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Success Stories: Fall 2002

In each fall edition of VGCC’s newsletter and schedule ARCHES,
VGCC focuses on the success of its graduates.
Here are the stories from this year’s edition.

Tell us your story. If you are a VGCC Alumnus, please share with us what you are doing with your education now! Click here to send e-mail to VGCC. If possible, give us your complete name, address and telephone number so that we might find you for future editions of ARCHES’ Success Stories. Thanks!


‘I Did It And You Can, Too’

Former Teen Mom, High School Drop-Out Makes Career
Of Helping Others To Break The Cycle Of Poverty

Cassandra Hart of Henderson
Work First Employment Social Worker, Vance County Dept. of Social Services

We hear the phrase, “Been there, done that,” quite a bit these days.

If Cassandra Hart were to use that phrase with her clients in the Work First program at the Vance County Department of Social Services when they try to tell her how hard it is to get off welfare, they should realize she has experienced all the obstacles they face.

They also should know that, with the help of a strong will and Vance-Granville Community College, Cassandra Hart has overcome and has broken out of the cycle.

The Henderson native had moved with her family to Oxford when she became a single mother at 15 and dropped out of high school. She worked three years at a fast-food restaurant, and then a couple more at a chain restaurant to keep her daughter, Keyachtta Hawkins, fed.

Realizing she had to have education to get out of low-income housing and live a better life, Cassandra Hart went to Vance-Granville in 1991 to get her GED (General Equivalency Diploma). This she did in four days, two of pre-testing and two of taking the tests, which she aced.

Cassandra then enrolled in curriculum classes, first completing the Criminal Justice Technology program and then the College Transfer. While at VGCC, she was a Dean’s List student, was named to Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society of two-year colleges, and was an Ambassador, representing the college at official functions. She was awarded a Presidential Merit Award scholarship.

From VGCC, Hart went to North Carolina Central University and graduated summa cum laude in December 1995 with a B.A. in Political Science.

“I went to school until about 2:30 in the afternoon and then worked second shift at IBM to get through college,” she said.

“I feel the College Transfer classes were on a level with university courses,” Hart said. “We did a lot of writing in those classes at Vance-Granville, and that prepared me for university classes at N.C. Central.”

Jobs with Head Start, Employment Security Commission and Vance County Housing Authority followed her graduation from NCCU, all involving working with low-income families. In 1999, Hart joined Social Services as a Work First employment social worker, helping welfare recipients get the training and will power needed to move off assistance and into independence.

“I connect with the people I am trying to help,” Hart said. “I’ve been there and I tell them, ‘I did it and you can, too.’”

Hart and her co-workers send clients to Vance-Granville Community College to get training through the Pathways to Employment program. “We help them tackle the obstacles that have prevented them from succeeding,” Hart said. “VGCC opened doors for me through grants and scholarships, and I try to impress upon my clients that they can go through those doors. And once you cross that bridge to independence, it feels so good.”

Cassandra Hart knows of what she preaches. After eight years in housing projects, she moved out to a rental house in 2001, and she now has plans to buy her own home. She’s also wrapped up in daughter, Keyachtta, an Eaton-Johnson Middle School student, and all her activities.

“I love my job, but it can sure get stressful,” Hart said. “Eventually, I think I’d like to get a master’s degree in business and work in a corporation that would give me room to grow. All I need is a chance,” she said.

Cassandra Hart is not the only one in her family whom Vance-Granville has started on a career. Her mother, Mary Glover, after rearing seven children, graduated from VGCC with an associate’s degree in Business Administration-Operations Management in 2001 and is currently working on an Accounting degree. Her husband, Clarence Glover Sr., Cassandra Hart’s stepfather, completed the Welding Technology program.

Rico Glover, a stepbrother, has completed three VGCC vocational programs – Industrial Management, Welding and Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration; and Clarence Glover Jr. is enrolled in Welding. Sister Georgia Hart graduated from the Welding program and is raising three children in a nice home on four acres of land.

Cassandra’s sister, Rhonda Taylor, got an associate’s degree from VGCC in Business Administration, and sister Shannon Anderson finished the Associate Degree Nursing program. Anderson went on to get a bachelor’s of nursing and is currently enrolled in law school at N.C. Central.

“We are a Vance-Granville Community College family,” said Cassandra Hart. “We love it.”


