In control of his destiny: TCC alum overcomes illness, finds path to success with Men of Color program

At Vanderbilt

Stanley Chibueze poses on campus at Vanderbilt.

For Tarrant County College alumnus Stanley Chibueze, a life-threatening illness gave him the vision for his future—and a special group at TCC gave him the support to make that vision a reality.
 
Chibueze grew up in Nigeria, one of six siblings in a family that emphasized the importance of education even in the midst of poverty. Food was scarce, and he walked up to 20 miles a day for clean water.
 
“We drank lots of water so we wouldn’t feel hungry,” recalled Chibueze. “The conditions were inconceivably poor.”
 
Still, Chibueze’s parents found a way to enroll him in boarding school. He was preparing to graduate in 2006 when he developed cerebral malaria, a severe form of the mosquito-borne disease. The infection blocked small blood vessels in Chibueze’s brain, and he fell into a coma. He recovered, but instead of wondering why he had been afflicted, Chibueze became inspired.
 
“After I survived cerebral malaria, I wanted to know how the brain works,” Chibueze said. “I knew I would study neuroscience and become a doctor.”
 
Continuing his education would have to wait. After Chibueze’s senior year, he took on a variety of jobs to help put his younger siblings through school. He also was waiting for the opportunity to immigrate to the United States. An uncle who lived in Boston helped Chibueze with the paperwork, and years after beginning the process, he finally received word that he was approved. In 2012, Chibueze arrived in the United States, settling in North Texas near another relative.
 
Even though he was ready to attend college, Chibueze first had to become financially stable. With his interest in health care, he took a job at a nursing home, where a coworker told him about TCC.
 
Chibueze enrolled at Northeast Campus in summer 2013. While he was a good student, he was far from home and needed a sense of community. He found that community when he decided to attend a presentation by Men of Color, a program open to all students but specifically designed to assist black and Hispanic males.
 
“Men of Color connected me with wonderful mentors and folks who had my success in mind,” Chibueze noted. “They did everything in their power to create opportunities for me.”
 
That’s critically important, said Freddie Sandifer, one of the program’s coordinators. Sandifer noticed the need for additional guidance for male students of color four years ago while he was an advisor at Trinity River Campus.
 
“We were bringing in black and brown men, but we weren’t retaining them,” Sandifer explained. “I did some research and discovered it wasn’t just a Trinity River Campus problem. It was a problem across the District and across the nation.”
 
Community colleges are the primary source of higher education for black men and Latinos. A report by the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas reveals that while these students have high ambitions when they enroll, they are less likely to reach their goals than female students and those of other ethnicities. Just five percent of black men and Latinos earn a degree or certificate within three years of community college enrollment. For white men, the completion rate is 32 percent.
 
Sandifer discovered that most of the black and Hispanic men who took classes at Trinity River Campus in the fall didn’t return the following semester. Sandifer brought the numbers to TCC administration, and Chancellor Erma Johnson Handley blessed the creation of a program to enhance success among that population.
 
“We began in 2011 with 12 students at Trinity River Campus. Last year, we had 300 participants across all five campuses,” Sandifer said. “Men of Color gives our students a sense of belonging. They know that TCC and higher education are for them.”
 
The group connects students to faculty and staff mentors and provides resources to boost academic achievement. Members also receive leadership training that benefits them in college and beyond. The program has boosted retention rates with 77 percent of fall-semester Men of Color participants returning to the College in the spring. In comparison, black and Hispanic men who aren’t involved in Men of Color have a retention rate of 43 percent.
 

Chibueze w mentor Douglas

Chibueze with mentor Christopher Douglas.

Men of Color gave Chibueze a network of supporters who made it their mission for him to reach his full potential. Two particularly stand out for Chibueze: Christopher Douglas, who co-founded Men of Color’s mentoring program and now works with faculty in TCC Connect government, geography and math programs and Danchees Ingram, a specialist in Student Financial Aid Services.
 
“The day I met Mr. Douglas is a very important day in my life,” smiled Chibueze. “He is like a father to me. Men of Color also gave me a mother figure, Ms. Ingram. They are heroes. We met frequently to develop strategies for success, and they pushed me to do things outside my comfort zone.”
 
