Expanding community college transfer to include workforce degrees

This is the fourth article in a series on the transfer experiences of North Carolina’s students between community colleges and four-year institutions. Click here to read the rest of the series.

Forsyth Technical Community College expanded Bailey Artz’s expectations for what he was going to get out of a college education. And that changed his life, he said.

Artz will finish his Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in diesel and heavy equipment this spring. He is going right back to Forsyth Tech this fall for a program where he’ll earn his associate degree in horticulture then transfer to North Carolina A&T State University to get a bachelor’s in agricultural education, which is designed to take two years at each school.

Artz is going to get a job using his diesel degree, he says, and work his way through his associate and bachelor degrees to supplement his Pell Grant and additional loans. The first degree Artz will earn will help him pay for the next two — a positive feedback loop when it comes to the value of education.

By the time he graduates, Artz will have been in school for six years, assuming all goes according to plan. Artz, a high-achieving student with support at school and at home, has a good chance of making it through.

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Focus on Forsyth Table of Experts

A group of community leaders gathered at Front Street Capital’s new headquarters located in Bailey South to discuss Covid-19 and the profound impact, not just on business but on higher education, nonprofits, the workforce and certainly on individual households.

Community Hero: Allan Younger, Director of the Small Business Center, serving Forsyth and Stokes counties

Allan Younger with Winston Salem Dash mascot holding bags of food.

Allan is responsible for strengthening operations and services, enhancing support to small businesses, and providing community advocacy. His desire is to positively impact the confidence of small business owners regarding their ability to succeed. Allan not only does a great job as the center director, but he uses his own social media resources to assist people in doing business together. He is always connecting people both in person and virtually to help them grow. He goes out of his way to include a diverse perspective in his work. He is truly a champion of small businesses and helping people feel empowered to take a chance.

Jonathan Thull Discovered a Place of Promise at Forsyth Tech

Jonathan Thull

If he hadn’t made a life-changing choice to attend Forsyth Tech, Jonathan Thull said his life might have turned out much differently. Now, a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor- Supervisor with a graduate certificate in play therapy for children and adolescents, Thull has traveled the world, even living in Israel during the 2006 Israel–Hezbollah War.

Thull said from where he started, he couldn’t imagine he would be where he is now.

“I wasn’t interested in high school and had difficulty focusing and concentrating. These issues were exacerbated by my ADHD and Learning disability and I might have placed somewhere on the Autism spectrum,” said Thull. “I dropped out of high school in 10th grade. As a high school dropout with a rebellious nature, I was easily drawn into some risky behavior. And, when I came right up to the edge of falling into serious trouble, that was my wake-up call.”

Shortly after, he enrolled in the Adult High School at Forsyth Tech. Yet, still battling some personal issues, he became frustrated and dropped out of school again with little direction and purpose in life.

He then realized he needed a high school certificate to pursue further education and help the world through the helping profession. Upon completion of his high school equivalency, he found his way to Forsyth Tech again.

Jonathan Thull“That’s when I fell in love with learning.” said Thull, “I found, what would be the best professor in my college career, Dr. James Fortuna, who was pivotal in guiding my education. He challenged me, influenced me and lit a fire in me. In my failure to thrive in my teenage years, Forsyth Tech gave me a softer place to land. Reflecting on my past, Forsyth Tech was the catalyst I needed to succeed.”

Getting the individualized support, he needed, Thull was able to take night classes at Forsyth Tech while working which helped him feel empowered and gave him more control over his life.

Earning his transfer associate degree in three years, Thull went on to the University of North Carolina Greensboro, and earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology. He then continued his studies there, earning his master’s degree in conflict resolution. Thull was very interested in the conflict between Israel and Palestine and wanted to travel there.

“I went to Israel to volunteer doing peace work. Working in a youth commune was a profound experience for me,” said Thull. “When war broke out with Lebanon, I was living in the north of Israel near the border of Syria. Shortly after the war began, I started studying at Haifa University but the program moved students to Jerusalem for safety.  But he said, “Life just kept going there, the alarms would sound to take cover and when the bombing finished, another alarm would sound to alert an all clear.” That’s when Thull said his experience during war and witnessing protracted conflict led him back to the states to delve deeper into psychology beyond conflict resolution.

Thull earned his second master’s degree in counseling from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a concentration in play therapy. He currently has his own counseling practice in Charlotte but has now opened a branch in Winston-Salem and is moving back to be closer to his family.

“The pandemic, for me had a silver-lining in a way,” said Thull. “I hadn’t worked in tele-counseling before and now that’s the counseling method I want to pursue as I start my counseling practice in the Triad and across North Carolina. With some of my teenage clients, for example, a computer screen is very comfortable for them since they spend so much time online or on games. I want to help them flourish and by using technology I enter into their world and help them solve problems! Knowing what I went through and my own disabilities, I can relate to them and they more easily relate to me. ”

Thull also hopes to one day to teach and share his story that education is different for everyone. Thull shares, “It works best when we discover what inspires us to learn. And that path for me began at Forsyth Technical Community College.”

