Forsyth Tech’s Class of 2016 couldn’t have asked for a better day. May 14, 2016, was the perfect blend of comfortably warm, sunny weather, pomp, circumstance, dignity, sentiment and an inspiring commencement speech. But to make sure things didn’t get too serious – this was, after all, a celebration – graduates added just the right amount of hootin’, hollerin’, waving to family and whimsical mortarboards decked out with drawings, flowers, slogans and even a miniature laptop. The college’s administrators and faculty, dignified in their black robes, reminded the audience gathered in Winston-Salem’s Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum that it takes a corps of dedicated scholars to fill bright minds with useful knowledge that helps them navigate the world.
Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and chair of the Department of Urology at Wake Forest University, delivered this year’s commencement address, in which he proposed a three-pronged approach to living. He urged graduates to live their best life by first finding their passion, the thing they love to such a degree it becomes a driving force in their life. Second, he recommended they create a life map – a plan for reaching their goals, both professional and personal. Third, he advocated, “Be flexible and open to change.” By gaining exposure to as many new experiences as possible, he suggested, they won’t miss out on unforeseen possibilities. “The thing about a life plan,” he counseled, “is that it must be flexible. Don’t be afraid to regroup and change direction.”
Sound advice for graduates about to step into a Formula One-paced world. The Class of 2016 appears ready to don crash helmets, if necessary. Congratulations, graduates! And may the force be with you.
Forsyth Middle College
High School Diploma and AA Degree
Valedictorian of Forsyth Middle College class of 2016, Chandler had no idea she would earn an associate degree as well as her high school diploma when she started. “At first, I just wanted to earn some college credits. But after the first semester, I decided to pursue the degree, which meant going to school through the summer. My social studies instructor Mrs. Nakawatase (we call her Mrs. N) especially believed in me, which helped me believe in myself.” Heading to Salem College this fall, Chandler plans to become a forensic pathologist. “I have a long road ahead,” she says. But based on what she’s accomplished so far, she has proven she has the determination to see it through.
AAS, Networking Technology
Glenwood has a lot to celebrate – success- fully reinventing himself and being a proud father of a Forsyth Tech grad. Not only did he earn his AAS degree in networking technology, his daughter, Chandler, received both her high school diploma and an AA degree from Forsyth Middle College. And they were enrolled at the same time. “I had been laid off from my job as a strategic sourcing analyst. I had always wanted to work in IT, so I seized the opportunity to study at Forsyth Tech. I have so much to thank my instructors and the department chair, Dr. Deanne Wesley, for. They pushed me to succeed and made sure everything went well.” Glenwood now works at Avid Solutions Inc., providing in-house IT support, a job he landed through a contact at the college. He plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree at East Carolina University through an online program.
Certificate 1 and 2
Mary Lou did a number of jobs, including landscaping and working at a bed-and-breakfast, until she gradually lost most of her sight. “In 2014, I decided I wanted to go to college. I went to Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind so I could get the equipment I would need, such as a closed circuit TV enlarger that magnifies print,” Mary Lou explains. “Everyone in the department jumped through hoops to help me,” she says. In kinesiology classes, her instructor would show her where a muscle was on the body, and she would email videos to Mary Lou to watch at home, and she made audio recordings of anatomy and physiology classes. Mary Lou is optimistic about her future. “I’ve gotten a really good education from Forsyth Tech,” she observes. “They go far and beyond to help their students.”
AAS, Magnetic Resonance Imaging
A former dental assistant, Shemekia always knew she wanted to earn an associate degree.
“I’m a hands-on person, and I wanted to work with people. So the MRI program seemed like a good choice in a field with lots of job opportunities.” She and her husband moved the family here from Augusta, Georgia, for her to attend Forsyth Tech. “We took a leap of faith,” she says. “My biggest challenge was balancing time with my husband and children with study time.” Her instructors advised her to create a detailed schedule and lower her expectations of doing everything perfectly at home. She’s especially grateful to Forsyth Tech for the child care grant she received. “I don’t know how we would have made it without that grant,” she says. “What I admire most about Forsyth Tech is all the different ways it supports students to help them succeed.”
AAS, Cyber Crime Technology
Candice already has a new job. She started working for Secure Designs in May as a firewall technician. “What left the strongest impression about Forsyth Tech was the people,” she says, especially Dr. Deanne Wesley and program coordinator Dan Hutcherson. “They really nurtured something in me. I was in a dark place in my life. I had just given up on my dream of becoming a physicist, and I had switched my degree from nanotechnology to cyber crime technology,” she recalls. “I know it sounds cheesy, but Dr. Wesley changed my life. She really inspired me and pushed me. She got me involved in things like becoming vice president of the AITP, the college’s tech club.” Another person who had a profound impact was fellow student Steven Doyle. “We formed a great friendship, a strong bond. He was better at programming, and I was better at the security stuff, so we were able to help each other out.” Candice will earn her bachelor’s degree in information technology online from Arizona State.
Stokes Early College
High School Diploma and AA Degree
Isabelle Lindsay is one of a handful of “dual enrolled” students who graduated from Stokes Early College with both a high school diploma and an AA degree. The volume of work required was challenging enough, but Isabelle also had to contend with her hearing impairment. “It required becoming a stronger advocate for myself,” she recalls. Forsyth Tech’s Disability Services Office provided an FM system that instructors used to broadcast directly to Isabelle’s bilateral hearing aids. She carried this device from class to class, giving it to each instructor before class and retrieving it afterward. In addition to what she learned in classes, Isabelle says that Forsyth Tech taught her “the value of perseverance and hard work, and overcoming obstacles.” She’ll be attending Winston-Salem State University, which awarded her a four-year scholarship, in August. She plans to take pre-med classes to prepare for veterinary medicine and to minor in Spanish.