With their encouragement, Stanley formed a plan to complete his core curriculum at TCC and transfer to a university. Douglas and Ingram say they encouraged Chibueze, but he took control of his destiny.
 
“He spent many hours studying. I cannot remember a time that Stanley didn’t have a book or notes with him,” recalled Ingram. “He also stayed connected with his support system. Stanley regularly met with me as well as his instructors and other mentors. He took the advice given to him and followed through.”
 
“Stanley is gifted with leadership, dedication, intellect and humility,” added Douglas. “He had a lot to offer his peers and the College community, and I worked with him to develop a social and professional network beyond the classroom.”
Men of Color helped Chibueze come into his own, lessening his shyness and making him more confident. He took on leadership roles with Northeast Campus’ Biology Club and Phi Theta Kappa honor society and in 2014, he won a spot in the TCC International Initiatives’ Salzburg Student Scholars Global Citizenship Program. Chibueze attended an intensive weeklong conference in Austria, building a sense of global citizenship and creating international connections.
 
“That conference ended up changing my life,” Chibueze remarked. “I had to reschedule my flight home, and on my new flight, I met a man whose sons went to Vanderbilt University.”
 
His seatmate encouraged Chibueze to apply to the competitive Tennessee university. When Chibueze learned that Vanderbilt has a renowned undergraduate neuroscience program, he knew he’d found his next step. He worked with Douglas and Ingram on his admissions and financial aid applications, and when the response from Vanderbilt arrived, it was more than he could have ever imagined. The university accepted Chibueze—and awarded him a full scholarship. He transferred to Vanderbilt in fall 2015.
 
“I got all I needed to succeed at Vanderbilt from TCC,” said Chibueze. “I made a deliberate effort to take tough classes and challenged myself to be the best I could be. That prepared me for my future academic endeavors.”

Chibueze with mentor Ingram

Chibueze and mentor Ingrid.


After he earns his bachelor’s degree, Chibueze plans to continue on to medical school and become a neurologist. His ultimate aspiration is to go on medical missions in remote areas of the world. (“I want to give people second chances like I had,” he stated.) Chibueze doesn’t expect an easy road but says that’s all part of the process.
 
“The one thing about challenges is that they never end. The struggles make us stronger. You just have to keep going,” he said.
 
Ingram says mentoring Chibueze reinforced that notion for her.
 
“It is important to know that dreams can come true, but it will involve more than simply dreaming them,” she remarked. “Stanley Chibueze is proof that when you believe and are willing work hard, you can reach your objectives.”
 
 
The story about Stanley Chibueze concludes the year-long series celebrating TCC’s 50th anniversary through the lives of its students. Follow the links below to enjoy previous features:
Karen Medina, Kevin Henry, Rachelle Wanser, Stephanie Davenport, Lee Graham, Sammie Sheppard, Sultan Karriem, and Erin Casey.

All smiles: Registered Dental Assistant Program marks 25 years; graduates enjoy success in high-demand field

MedinaFor Tarrant County College graduate Karen Medina, the need for considerable dental work during her childhood ended up changing the course of her life.
 
“That gave me a fascination with dentistry,” Medina said. “But I didn’t pursue dental hygiene when I got out of high school because my parents wanted me to get a bachelor’s degree, and I wasn’t confident enough to study pre-dentistry. So I picked another field.”
 
After college, Medina went to work for the federal government, first as a technical writer and later as a manager with the Census Bureau. However, she never lost her interest in dentistry—so when Medina and her husband retired and moved back to Texas, she decided it was time to turn that interest into a new career. Medina considered going into dental hygiene but felt dental assisting was a better choice for her. Dental hygiene requires a longer education, with hygienists responsible for more advanced and independent procedures. Dental assistants generally work alongside a dentist, prepare equipment and handle administrative work.
 
“When I investigated dental assistant training options, I learned that TCC has a strong, affordable program and that most graduates are able to find employment quickly,” Medina recalled. “I went to an orientation and was sold. So I immediately began the admissions process and was accepted into the next semester’s class.”
 
