successes that I feel were meant to happen, I just didn't understand why. Trident Technical College is here within the community to help others obtain dreams that may seem out of reach. I was so determined to be a Nurse and when Nursing was no longer in the cards for me, Trident Technical College was still there offering me an opportunity. Not just an opportunity, but easier plan of action. By attending Trident Technical College, I have learned that anything is possible. I have had moments when I stressed over a test that I was worried about only to find out that I passed the test. My time at Trident Technical College has inspired me to be an inspiration to others. I work with several other single mothers and with my own experiences and the triumphs, I try to inspire them. I explain to them that although my plans changed, Trident Technical College was still able to offer me a chance at a future. With the help of close friends, hard work, determination, and patience, I bought my first home this year. I planned my very first vision board party scheduled for December to inspire young women to outline their future hopes and dreams with a plan of action. A plan of that takes a look at your dreams and allows you to determine the keys to making that dream a reality. I plan on giving my own testimony and inspiring others the way that Trident Technical College and friends have inspired me.

The Remaking of Life

Erin Brown
Future Alumni Essay Contest
2018 Runner-up

In her book, Epilogue: A Memoir, Anne Roiphe writes, “Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.” I’ve experienced great loss several times throughout my life. But the second part of grief, the remaking of life, has always alluded me. That is, until last year. This Fall I enrolled at Trident Technical College. And with that step, I began my journey into renewed life and a newfound hope.

Five years ago, my world fell apart. I had just given birth to my second child when my 3-year-old son, Miles, was rushed to the emergency room. He’d been sick for a few days. We weren’t too concerned though because a bug was going around his pre-school, and his symptoms were similar to those of his classmates. But when he began acting disoriented, we decided to take him to an urgent care center. From there he was sent to the ER for observation. While we were waiting for the doctor to come in, Miles had a grand mal seizure in my arms and became unconscious. We later found out that he had contracted bacterial meningitis. After a month in the hospital and another month of in-patient rehab, Miles came back home. He had been brought back from the brink of death, and I was eternally thankful. The meningitis, however, left him with moderate brain damage.

At home, we started on the long road of recovery and rehabilitation. I stopped work in order to care for Miles full-time. The meningitis left him with complications that required frequent hospitalizations, and with all the doctor appointments, therapies, and new challenges, we were kept very busy. I saw Miles take great strides in his occupational, physical, and speech therapies. He had many victories and setbacks, but faced them all with a courage and determination that inspired me. Every hospitalization seemed like it put him back at square one, but he never gave up. He kept at it with unwavering enthusiasm. It filled me with hope and joy to see him conquer new challenges with each therapy session.

Then the unthinkable happened. In December, two days before Christmas, Miles passed away. He’d had a brain hemorrhage. He was seven years old. It was a shock. He struggled with health complications from the meningitis, but no one, not even the doctors and specialists, expected this. Five years earlier, I felt as if my world had fallen apart. Now it had disappeared entirely. All the work, all of Miles’ determination, enthusiasm, setbacks, victories, they all seemed meaningless. When Miles died, all my hope died with him.

While it’s true there’s no real closure to grief and the pain never fully goes away, I’ve learned through counseling that by leaning into the grief and not running away from it, there can be a kind of peace.  Slowly, light crept back into my soul. The light revealed that, even if broken, the shards of my world were still there. They just needed to be put back together again. And in order to find the relief of peace that I so desperately longed for, I needed to work on doing just that. But How? Where do I even start?

In May I received a letter from the organ donation organization. It said that because of Miles’ liver and kidney donation, another little boy now has a new hope for life. It occurred to me that even though Miles is no longer on this earth, his life is still giving life. It’s still giving hope. This realization mobilized me. For the first time since Miles’ passing, I felt hope. If in some small way Miles’ life was being carried on, why am I not living my own?

But how I do I start? I knew I wanted to somehow help people with the challenges of living with special needs, to be by their side so they wouldn’t have to face it alone. I witnessed first-hand how crucial it is to have talented therapists walking along side of you. Therapy was a life-line not only for Miles, but also for me as his mom and caretaker. I wished I had the background to work in some in some kind of rehabilitative service, occupational therapy in particular. I have a degree in communication, but nothing that would qualify me for doing something like that. Going back to school was out of the question. As a fulltime caretaker for a special needs child, I had been out of the workforce for over five years. My finances were strapped. I also didn’t want a crazy schedule to keep me from being with my youngest son. Other than that, I didn’t know if I had what it took to go back to school. I hadn’t taken a college class in nearly 18 years!

Flipping through a TTC catalog, I noticed their Occupational Therapy Assistant Program. After doing a little research, I found that tuition was much less than I had thought, only a fraction of what I paid for my previous college courses. The schedule wasn’t really an obstacle either. The seven-week length courses with several different time options were perfect for my priority of spending time with my son. It sounded great. I just didn’t know if I could do it.

