Category Archives: News

Students are the true stars

When WXII anchor Cameron Kent walked in the doors of the Stokes Opportunity Center last Thursday it was obvious the students there knew who he was.

But Kent was just one of many stars in the building that day, as he soon learned after meeting with members of The Star Catchers, a group of Lifelong Compensatory Education students who perform well known songs throughout the state.

The ensemble first formed in 2006 when they performed at the Stokes Stomp and have been going strong ever since.

Kris Jonzcak, the Compensatory Education instructor at the Stokes Opportunity Center, said the members of the Star Catchers are composed of students aged 24 to 65 with a variety of disabilities ranging from autism to downs syndrome to traumatic brain injuries.

Jonzcak said when she started teaching at the Stokes Opportunity Center through Forsyth Tech 10 years ago the curriculum for the students was limited to basic life skills.

“It was pretty boring,” she said. “So we started going out and doing free things like going to the library or to the senior center. Then we got a little grant money form Forsyth Tech and we were able to start performing at places.”

Kent was treated to several of the songs in The Star Catchers repertoire during his visit to the center last Thursday. The show opened with a performance by Elvis, followed by Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the dock of the bay,” the Blues Brothers and rendition of Amazing Grace which brought a tears to the eyes of Kent’s wife Sue.

The songs were just part of the wide variety the group offers when it visits local churches and civic organizations to perform. But The Star Catchers are not just limited to local performances, having presented their show as far away as a Philadelphia Rotary club and the governor’s mansion in Raleigh.

The performances are just a part of the arts based curriculum offered by Jonzcak.

“They love the art and the singing,” she said. “We saw that this is the right thing to do. They are told their whole lives that they can’t do something and now they are the stars. We just kept doing it, and after three years the state said we could change the curriculum statewide, in part because of what we were doing here.”

Her classes, which meet three times a week, still offer basic life skills.

“There is still history and geography and finance,” said Jonzcak. “They still get the basic things like your name, address and phone number, but now we also have music and dance and art.”

And they get to share their unique talents with the world. Jonzcak said her students perform outside of the center at least twice a month and also organize art shows to raise funds for their activities.

“I have seen my students blossom and grow through the creativity offered in art,” said Jonzcak. “These are students who are lifelong students. I think they should enjoy everything that the rest of us have.”

In discussing a painting by a student named James Joyce, she describes how it opened up a new side of him.

“Everything he does is very linear, very exact,” she said. “But when we did this art show, he was able to be creative with his art piece and have some curves in it, and some designs that he had never done before.”

That feeling of self-worth is something Jonzcak tries to impart to all the students.

“I try to find something for everyone,” she says, “because everyone cannot be in the play, and everyone can’t do a painting. So that’s the strength of the program, that everyone is able to do something and feel successful.”

Walk into their classroom on any given day and you might find the students working on a mural, singing a song or, very likely, dancing.

“They love to dance,” Jonzcak says, and they’re pretty good at it. Whether it’s old favorites like the hokey pokey or the Cupid shuffle, or something they’re learning for the first time, you can see the joy on their faces as they move and groove to the music.”

The students will be presenting an art show and fundraiser at Divine Llama Vineyards on Oct. 11. The event will feature work by the students and performance by The Star Catchers.

Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes. Tech Quarterly, a publication of Forsyth Tech contributed to this article.

Pope Foundation Makes Two-Year $52,000 Gift to Forsyth Tech

Forsyth Tech has announced that the Lawrence E. Pope Foundation is giving the college a gift of $52,000, which will be distributed over a two-year period and used to update and expand the college’s Diesel and Heavy Equipment Technology program. A presentation of the initial grant check in the amount of $26,000 took place today at the college’s Transportation Technology Center in Winston-Salem.

In presenting the check to Forsyth Tech President Dr. Gary Green, Jeff Taylor, vice president and chief financial officer of the Pope Companies, and treasurer of the Lawrence E. Pope Foundation, said, “The Pope Foundation has a strong interest in making a difference in our community by supporting the educational needs of our area schools.

check presentation

From left to right:
Axell Torres, instructor, Diesel and Heavy Equipment Technology program; Jeff Taylor, vice president and chief financial officer, Pope Companies and treasurer, Lawrence E. Pope Foundation; Dr. Gary Green, president, Forsyth Tech; and Alan Doub, program coordinator, Diesel and Heavy Equipment Technology

“This $52,000 gift to Forsyth Tech demonstrates our support for education by helping the college expand its growing Diesel and Heavy Equipment program in order to produce even more graduates who are prepared to go to work in the field on day one.”

