Shannon Smith graduated from FTCC with an Associate’s Degree in General Studies in 2012. She summarizes her higher education experience at FTCC with one word: family. Two staff members come to mind when Smith thinks of FTCC: her advisers, Loutricia Nelson, University Outreach Coordinator who advises students transferring to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Sonja Osborne, a program coordinator for the communications department who was Smith’s adviser at the time. Smith recalled the conversation she had with Osborne when she first came to our campus.
“I thought we were going to talk about classes,” Smith remembered.
Instead, the conversation focused on Smith, her interests and future goals. She wanted to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Nelson and Osborne helped put her on that path. Smith enrolled in the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program (C-STEP), a partnership with community colleges, such as FTCC, that creates a path for students to transfer to and graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill.
“Your (immediate) family loves you and wants to help you, but they may not know how to guide you through the college experience,” Smith, a first-generation college student, said. “Mrs. Nelson was my second mom, and she did more than just guide me. She asked me more than just surface-level questions, and she cared about my well being and success: Where do you want to live? Are you sleeping enough? Are you eating enough?”
Smith graduated from UNC in 2014 with a degree in public policy.
She added, “It was the program — and Mrs. Nelson’s heart and care for me — that pushed and prepared me for more than just the classes I needed to take. And to this day, we’re still close.”
And recounting the questions Nelson and Osborne asked her caused Smith to pause. Her eye blinks became longer. She struggled to keep the tears on her eyelids. Smith wasn’t a typical college graduate. She was a single mom. Her daughter, Isabel, is now 14 years old. She previously worked full time as a legal assistant while juggling classes as a full-time student at a nearby university. More than anything, she wanted a better way to take care of herself and Isabel. She wanted a better opportunity and quality of life.
After graduating from UNC, Smith served as the director of foundation and marketing development for Harnett Health. She returned to UNC this fall as the Associate Director of Development for Centers and Institutes where she will continue to help others find the resources they need to succeed. Smith refuses to take all the credit for her achievements through the years. She thanks her mother, Wendy Carroll, and her extended Carolina family – FTCC.
“No one makes it to success on their own,” Smith said. “It’s hard to articulate how much C-STEP prepared me. Opening access to education and removing barriers to success are important to me as a first-generation college student. I had to overcome those barriers, and I couldn’t do it alone.”
*This article first appeared in our 2016-2017 Annual Report released January 2018.