The Friday before Fall classes were to begin, I finally mustered up the courage to see a TTC advisor. He was able to meet with me that day and worked with me until we found a course schedule that fit my needs perfectly. My instructors are excellent too, especially my Anatomy and Physiology professor. He did whatever it took to help me understand the material to enable me to succeed. My confidence and determination has more than tripled.

Now it fills me with hope and joy every time I conquer new challenges with each class session. Along with Miles, Trident Tech has given me the courage to begin the remaking of life.

Monday, December 10, 2018

A Life-changing Experience

Getting through the Trident Technical College nursing program was tough, but nothing could have prepared Sarah Smitley for what she saw when she and her classmates arrived at a makeshift medical clinic in Misindi, Uganda.

There were hundreds of people waiting in line for medical treatment and some of them, she learned later, had been waiting for several days.

"As we got out of the van, they cheered and clapped, as if we were celebrities," she said.

But Sarah didn't feel like a celebrity. She was nervous and not sure if she had the skills needed to help so many people. But a few days later, as she stood on a dirt floor comforting a little boy whose entire family was suffering from malaria, all her doubts and insecurities vanished. Just knowing how much she was needed allowed her to put everything she had learned to good use with skill and compassion.

"I didn't have time to feel scared or insecure. Those people needed us. We were all they had," said Sarah.

Sarah and her classmates worked tirelessly for five days straight, visiting a different village every day
and tending to almost 1,000 patients. Their very first patient, who was left unable to walk after suffering from polio, somehow managed to get to the clinic by crawling. After he received medical care and a new wheelchair, the gratitude and appreciation he expressed was so touching, it motivated and inspired Sarah to want to help as many patients as possible.

"The poverty that surrounded each city was devastating, but the bright smiles on each face was humbling," said Sara.

And to think this life-changing experience almost didn't happen.

The study-abroad trip was originally supposed to be to Nicaragua, but just a few days before they were scheduled to leave, the trip had to be cancelled because political unrest in the country made it unsafe to travel there. After months of raising money for travel expenses and medical supplies, the students were devastated.

But they were determined to make the trip a reality, and when they learned about an alternative trip to Uganda that would cost more than what they had raised, they turned to the TTC Foundation for help. As a result, and with the assistance of the Trident Opportunity Fund, the students were able to embark on their transformational journey.

Sarah returned home and resumed her classes at Trident Technical College with a deep appreciation for her own life and complete certainty about the path she had chosen.

She said, "The people that we helped were so grateful, but I felt like I should be thanking them. The experience helped me grow as a person and learn that I will, in fact, be a great nurse. When people say that you'll leave a part of your heart in Africa, it is so true."

Scholarship Luncheon Celebrates and Inspires

Stephan Valentine, Belinda Sherman, Mary Thornley, Christian Mahon,
Grant Delgado
The 2018 Scholarship Luncheon was held in the spring to celebrate and connect scholarship donors and recipients. The student panelists, Grant Delgado, Christian Mahon, Belinda Sherman, and Stephen Valentine answered questions posed to them by Dr. Mary Thornley, TTC President, and they shared their personal stories of humble beginnings and challenges along the way.

The four students came from different backgrounds and are on different career paths but what they had in common was much greater than any differences: the desire to achieve success. All four of them spoke about the importance of having a cheerleader on their side and how receiving a scholarship gave them a reason to believe in themselves. 
Belinda Sherman

Belinda Sherman was abused as a child and told she would never amount to anything.

She said, “After having to endure all that, I had to find my own way in life. Getting a scholarship meant that someone finally I wasn’t alone.”

Christian Mahon bounced around in foster care for several years and when he was finally adopted at 17 years old, finally felt that he had a support system and could move closer to his goals. When he received his scholarship, it meant his father, who is a truck driver, would be able to not work extra hours on the road.

Christian Mahon
Christian said, “So because of the scholarship, my siblings and I are essentially able to have a father figure.”

The program also included remarks by Bill Craver, TTC Foundation Trustee, past chair and a member of the Scholarship Committee. Bill shared his experience reading scholarship essays and how that helped him understand the diversity and challenges of students and their common pursuit of happiness.

Bill Craver
He said that reading those essays had a profound effect on him. “It made me fall in love with Trident Technical College and the Foundation and it made me want to do anything I could to help students pursue happiness.”

Guests of the luncheon came away with an appreciation for the hard work put forth by TTC students and inspired by the generosity of the scholarship donors in helping students achieve their goals. Next year’s luncheon is scheduled for Wednesday, April 10, 2019.