Pope Companies founder, Lawrence Pope, had a life-long interest in grading equipment, over-the-road tractors and all manner of diesel-powered heavy equipment, according to Taylor. Pope enjoyed operating heavy machinery on company projects until his late seventies, Taylor added, a legacy that will continue through the Foundation’s support of Forsyth Tech’s Diesel and Heavy Equipment program.

diesel trucks

“We are deeply appreciative of this very generous gift from the Pope Foundation,” said Green. “The Pope Companies, through their deep experience in the truckload transportation business, understand the importance of training a highly skilled workforce to meet the needs of current and future logistic and supply chain management operations. This gift will allow us to accommodate the increased enrollment in this program and meet the challenges of rapidly changing technology so that we can continue to provide our students for years to come with relevant, experiential training using state-of-the-art equipment.”

Forsyth Tech’s Transportation Technology Center is one of the premier facilities of its kind in the southeast.

About the Lawrence E. Pope Foundation

The Lawrence E. Pope Foundation was formed in 2008 by Lawrence E. Pope, a Triad area business executive, who died in 2010. The Foundation is a non-profit corporation located in Kernersville, NC This organization benefits philanthropy, voluntarism and grantmaking foundations, focusing specifically on private independent foundations programs. 

Mr. Pope was an entrepreneur and visionary businessman who started his career with American Tobacco Co., eventually becoming a buyer and plant manager. He left American to form L.E. Pope Building Co, Inc. in 1969, one of the companies in the business grouping known as The Pope Companies. L.E. Pope Building Co., Inc. was a large residential builder, developer, and sales agency in the Kernersville area for many years. In the early 1980s, the company shifted its emphasis to commercial development.  Today, the company owns and/or manages over three million square feet of commercial and residential space in North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Georgia. 

Many of the Pope Companies business units deliver procurement, logistics, and supply chain services to the tobacco industry, making it one of the leading procurement and logistics agents for the tobacco industry in the United States. ( 

About Forsyth Tech

Forsyth Tech ( provides students with flexible educational pathways to a competitive workforce for the community and global economy. The college offers associate degrees, diplomas and certificates in more than 200 programs of study, including programs that promote personal and professional development through non-credit courses and seminars, as well as customized training for

business and industry. Forsyth Tech is the fifth largest community college in North Carolina and serves more than 35,000 students with approximately 1,500 full and part-time faculty and staff.

diesel truck

Forsyth Tech Students Collect Honors In Regional, National, International Competitions

This spring, Forsyth Tech students competed—and came out on top—in several  regional, national and international industry-related competitions, a testament to the quality of training and education they are receiving at the college.

“Throughout the year, our students enter industry-related competitions to help them apply the skills they’re learning in the classroom,” says Conley Winebarger, Vice President of Instructional Services. “We are gratified when our students demonstrate an ability to compete effectively against students in other two- and four-year schools, because it speaks to the caliber of our students and the excellent education our faculty provides.”

Below are photos with short descriptions that highlight the awards Forsyth Tech students have earned in the past few weeks.

Microsoft Imagine Cup Innovation Competition: A Winner in Denmark


Christopher Reyes (above center), a Forsyth Tech student, has spent the past year studying business at Copenhagen Business Academy (Cphbusiness) in Denmark. This spring he and four fellow classmates participated in the Microsoft Imagine Cup Innovation Competition. The team was required to develop a new app and present a business plan to potential investors showing how the app could make money. Chris and his team created a traveling/gaming app that allows tourists to explore cities or countries through a variety of quests that take them to local attractions, businesses and so on. Christopher and his team won the competition at Copenhagen Business Academy, which qualified them for the national competition, facing teams from across Denmark. Chris and his team won that competition as well. For winning the college and national competitions, Chris’ team received Microsoft merchandise and recommendations from Microsoft executives.

SkillsUSA North Carolina: On to Nationals


Ten Forsyth Tech students took first place in their respective team and individual competitions at SkillsUSA North Carolina and will compete in the national SkillsUSA competition in Kansas City in June. Above are Brittany Clark (right) and Jeremy Hayes (left) who took first place in the 3-D Visualization team category. Both are students in Forsyth Tech’s Digital Effects & Animation program. The other Forsyth Tech students who will participate in the national SkillsUSA competition in Kansas City include:

Team Competition

  • Automotive Skill Showcase: Maurcio Acosta, Turner Baity, Patrick Oshilds
  • TV/Video Production: Randall Maynard and Justin Dorsey
  • Audio/Video Production: Monica Cooper and Sean Killebrew

Individual Competition

  • Screen Printing (Graphic Arts): RaShaun Edwards

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers, and industry that work together to support the development of a skilled American work force in part by sponsoring industry-designed competitions at the state and national levels.