Fighting Fire With Training

Former Student Now Teaches Others At VGCC

Curtis Tyndall of Henderson
Coordinator of Public Services, VGCC

Talk to Curtis L. Tyndall just a few minutes, and it becomes apparent he has great admiration and respect for area firefighters, emergency service and rescue personnel.

And he is dedicated to ensuring that they are well trained so that they can carry out their duties efficiently and safely.

Tyndall knows first-hand what the paid and volunteer firefighters, rescue and EMS personnel in Vance, Granville, Warren and Franklin counties face, and what they need to succeed. He spent almost 15 years with the Henderson Fire Department and continues to be a volunteer for that department today.

Following graduation from Vance Senior High School, Tyndall went off to N.C. State University to study civil engineering. He discovered he wasn’t that keen on the college studies, and a part-time job as an engineering technician for a Raleigh engineering company turned into full-time.

After three years of that, he returned home to Henderson and looked for work. “I had never imagined I’d be a firefighter; the only exposure I had to that was visiting fire stations with my father (the late Herbert E. “Tweety” Tyndall, a Henderson Police lieutenant),” Curtis Tyndall said. “But the work schedule sounded good, so I gave it a try.”

He joined the Henderson Fire Department in September 1981, working 24 hours on, 24 off for several days, then having four days off. He attained the rank of Engineer and was an Emergency Medical Technician-Intermediate (EMT-I). In 1985, Tyndall began teaching EMT classes part-time at VGCC. “The first class I taught was a childbirth class,” he recalls.

Tyndall went to work full-time at Vance-Granville in February 1996 as Coordinator of Public Services. In this role, he plans, schedules and helps instruct all the fire, EMS and rescue programs the college offers to career and volunteer personnel.

Tyndall and his one full-time and several part-time instructors also conduct classes for people who want to get into the firefighting/rescue/EMS field, for anyone in the public who’s interested in training such as CPR, at prisons and industries, and in the Basic Law Enforcement Training and Detention Officers courses at the college. “We serve 57 fire and rescue agencies in the four counties,” Tyndall said.

Tyndall may have dropped out of N.C. State pretty early, but he did not abandon his desire to get a degree. He took classes “off and on” at VGCC in the early 1980s and began to concentrate on his studies after joining the college staff. He earned an Associate in Arts after completing the College Transfer program in 2000, but he said, “Hopefully, I’m not through with school yet.

“I would like to get a bachelor’s degree and perhaps go into business someday, but I love what I do now,” he said. “I like to help people who are trying to contribute to the well-being of their community. Being a firefighter was like being part of a small family, and now that has broadened to working with people in many counties.”

“I’m constantly amazed at how hungry firefighters and EMTs are for training,” Tyndall said. “Look at the volunteers who spend their energy, their own time and money to train and to stay current. It takes a lot of time and energy to raise enough money just to keep volunteer fire departments open, and that cuts into their training.”

Like all parts of society, firefighting and rescue are changing rapidly and becoming more technologically demanding, Tyndall said. “There are more requirements for getting and keeping jobs (in those fields),” he said. “Municipalities expect more from their service people each year, and it is very difficult for them to stay current and sharp in all components.

“Training is the key to being successful, and we at Vance-Granville try our best to see that they get that training.”

How big a change has Tyndall experienced in moving from firefighter to instructor? “I don’t miss getting up in the middle of the night to answer ambulance or fire calls, but I miss being around the other firefighters,” Tyndall said. “I lived with those guys almost 15 years.”

Now he has more time for his family: wife Edna, daughter Savannah, 11, and son, Logan, 5. His mother, Lillian Tyndall, also lives in Henderson.

His co-workers at Vance-Granville Community College are also part of Curtis Tyndall’s family.

“I love working with the people at Vance-Granville,” he said. “We are a team, dedicated to helping teach and train the people of our communities.”


VGCC Helps Guyana Native Earn Degree, Build Career

Shanti Pollard of Rougemont
Accounting Technician, Grubb & Ellis Management Services, RTP

Shanti Pollard was working at the Hannaford Bros. Distribution Center and was “doing quite a bit with computers.”

“I wanted to understand more about how computers work, not just punching keys,” she said. Since her place of employment was right across the interstate from Vance-Granville Community College’s South Campus, she enrolled in the college’s InformationSystems program.