In spring 2013, Medina joined a long line of distinguished graduates from TCC’s Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) Program. Now marking its 25th anniversary, the RDA Program offers two sessions a year at Northeast Campus, with each class at capacity.
 
It is quite a turnaround. Originally, the Dental Assistant Program (as it was then known) was part of TCC’s college credit offerings. Due to low enrollments, TCC ended the program in 1986. The industry quickly felt the effects.
 
“Local dental practices were experiencing difficulty in finding trained dental assistants to hire,” explained Laurie Semple, the program coordinator. “The Fort Worth District Dental Society eventually turned to the College to address the issue by reinstating the program.”
 
TCC quickly responded. In 1990, the College began once again accepting students to the program, restructured to be part of noncredit Community & Industry Education Services. It had the support of area dental practices and professional organizations, and the College increased promotion at TCC and in the community. Six students were in the first class, and enrollment grew steadily from there.
 
Paula Medford was among the early graduates.
 
“I started thinking about dental assisting when I was looking at a career change from aviation,” Medford remarked. “I had a friend who was a dental assistant. She loved her job and highly recommended it, so I started researching training programs.”
 
Medford liked the fact that TCC is an accredited college instead of a trade school. “Plus, it was a fast-paced program. I would be able to graduate sooner and start my career,” she said.
 
During the intensive, 22-week course of study, students learn about dental anatomy, radiology, sterilization, laboratory procedures, preventive dentistry, nitrous oxide sedation, office management and more. After learning fundamentals in the classroom and lab, students practice their skills in actual work situations through a clinical externship. They also perform community service, including making dental health presentations and assisting dental hygiene students providing care to underserved children.
 
“TCC gave me the knowledge and hands-on training I needed to be confident working in any dental office,” said Medford. “The faculty helped me with job placement as well.”
Medford graduated from TCC in spring 1992. She worked in general dentistry, pediatric and orthodontic offices as a dental assistant. After several years, she found a new area of interest: dental sales.
 
“I always liked the sales reps coming into the office and sharing new products,” Medford remembered. “They were always there to help.”
 
Medford transitioned to a sales position with Becker-Parkin Dental, then spent 14 years with Patterson Dental. Two years ago, Henry Schein Dental recruited her. Medford visits offices across the Metroplex, informing dental professionals about the latest equipment and supplies that will help them care for their patients’ teeth. Among her customers: TCC’s RDA Program.
 
“I have watched it evolve into one of the best programs around,” reflected Medford, who is a member of the College’s RDA advisory board. “TCC has top-notch faculty and training and no doubt turns out the best dental assistants in North Texas.”
 
The program—renamed the Registered Dental Assistant Program in 2004 to reflect the registration requirement of the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners—is indeed one of TCC’s pride points. It has produced approximately 1,000 graduates over the past quarter century, meeting the needs of the local industry. The demand for dental assistants will continue; the Texas Workforce Commission projects 29 percent growth in the Tarrant County labor market from 2012 to 2022, outpacing the average for all occupations.
 
“Our students are very attractive candidates for employment,” said Semple, the program coordinator. “They not only graduate with their Texas State Board of Dental Examiners Registration and Nitrous Oxide Monitoring certificates, but they also have those credentials prior to starting their clinical externship.”
 
The RDA Program has developed partnerships with more than 60 Tarrant County dental practices for student externships. Dentists trust TCC, according to Dr. Ron Lee, a dentist who practices in Colleyville. A number of students have earned their clinical experience in Lee’s office, and each semester he works with students on campus to evaluate them in chairside and administrative scenarios.
 
“TCC does a great job of preparing the students,” said Lee. “There is a lot to learn in a short amount of time, and the College runs a rigorous program. As a dentist, you know an assistant from TCC is fully committed. I wouldn’t hesitate to hire a graduate of the program. I can’t say enough about how well run it is. The faculty members are terrific.”
 
The faculty now includes Karen Medina, the former federal government employee who never lost her passion for dentistry. Medina joined the RDA Program as an instructional assistant after graduation; one semester later, the College hired her as an adjunct instructor.
 