National Bienenstock Scholarship Runner-Up


Alston Willcox (above), a Forsyth Tech Architectural Technologies student, placed second in over 90 entries nationwide in the Interior Design portion of the annual National Bienenstock Scholarship Competition sponsored by the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library. This year’s challenge involved designing a summer camp, recreational building for disabled and well-bodied children. This building also needed to incorporate a two bedroom apartment and office space for the acting director. The project location was set in the Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania. Submissions needed to address architectural space planning and design as well as furniture, fixture and equipment selections, including all specifications and schedules. This competition is open to any junior, senior or graduate student enrolled in an accredited college program of furniture design or interior design. The library—a worldwide center for research, design, and collaboration—holds the world’s largest collection of rare and significant books on the history and design of furniture.

Top Tech Challenge: First Place in State


Mark Cobb (right), a student in the Heavy Equipment and Transport Technology program at Forsyth Tech, took first place in the student competition of the inaugural North Carolina Technology and Maintenance Council Top Tech Challenge. The Challenge was held at Forsyth Tech’s Transportation Technology Center on Patterson Ave. in Winston-Salem. Mark earned top place by successfully completing several tasks, including reassembling a disassembled transmission.

Natural Talent Design: Forsyth Tech Takes Top Two Places—Again


At the annual 2014 Natural Talent Design Competition hosted by US Green Building Council  of North Carolina in Raleigh, Forsyth Tech teams placed first and second at the state level for the second year in a row. The project, located in Charlotte, required the teams to design a new, 100,000sq. ft. train station, including a large urban planning component that impacted several city blocks.

Shown above are the members of the first-place team, Team Aspect, who earned a stipend to attend the National Green Build Conference in New Orleans this October (from left to right): Jessica Ballard (interior design student), Allison Carithers (interior design student), Alston Willcox (architecture student), Nathalee Carey (interior design student), and Rosemary Deal (interior design student).


Above is Forsyth Tech’s second place Natural Talent Design team, Team Concentric (left to right): Kelsey Fry (architecture  student), Taylor Hensley (interior design student), Cari Brown (interior design student), Veronica Nielsen (interior design student), and Andy Freeman (architecture student).

Forsyth Tech Student Receives 3M Hire Our Heroes Grant


Eddie Shires, a student in Forsyth Tech’s Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology program,  was one of the winners of the 2014 3M Hire Our Heroes Veteran Tool Grant, which entitled him to receive $2,500 in tools. He hopes to use the grant to achieve his dream of owning his own collision repair business one day. The 3M Hire Our Heroes campaign helps support rehabilitation and training and drive employment in the collision and repair industry for America’s returning veterans and their families.

About Forsyth Tech

Forsyth Tech ( provides students with flexible educational pathways to a competitive workforce for the community and global economy. The college offers associate degrees, diplomas and certificates in more than 200 programs of study, including programs that promote personal and professional development through non-credit courses and seminars, as well as customized training for business and industry. Forsyth Tech is the fifth largest community college in North Carolina and serves more than 35,000 students with approximately 1,500 full and part-time faculty and staff.

Forsyth Tech awards degrees to 1,003 students

J. Walter McDowell, the retired chief executive officer at Wachovia Corp., mentioned Dani Winter of Winston-Salem as an example of high-achieving students at Forsyth Technical Community College during the school’s 2014 commencement program Thursday night.

“Dani is the recipient of the prestigious Park Scholar at N.C. State University,” McDowell told more than 6,000 people gathered at the Joel Coliseum for Forsyth Tech’s graduating ceremony. “Congratulations to Dani, she’s flying.”

Before the ceremony, Winter said she is proud of her academic success.

Winter, 18, received a high-school diploma, and two associate degrees at Forsyth Tech. She will attend N.C. State University as a freshman during the fall semester.

“It means a lot to me at this time,” Winter said of her three degrees. “I’m just so happy to be able to walk across the stage and have a bright future.”

Inside Joel Coliseum, hundreds of people in the audience yelled and applauded when their loved ones walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.

McDowell was the keynote speaker at the ceremony in which 1,003 FTCC students received their degrees. In his 15-minute speech, McDowell said that the education the graduating students received at Forsyth Tech will ensure their futures.

“I understand that many of you already have a job and are doing well,” McDowell said. “Others of you are still looking. Stay in the game and persevere.”