‘I know what it’s like to be homeless’ — Forsyth Tech student body president shares his journey

Nearly eight years ago, Curtis Walker arrived in North Carolina with nothing but the clothes on his back and hope for brighter future. Moving from New York, he was ready to turn a new page and build a better life.

“I had a bus ticket, and I had the clothes on my back,” Walker said.

He got hired at Pizza Hut first, then moved to Advanced Auto, then onto Tyson Foods, and then Ashley Foods. Eventually, he found himself at Corning, where a talk with a mentor led him to consider a choice that transformed his life — going back to school.

Now, almost eight years after that bus ride from New York, Walker is the Student Government Association (SGA) president at Forsyth Technical Community College, part of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and ready to graduate with an associate degree in supply chain management.

The right fit

When deciding on schools, Walker knew he wanted to study supply chain management. He found Forsyth Tech and discovered their supply chain program. With a dream in mind and course catalog in hand, he packed up his bags and moved from Wilkesboro to the Triad.

At the time he started his classes, he had no idea where the opportunities at the college would take him — specifically the leadership development he would undergo. Walker credits many of the opportunities he’s had to the relationships he’s built with students, faculty, and staff.

During his first year at the school, he met president Janet Spriggs in an elevator. The conversation they had that day bloomed into a relationship, one that Walker is still learning from today.

Watching how Spriggs interacts with people and responds to the environment around her is a learning experience for Walker, he said. “Even though I’m not dealing with it, I’m learning from it,” he shared.

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Tamelia Orellana – New Century Workforce Scholarship Award

Tamelia Orellana Photo

Tamelia Orellana

New Century Workforce Scholarship Award

“I feel so confident that God will use me in patients’ time of need just as the sonographer helped me so many years ago.”

When Tamelia Orellana was told by her doctor it was likely her unborn child had down syndrome and possibly spina bifida, she was terrified not knowing what to expect. But instead of giving up on her baby, Orellana decided she needed to see her baby girl on an ultrasound. At the diagnostic clinic, entering the dark room with eyes swollen from tears, Orellana was met by a gentle and kind sonographer who explained there was just a chance her baby would be fine. As Orellana describes, “the ultrasound looked perfect. Oh, her cheeks were so fat and beautiful in the scan. 10 fingers and 10 toes. To me, the black and white version of her melted my heart and nothing would stop me from having her.” Although repeated ultrasounds showed the baby deformed, Orellana’s faith and the prayers of her community kept her strong. Later that year, she gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl “who had no defects or down syndrome.”

After completing her GED online, with her baby girl on her lap, Orellana began school at Rockingham Community College. Although she initially wanted to be an art teacher, Orellana felt strongly led to pursue a degree in sonography. Orellana admits it took her a long time to complete her prerequisites for the program. Along the way “she got sidetracked by a custody battle, had another baby, faced cancer and the new baby had surgery.” As a single mother she sometimes worked two jobs. To be fair, Orellana needed to take some breaks along the way. But her determination carried her and, with support from her boss and friends in the community, Orellana graduated with high honors and the requirements necessary to apply to the ultrasound program at Forsyth Tech.  According to Orellana, only 8 applicants were chosen out of the hundreds that applied that year.

Leaving Rockingham county was bittersweet. She loved her community and had to say goodbye “to one of the best bosses” she ever had. But she remembered, “I put all my effort into making sure I got through this vigorous program in order to help someone else who may face the very same things I also had to endure. I did this to encourage some mother out there who may come into my ultrasound room in tears. I feel so confident that God will use me in patients’ time of need just as the sonographer helped me so many years ago.”

Since coming to Forsyth Tech Community College, both the family cars broke down, her husband moved to part-time to help with the youngest, and they share one laptop and a shattered tablet. They still struggle with health issues and Orellana mainly studied at night since her daughter needed the computer during the day. But as the recipient of the New Century Workforce Scholarship, Orellana observes that “through every financial crisis God came through at the right time!”

Orellana is no stranger to sonography, including watching her first baby with her husband wane through serial ultrasounds before dying; witnessing the miracle of her son, Evan, fight a failing heart and survive; and herself beating cancer twice and recovering from heart failure. Orellana says she is “just like a sword beaten and put through the fire” to help others in their time of need. Through her journey and perseverance, Orellana firmly believes she is prepared both professionally and personally to comfort fearful and uncertain patients as they enter her sonogram room.

 

If you are interested in learning more about the Medical Sonography program at Forsyth Tech, please go to our  website at  https://www.forsythtech.edu/courses-programs/degrees/programs-a-z/medical-sonography/

Course work includes effective communication and patient care skills combined with knowledge of physics, human anatomy, physiology and pathology, all of which are essential to obtaining high quality sonographic images.