“My bachelor’s degree was in education, and I’ve always wanted to be an educator. This lets me work in dentistry and teach,” said Medina, who also volunteers as a dental assistant at a community clinic in Fort Worth.
 
Semple says the success of the RDA Program can be attributed to the fact that its graduates are well rounded and exceed the expectations of the industry.
 
“TCC’s Registered Dental Assistant Program is a wonderful tribute to what can be developed with educational, professional and community partnerships,” noted Semple. “It’s now time to look toward the next 25 years—and we’re off and running.”
 
In addition to the general RDA training curriculum, TCC offers professional development courses for practicing dental assistants. Learn more about the RDA Program, including admissions information, on the Community & Industry Education webpage.
 
View photos from the program’s 25th anniversary celebration on Flickr.
 
The Registered Dental Assistant feature is the latest in a year-long series celebrating TCC’s 50th anniversary through the lives of its students. Follow the links below to enjoy previous features:
Kevin Henry, Rachelle Wanser, Stephanie Davenport,  Lee Graham, Sammie Sheppard, Sultan Karriem, and Erin Casey.
 
Medina in sealant professional development class.

Engineering a path to success: TCC student builds on experiences in College’s youth programs

henry_kevin_3059Some people take a long time to decide on a career. For Tarrant County College student Kevin Henry, his future profession was clear from the beginning.
 
“When I was in daycare, I would always be the first one to the blocks and Lego bricks,” he says. “I would create roads, highways, buildings and houses.”
 
Henry’s interest in how things are designed and built got a big boost in 2008, as he prepared to enter seventh grade. TCC Southeast Campus Vice President for Community & Industry Education Services Carrie Tunson, a family friend, told Henry’s mother about TexPREP (Texas Prefreshman Engineering Program). The summer program, offered at colleges and universities throughout the state, provides middle and high school students a foundation for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. It was a perfect fit for Henry.
 
“Being a part of TCC at a young age really encouraged me to do better in middle and high school so that I could get into the college I wanted,” Henry said. “Not only did it benefit me in school, it also gave me something to look forward to in the summer and helped keep me out of trouble.”
 
Through labs, lectures, field trips and guest speakers, TexPREP gave Henry real-world, hands-on experiences and knowledge. He and his fellow students learned about the education an engineer needs as well as different career options.
 
“Some of our TexPREP participants were the first in their families to explore engineering; others would go on to become the very first in their families to enroll in college,” notes Rachel Zhang, Southeast Campus professor of engineering. “It is so important to build a strong workforce for STEM professions, and that’s exactly what programs like TexPREP do.”
 
Zhang and the other TexPREP instructors quickly saw Henry’s potential.
 
“Kevin is determined and knows what he wants,” she said. “He makes every effort in whatever he does – exactly what is needed to be successful.”
 
final3-group1Henry returned to TexPREP for each of the summers it was offered at TCC, developing a strong interest in civil engineering. As he transitioned to high school, the Southeast Campus engineering faculty recruited him for another pre-college program, called FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). TCC formed a team to participate in FRC, the FIRST Robotics Competition, and Henry served as the team captain.
 
“FRC allowed me to see a whole other form of engineering,” he recalls. “I enjoyed learning how to build, program and control robots. Even though I’m not majoring in industrial engineering, where robotics are highly used, whenever I’m designing a building, street or highway, I try to think of ways to incorporate robotics.”
 
After spending six years alongside the College’s engineering faculty, Henry knew he would get a great education as a TCC student. He enrolled following graduation from Arlington’s Martin High School in 2014. The instructors who first met Henry just after elementary school were now his college professors. He thrived as a civil engineering major.
 
“The faculty members have played a major role in my life, encouraging me and helping me become the student I am today,” he says. “I am very thankful for that.”
 
Henry’s accomplishments come as no surprise to Joy Gates Black, TCC’s vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and Student Success. She says that the College’s youth programs help pave the way to achievement in higher education.
 
“We’re creating the next generation of college students,” Gates Black explains. “We hope they eventually come here, like Kevin did. Even if they choose another college or university, we’ve created that college-going culture in our community. And that’s really what it’s all about.”
 