McDowell, the chairman of the Business for Educational Success and Transformation in North Carolina, urged the students to be willing to learn from their mistakes.

“Be smart and be accountable,” McDowell said. “Your jobs will be challenging and frustrating. But this all is part of your journey to success. Be an active hero in your own life.”

Todd Grace, 48, received a degree in nursing. Grace spent 25 years in the warehouse industry in Winston-Salem before he decided to change careers. His wife, Angela Grace, is a working toward her associate degree at FTCC.

“It’s an end of a long journey,” Todd Grace said, “and the start of another career of becoming a nurse. That is what I was supposed to do.”

Derrick Claggett of Martinsville, Va. traveled to Joel Coliseum to see his sister, Sharon Claggett Williams receive her degree during the ceremony.

“I am very proud of her,” Claggett said of her sister. “She was displaced from her job and she went to school.” (336)727-7299

Forsyth Tech to Hold Cruise-In and Open House at Transportation Technology Center

Forsyth Tech will hold a Cruise-In and Open House at the Forsyth Tech Transportation Technology Center, 4255 N. Patterson Avenue in Winston Salem, on Saturday, May 10 from 10 am – 2 pm.

The public is invited to bring their cars to Cruise-In—all makes and models are welcome. Gates will open at 9:30 am at the Patterson Ave. and Germanton Road entrances to the Center.

The event will also feature guided tours of the Transportation Technology Center at 10 am, 11:30 am and 1 pm as well as food and music.

This family friendly event is free and open to the public and will be held rain or shine.

“I hear from area folks every week that they have no idea what Forsyth Tech does at our Transportation Technology Center,” says Mark Walker, department chair for Transportation Technologies. “We thought that holding a Cruise-In will give people in the community the chance to enjoy looking at some of the really cool cars we expect will be on display. And, the Open House will give our neighbors and friends a first-hand look at what goes on inside the most advanced transportation technology center in the southeast.”

Forsyth Tech’s Transportation Technology Center offers programs in race car technology, collision repair and refinishing, automotive systems, heavy equipment and transport technology, and recreational vehicle maintenance & repair.

For more information on the Cruise-In and Open House, call 336.757.3399 or visit

Forsyth Tech To Hold 2nd Annual Fine Arts Showcase, Tuesday, April 29, 6 – 8 Pm

(Winston-Salem, NC) – Forsyth Tech will hold its second annual Fine Arts Showcase on Tuesday, April 29, from 6 – 8 pm at the college’s West Campus auditorium, 1300 Bolton Street, Winston-Salem.

The Showcase will feature artwork and performances by students enrolled in Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Acting, and Chorus classes at the college.

The performances will include scene showings from several contemporary plays, an improvisational piece based on the Italian Commedia dell’Arte, and a selection of modern choral compositions.

“The Showcase is a chance to celebrate and enjoy the artistic achievements of those who come to Forsyth Tech to learn more about the arts,” says Marshall Botvinick, program coordinator for the Fine Arts program. “Our program is only in its second year, and we already have 65 students enrolled.”

Botvinick, who has been acting since he was eight years old, has an undergraduate degree in Theater Studies from Duke University and a Master in Fine Arts from the A.R.T. Institute at Harvard University.

The Showcase is free and open to the public.

About Forsyth Tech

Forsyth Tech ( provides students with flexible educational pathways to a competitive workforce for the community and global economy. The college offers associate degrees, diplomas and certificates in more than 200 programs of study, including programs that promote personal and professional development through non-credit courses and seminars, as well as customized training for business and industry. Forsyth Tech is the fifth largest community college in North Carolina and serves more than 35,000 students with approximately 1,500 full and part-time faculty and staff. 



Forsyth Tech Fine Arts student Michael Burke ably took on the persona of schizophrenic Robert in a scene from “Proof” during Forsyth Tech’s first-ever Fine Arts Showcase in the spring of 2013. The public is invited to attend the college’s second Fine Arts Showcase on Tuesday, April 29, from 6 – 8 pm at the college’s West Campus auditorium, 1300 Bolton St. in Winston-Salem. The event is free.

Cardboard regatta participants reach goal: ‘make it there and back’

Eight boats — with themes inspired by Princess Bubblegum, TV serial killer “Dexter” and NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt — slipped into Belews Lake under threatening skies Friday morning for Forsyth Tech’s annual Cardboard Boat Regatta.

Constructed by second-year mechanical engineering students out of single-ply cardboard using liquid adhesive, duct tape and waterproof paint, the boats had to maneuver around three buoys and return to shore safely.