The Rougemont resident took all her first semester classes at the South Campus between Creedmoor and Butner, and then drove to Main Campus in Vance County to complete the program. She graduated in May 2001 with an Associate in Applied Science degree in Information Systems.

But the road from Rougemont to Henderson wasn’t the longest travel for Shanti Pollard. She was born and grew up in Georgetown, Guyana, South America, came to Florida with her husband Jerome and two children in 1984, and moved to North Carolina in 1997.

“I have worked all my life,” Pollard said. She helped her husband in an auto repair shop he ran in Florida and got the Hannaford job after moving to Durham County.

Upon graduation from Vance-Granville, Pollard said she got her current job, with Grubb & Ellis Management Services, twoweeks after she began looking. “I believe my Information Systems degree from Vance-Granville may have helped me get the job,” she said.

Grubb & Ellis is a contractor for Nortel, at whose facility Shanti works in Research Triangle Park. “Part of my job there was working on the Computerized Maintenance Management System, where I used some of the skills I learned at VGCC,” she said. “What I had in my classes gave me a deeper sense of understanding and made it easier to solve problems.”

Pollard now works in accounting and says she benefits from the accounting class that was part of her program at VGCC. “I kept my textbooks, and I can refer to them, or I can call Verna Bullock, who was my instructor and who lives two minutes from me in Rougemont,” she said.

Database classes she had with Kathy Laspina have helped her tremendously, both at work and at home with her personal computer, she said.

Pollard is generally highly complimentary of her classes and instructors at Vance-Granville. “I enjoyed the smaller classes and the individual attention the instructors could give,” she said. “Evelyn Harris (Information Systems instructor) was very good at working one-on-one at the student’s convenience.”

A non-computer class that Pollard liked and that helped her was Southern Culture, taught by Dr. John Beck. “Since I was new to North Carolina and Southern ways, this class gave me a better understanding of why people behave as they do,” she said.

Shanti Pollard must have felt comfortable in her VGCC classes. She was an A student and was named to Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society of two-year colleges.

She comes from a college-oriented family. She has two sisters with Ph.D’s and a brother with a master’s degree. Her daughter, Nadia, 29, completed law school and is an attorney at NBC in New York. Her son, Jasper, 25, is a research and development engineer in Research Triangle Park. She and Jerome also have a younger son, Justin, 12.

Though they are a long way from their native land, North Carolina is now home. “We traveled quite a bit in the United States before we decided to settle in North Carolina,” Shanti said. “We like the mountains; we like to get together with our children there and go rafting and kayaking.

“But we’re happy right here in this part of the state, and I’m happy that I went to Vance-Granville.”


 ‘Country Girl’ Plans To Teach

College Transfer Student Sets Focus On Bachelor, Master Degrees

Casey Greason of Franklinton
Administrative AssistantFranklin County Superintendent of Schools

Casey Lynn Greason knows what she wants, and she has a plan to achieve it.

A resident of Franklinton, Casey graduated from Franklinton High School in May 1998 and entered Vance-Granville Community College in August that year. She earned Associate in Applied Science degrees in both Office Systems Technology and Business Administration, completing the latter in May 2001.

Casey is the daughter of Debbie and Butch Tingen of Franklinton and Robert and Kathy Greason of Chapel Hill. She has four brothers and four sisters between the two families. Neither of her parents or stepparents went to college, and neither did any of her four older siblings. “I want to be a role model for my four younger brothers and sisters and complete college,” she said. “I thought the community college was the best route for me to take.”

She cites the small environment, VGCC being close to home and much less expensive as reasons for choosing it as a beginning.

During her time at Vance-Granville, Casey took classes at both the Franklin County and main campuses, sometimes driving back and forth between the two the same day, in order to get the classes she needed.

All during this time, she was also working, sometimes holding two part-time jobs. “I would go to school some days until 2 or 2:30 (p.m.), work at a day care center from 3 to 6, then wait tables until midnight,” Casey said. “Then I’d be back in class the next morning at 8 and start the cycle over again.” Part of that time she also worked in a law office in Louisburg.

For the past year, Greason has worked for Franklin County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Carl Harris. One of Casey’s instructors at the Franklin County Campus, Kim Howell, recommended her for the job.