While TCC has long offered pre-college programs, Gates Black says more stakeholders in the community are realizing the value of connecting youth to the college experience.
 
“What you are seeing now is everyone getting in sync,” she says. “Parents are seeing the benefits, and school districts are partnering with us to create connected pathways for students. And it’s working. I hear even the youngest kids in our programs say, ‘I’m going to TCC.’ They feel like they are a part of the College. It teaches them to be responsible and have a commitment to getting a degree or certificate long before they graduate from high school.”
 
Henry is now halfway to his Associate of Science in Civil Engineering and will apply the credits he has earned toward a bachelor’s degree when he transfers next year. He plans to attend the University of Texas at Arlington, Texas A&M University or Prairie View A&M University.
 
Those who watched Henry grow up on TCC campuses – such as Vice President Tunson, who first introduced him to TexPREP – say his participation in the College’s youth programs honed and nurtured his natural talents.
 
“To achieve greatness, young people must believe in themselves and make it happen,” she says. “Kevin Henry made it happen.”
 
TCC offers a variety of opportunities for pre-college students at its five campuses across Tarrant County. Learn more about current offerings and start planning for summer 2016 on the youth programs webpage.
 
The Henry feature is the latest in a year-long series celebrating TCC’s 50th anniversary through the lives of its students. Follow the links below to enjoy previous features:
Rachelle Wanser, Stephanie Davenport,  Lee Graham, Sammie Sheppard, Sultan Karriem, and Erin Casey.
 
Kevin_Henry_final34
Kevin at Compuer
 

“Hard work pays off:” TCC early college high school grad earns full scholarship to Johns Hopkins

TABS valedictorian and TCC graduate Rachelle Wanser.

TABS valedictorian and TCC graduate Rachelle Wanser.

For most students, college graduation comes years after they accept their high school diploma. Rachelle Wanser did things a little differently. In May, Wanser received her associate degree from Tarrant County College – one month before she took the stage as valedictorian of the Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences (TABS).
 
“TABS is a very unique school,” says Wanser of the early college high school, a partnership among TCC, Fort Worth ISD, the University of North Texas and the UNT Health Science Center. “I felt excited to go to school every day. It was an experience that some people can only dream about.”
 
Her dreams just got a big boost. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore awarded Wanser a full scholarship. She will be the first person in her family to attend a four-year institution of higher education.
 
“From there I aspire to earn my M.D. at Johns Hopkins, Stanford or Dartmouth,” she said. “My ultimate professional goal is to work either as a pediatrician in my own clinic or as a neonatologist in a hospital setting.”
 
TABS focuses on preparing students for a future in biomedical sciences or another Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field. It is one of Fort Worth ISD’s “schools of choice,” with interested students participating in a lottery to gain admission. A friend told Wanser about TABS while she was in middle school at Fort Worth ISD’s Applied Learning Academy – which, like TABS, promotes a mix of real-world and classroom experiences. Wanser put her name in for consideration and became part of the very first TABS class, simultaneously becoming a high school and college student.
 
TABS students can begin taking TCC classes as soon as their freshman year and accumulate transferable college credits. They may get enough credits to earn an associate degree in addition to their high school diploma – a feat Wanser and five of her classmates accomplished this year. TCC is working to grow that number in future graduating classes.
 
“This is not school as usual,” says Troy Langston, TABS principal. “You have to be serious about being a student. You’re expected to work hard in college.”
 
In addition to completing core studies that meet state high school graduation requirements, TABS students take health science technology classes and other STEM courses as electives. Some of their TCC classes are composed entirely of TABS participants; in other courses, their peers are adult college students.
 
“That pushed me not only academically but also socially,” reflects Wanser. “I had to learn to be comfortable working with people who were sometimes far above me in age and who had a completely different worldview.”
 
In their junior and senior years, TABS students study exclusively at TCC’s Trinity River Campus.
 
“TABS was created to enable students to take courses that challenge their recognized talents, especially in the sciences,” says Dr. Tahita Fulkerson, Trinity River Campus president. “Rachelle extraordinarily exemplifies the possibilities of the program. She raised the bar for those who follow her.”
 