Life jackets were required.

Don Solomon, the instructor of the Strength and Materials class, said the boats counted for just a percentage of the students’ grade in his class. Forsyth Tech instructors enlisted to judge the entries graded each boat for appearance, construction, imagination, load-carrying ability and the quality of a construction log.

“The key thing is to make it there and back,” Solomon said.

Students unloaded their boats and lined them up at the edge of the parking lot for judging.

Some resembled sturdy fishing skiffs; others appeared unable to escape their heritage as humble cardboard boxes.

“We talked about buoyancy and displacement,” Solomon said, eyeing one of the larger students carefully. “The most difficult thing is keeping them from becoming waterlogged.”

As raindrops began to fall, students hoisted their boats and carried them to the water’s edge at the Piney Bluff boat ramp, gingerly climbed aboard and pushed off into the lake.

A few of the boats were propelled by small trolling motors, but kayak paddles were the most common means of propulsion.

The “Jake” was crewed by Maggie Gwin, dressed in a long pink gown and a red wig to impersonate the cartoon character “Princess Bubblegum.” Teammate, Dakota Gaddy, dressed as “Finn,” used a paddle cut from a scrap of plywood.

The paddle snapped on Gaddy’s first stroke. He retrieved the paddle head and gamely churned on. Princess Bubblegum sat in the bow and offered encouragement as the Jake drifted lazily.

The other boats traced a large arc around the buoys, with the motorized skiffs taking the lead. A boat painted to resemble the late Earnhardt’s car, complete with a leaning number 3, cruised ahead.

“He’s kicking up a wake,” a spectator said admiringly.

A sturdy, shovel-bowed boat carrying Ryan Milholand and Bryan Javiria was about to complete its circuit when it met the drifting craft of Gwin and Gaddy. Milholand gallantly passed his paddle over to Gwin, who passed the paddle to Gaddy. Milholand grasped the sides of his boat as Javiria resumed paddling.

Eventually all of the boats returned to shore, and some pushed off to enjoy another turn around the lake. A couple of the cardboard boats suffered a few soggy wrinkles, while others remained crisp and dry.

Solomon declared the regatta, which has been a tradition for about 40 years, “a great success.”

“No sinkers,” he said approvingly.



By David Rolfe/Winston-Salem Journal

J. Walter McDowell, Retired Wachovia Executive, Is Forsyth Tech 2014 Commencement Speaker

J. Walter McDowell, retired Chief Executive Officer of Wachovia’s Carolinas Banking Group, will be the speaker at Forsyth Tech’s commencement exercises on Thursday, May 8. The ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem.

Currently, McDowell serves as Chairman of Business for Educational Success and Transformation in North Carolina—also known as BEST NC. This organization brings together 67 well-respected business leaders from across NC who are focused on moving public education, including community colleges, to higher levels. BEST NC exemplifies McDowell’s belief that stronger public education is critical to accelerating job growth and supporting the state’s continued economic development.

“Walter McDowell is a financial visionary whose life is a model of community service and volunteerism,” says Forsyth Tech President Dr. Gary Green. “He is well-known for his principled leadership style, work ethic, and dedication to supporting the educational needs of North Carolina. His commitment to serving others inspires all who know him, and I believe he will inspire our graduates.”

McDowell is former Chairman of the Community Education Collaborative, a joint program of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, the United Way, and 30 not-for-profit organizations that intervene with 4,000 at-risk students each year. He is also the former Chairman for the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, and former general chairman for the 1997 United Way Campaign in Forsyth County.

He has provided community leadership to numerous institutions and businesses through his service on the board of directors of Wake Forest University Health Sciences, Piedmont Research Park, Winston-

Salem Business Inc., and the Governor’s Council for Fiscal Reform. McDowell is also a former board member for Salem College, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Va., Global Transpark Foundation, North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry, North Carolina Partnership for Education, and the Piedmont Triad Partnership.

He is currently a board member of Bassett Furniture Company, the Research Triangle Foundation, the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, the Winston-Salem Alliance and the Winston-Salem State University Foundation.

McDowell holds a B.S. in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Approximately 1,000 Forsyth Tech students will earn associate’s degrees, certificates and diplomas that signify completion of their programs of study during the 2014 commencement exercises.

Forsyth Tech offers credit programs in Math, Science and Technologies; Business and Information Technologies; Engineering Technologies; Health Technologies; and Humanities and Social Sciences.

The graduation ceremony is open to the public at no charge, and there will be no charge for parking at the Coliseum.”