Making a difference in many ways

dccstudents-2001.jpgDiverse. It’s the word that came to mind while accompanying the group from Danville Community College on their visit to the General Assembly. Three very different students sharing their stories with Delegates Marshall, Merricks and Poindexter about the many ways DCC has helped them, and the positive impact the school has made for each as they pursue their goals and education.

It’s a long way from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil to Danville. But after a hectic start, 18-year-old, Brazilian-born Charles Terrell has settled in nicely and feels right at home and glad to be a student at DCC. It took a while for his travel papers to be approved and when they finally came through, he had little time to prepare for his departure. “It was a crazy time—stressful,” he jokingly conveys. “I was ready to come without packing clothes or anything.”

It didn’t come to that, but the school did get a call from airport officials in Atlanta for verification. We told them, “Yes, he’s ours. Send him our way,” says Cathy Pulliam, student recruitment and enrollment coordinator.

When he arrived in September, classes had already started and Charles had some catching up to do. But everything is fine. “I’m really applying myself,” he says. After graduating from high school with 25 classmates, it was a shock when he went to the Univercidade Federal Rural Do Rio De Janeiro to find himself among 150 students in a class. “There you are a number, not a name,” Charles says. After one semester he and his family decided he would live with an aunt in the U.S.–a family connection stemming from his American great grandparents who originally went to Brazil as missionaries and settled there. His grandfather and father both married Brazilians.

Charles is taking drafting design and wants to add general engineering credits with the goal of becoming an environmental engineer, a topic he discussed with Del. Poindexter. “Be sure and add science and biology to your studies,” the delegate advised him. “It will give you a solid foundation.”

“The community college is so good,” says Charles. “It gives you the responsibility, but provides the small classes. It really helps you to prepare.” His opinion is readily shared by fellow students Valerie Haar and Dennis Dawson.

Valerie enrolled at DCC after graduating from high school and will graduate this spring. She speaks fondly of remaining at home in Dry Fork with her family and the horses they own while attending Danville. “I’ve been involved and serve as the Student Government treasurer,” she says.

She is proud and excited that she has already been accepted to three colleges and is waiting to hear from Virginia Tech before she makes a final decision. Valerie credits the transfer agreements with four-year schools for the ease of her next step—majoring in elementary education to become a teacher. “I’ve already applied for financial assistance through the Tobacco Commission to help continue my education,” she says. 

Dennis Dawson, a DCC student at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston, is majoring in business management and wants to use what he learns to open a music store and provide lessons for a variety of instruments. A lifelong musician who plays guitar and trumpet, Dennis also worked in the graphics department of Dan River Mills until last February. When the plant closed its operations and moved to India, Dennis was out of work. A Trade Act student, Dennis thanks legislators for their support, saying “This has provided me with a great opportunity.”

He likes taking classes at the higher ed center because of the age diversity among the students. As an older student, he feels comfortable there, and jokes, “We older students feel like we kind of run the place, but the younger students are respectful—there is no generational gap—everyone feels at home.”

Charles summed it up for everyone as they left Del. Merricks office. “I think, being here, you are not able to see everyday, but the community college really makes a difference for many people—thank you.”

Pictured left to right, Dennis Dawson, Valerie Haar, and Charles Terrell.

Posted by Carol Kyber

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