Dr. Harris is chairman of the state’s Textbook Commission, which evaluates books to determine if they meet the standards for North Carolina classrooms. Casey does secretarial and administrative tasks for the commission and also works directly for Dr. Harris on county school tasks.

“I have used all the computer skills I acquired at Vance-Granville, as well as bookkeeping and records management skills I learned in those classes,” she said. “It is important that students pay attention in class because you’re going to need what’s taught there when you get out here working.”

Casey is highly complimentary of her instructors at Vance-Granville Community College. “I enjoyed all the instructors I had; they were all very helpful,” she said. She mentioned Howell and Roxanne Jackson, another Franklin Campus instructor, for helping her arrange her schedule. She also praised them for helping her outside the classroom.

“When I was preparing to be interviewed by Dr. Harris for the job I have now, Ms. Howell conducted five practice interviews with me to get me ready,” Greason said.

While Casey Greason loves her current job and appreciates what her VGCC degrees have done for her, she has bigger plans for the future. She wants to teach, either at the high school or community college level. And she has her plan for getting to that point.

In August she will enter North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount to work on a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, while continuing to work full-time in her Franklin County Schools job. “Dr. Harris has been very supportive of my desires, and he has pushed and motivated me,” she said. “I looked at all my options with him and decided that Wesleyan was best for me.”

After completing Wesleyan, she plans go to East Carolina University and get a master’s in business education so that she can fulfill her dream to teach.

When asked what she does when she gets a little spare time, Casey Greason said, “I’m just a country girl. I like to go fishing, ride four-wheelers and ride horses.”

Casey Greason may be a country girl, but she is one with a goal plainly in view and a plan in hand to reach that goal.


 Father & VGCC Know Best

Multi-Skilled Vocational Graduate Following Family Tradition

Brian Pernell of Rocky Ford
Welder, Pernell Welding & Fabrication

It just seems natural that Brian Pernell would become a professional welder. After all, his father, two uncles and an older brother have worked at the trade.

When Brian, who grew up on the Lynnbank Road in Vance County, graduated from Southern Vance High School in 1995, he had already done some work with his father, Johnny Pernell, a welder for 30 years who was doing contract welding for Revlon in Oxford. But he knew he needed more knowledge, so he entered the Welding Technology program at Vance-Granville Community College, graduating in August 1996. While in this program, he had an average of above 100 in three of the four grading periods, receiving extra credit for extra work.

“But I graduated from Vance-Granville two years in a row,” said Brian, who went through the Industrial Maintenance (since re-named Industrial Services Technology) program immediately after completing Welding. By completing two vocational programs at VGCC, Brian Pernell earned Multi-Skilled Technician credentials.

While attending Industrial Maintenance classes during the day, he also went back to night classes in welding to earn certification as a pipe welder in October 1996.

Upon his second graduation from VGCC, Brian worked four months as a welder for a manufacturing firm in in Youngsville, then moved to Public Service Co. in Henderson. Brian eventually decided to go into business for himself and opened Pernell Welding & Fabrication in a shop his father had built on property on the Rocky Ford Road in Franklin County.

“My daddy learned welding in the Army, my uncle Bob taught himself, and my uncle Jack went to school in Kinston,” Brian said. The three brothers were once in business together on Raleigh Road in Henderson. Brian’s older brother, John, works in heating and air conditioning, as well as welding.

Brian would run the shop during the week and help his father at Revlon if needed. Johnny Pernell would help his son on weekends. Recently, Johnny left Revlon and is working with his son.

“I had been around welding a lot, and I knew quite a bit about it, but going to Vance-Granville made me a complete welder,” said Brian Pernell.

“I learned how to weld 10 times better there than I could before.

“I learned about safety and about how things work, not just what they do, in both welding and industrial maintenance,” he said. “Understanding processes is very helpful.”

Brian Pernell will reel off long lists of things he learned in both programs, and he praises both program heads and instructors Bill Jones in Welding and Robert Hudson in Industrial Maintenance for what they taught him.

While Industrial Maintenance was set up more to train technicians to maintain a variety of equipment in a manufacturing environment, Brian says he has used a lot of what he learned there in his business. “For instance, I bought a lathe for the shop, and the operation of a lathe I had learned in Industrial Maintenance came back to me,” he said.

This program also taught him a lot about how to manage a shop as he does now, and it taught him millwright work, which he has had occasion to do. “We learned how to use a transit, and that has come in handy, and it helped me to understand electricity, things I didn’t have a clue about,” said Brian.

“Overall, my two years at Vance-Granville were some of the best days of my life,” said Brian Pernell.

Brian said he plans to stay in the welding and fabrication business, “building on what my dad and I have established in four years.” They do structural steel work, and they fabricate handrails and gates. These they build in the shop and sometimes install. They take their portable units out and do some work on site, but they prefer to stay close to the shop so that potential customers can get in touch with them.

Vance-Granville Community College has even become a customer of Brian’s, as he sometimes sells steel to the college for its welding program.

Brian Pernell is a happy man, with a growing business, and he and his wife Dana are the parents of a daughter, Kaycee, who was born March 3 and already has her multi-skilled daddy wrapped around her little fingers.


‘Unquenchable Thirst For Knowledge’ Drives Warren County NativeTo Further Her Education At Vance-Granville Community College

Linda T. Jonesof Warren County
Tax Assessor, Warren CountyFormer Aide, U.S. Rep. Eva Clayton

You would probably expect a tax assessor to be a detail person, one who can juggle lots of responsibilities at once and make everything turn out right.

That’s pretty much the story of Linda T. Jones, who is the tax assessor for Warren County, a former aide to U.S. Representative Eva Clayton and a Vance-Granville Community College graduate.

Jones took a less-than-direct route to Vance-Granville and to her present job. The Warrenton native graduated from John Graham High School, then attended the former Hardbarger Business College in Raleigh, where she took the executive secretary course. She returned to Warren County to work four years as a secretary for the Soul City Company.

It was during this period that Jones first began attending Vance-Granville Community College. “I started in 1986 part-time at night,” she said. “But I was also trying to raise my children and hold down my full-time job, and I just became overwhelmed, so I stopped my VGCC classes.”

After Soul City, Jones worked four years in the law office of current state Sen. Frank Ballance, then she became clerk to the Warren County Board of Commissioners and assistant to the county manager. She got her first taste of public service in this job she held eight years.

When Eva Clayton, a former chairperson of the Warren County Board of Commissioners, became a member of the United States Congress, Jones took the job of office manager for Clayton’s Warrenton office and was in charge of the Congresswoman’s North Carolina schedule.

During this time, Jones decided to return to VGCC full-time. “I hit it full speed because I had to get it done,” she said. Congresswoman Clayton encouraged and was very supportive of Jones’ endeavors, and she earned her associate’s degree in Business Administration in 1996. She was also named to Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society of two-year colleges.

Jones completed the entire Business Administration program in all night classes, spending some evenings in class until after 10 o’clock. She had to drive to Main Campus in Vance County for some of her classes, but she took all that were available at the Warren County Campus in Warrenton because of the convenience.

Jones fondly remembers her experiences at VGCC. “The instructors were wonderful,” she said. “The small classes allowed them to give you one-on-one attention if you needed it.”

“I have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and Vance-Granville has helped me satisfy that thirst,” she said. “The school was an overall good experience for me; I loved it.”

Jones said her situation – working full-time, raising two children alone after a divorce and going to school – required her to practice a great deal of discipline, and her instructors helped her develop that discipline.

The discipline also helped after Jones was named Warren County’s tax assessor in April 2000. She had two years to achieve certification by the North Carolina Department of Revenue, and she applied herself fully and did it in just over a year.

Jones’ son, Jamal, 24, graduated with a bachelor’s of science in Criminal Justice from Elizabeth City State University in May and her daughter, Melanie, 21, is a rising senior at North Carolina A&T State University. “In my house, it was understood that you would go to college,” Jones said.

Her children were also supportive of their mother when she attended VGCC. She plans to return to school and get a bachelor’s degree when Melanie has completed college.

Jones is also active in her church and community. She is a trustee and on the executive board of Spring Green Missionary Baptist Church, and she is chairperson of the Warren County Domestic Violence Coalition.

Has Linda Jones moved on and forgotten Vance-Granville? Not on your life. She still takes computer classes at the Warren County Campus, and she sends people who work for her to classes there.

“My current job is a perfect fit for me,” Jones said. “I love meeting and helping people. It has also given me a chance to grow and to use the business skills I learned at Vance-Granville Community College.”