TCC waives tuition for TABS students, while Fort Worth ISD covers the cost of books and materials. Students receive support and assistance from UNT undergraduate and graduate students, and TABS upperclassmen visit the UNT Health Science Center and community healthcare facilities as part of their coursework.
 
“Our students come from all backgrounds. TABS is as diverse as Fort Worth,” says Langston. “It’s not uncommon for TABS students to be the first in their family to go to college. But 100 percent of our graduates plan to continue on to a four-year university or TCC this fall. In comparison, other Fort Worth high schools see 20 to 40 percent of their graduates enroll in college. That speaks volumes about the early college experience.”
 
Wanser credits TABS’ small class size, outstanding College faculty and hands-on approach to education with propelling her to success. But her instructors say her drive and tenacity also played a big role in getting her where she is today.
Rachelle Wanser (L) and Rio Velasquez learn about the anatomy of a cadaver frpm UNT Health Science Center.

Rachelle Wanser (L) and Rio Velasquez learn about the anatomy of a cadaver from UNT Health Science Center.


 
“Rachelle entered my classroom with an early understanding of what it takes to be a successful college student,” says Candice Torres, who taught Wanser Anatomy & Physiology I and Biology II. “She is dedicated, has an eye for detail, learns material quickly and has a strong capacity for critical thinking.”
 
Wanser’s principal agrees, noting that she took advantage of the resources TCC and UNT provide to TABS students.
 
“Rachelle kept focused on her education. She studied at night and took summer school,” Langston remembers. “She advocated for herself, asked questions and didn’t shy away from challenges.”
 
Wanser’s challenges were not only at school. For the last decade, her mother has suffered debilitating strokes. The cause is unknown, and the strokes happen at random times.
 
“I had to learn how to handle caring for my mom and two younger siblings while keeping up with schoolwork,” says Wanser. “Her illness is one of the reasons I want to become a doctor.”
 
Wanser is far from the only TABS graduate following her dreams with the help of a college scholarship. Langston says the class of 2015 – composed of just 87 students – received well over a million dollars in scholarship offers, a testament to the value of the program. When asked what she would tell other students considering early college high school, Wanser does not hesitate in her reply.
 
“Keep your spirits high. Courses are far more rigorous than regular high school classes, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But when you make it through the tough times, the rewards are astounding. The hard work you put in now pays off in unimaginable ways a little further down the road.”
 
In addition to TABS, TCC’s early college high schools include Marine Creek Collegiate High School at Northwest Campus, Arlington Collegiate High School at Southeast Campus and the Grapevine-Colleyville ISD Collegiate Academy at Northeast Campus. South Campus will open the Tarrant County College South/Fort Worth ISD Collegiate High School this fall.
 
The Wanser feature is the latest in a year-long series celebrating TCC’s 50th anniversary through the lives of its students. Follow the links below to enjoy previous features:
 
Stephanie Davenport, Lee Graham, Sammie Sheppard, Sultan Karriem, and Erin Casey.

All in the Family: TCC Grad Follows in Mom’s Footsteps, Joins College Staff

Stephanie with Mom, Lou

South Campus Student Activities Coordinator Stephanie Davenport, left, with her mother, Lourdes Davenport, an academic advisor and adjunct instructor at Northwest Campus.

Ask TCC graduate and current employee Stephanie Davenport who at the College has impacted her life, and you’ll get a long list of names. That comes with the territory when you’ve been part of the TCC family since age 1.
 
“Tarrant County College provided me stability and strength since my mother started working here when I was just a baby,” says Stephanie. “It taught me a sense of community and to value both diversity and unity. TCC has helped mold me into the person I am and will forever be.”
 
Stephanie’s mother, Lourdes Davenport, knew TCC would change their lives from the moment they stepped on campus more than 25 years ago.
 
“Stephanie attended TCC’s College for Kids as a child, hung out in the Student Services office, and helped answer phones and greet people. She knew everybody on campus,” recalls Lourdes, an academic advisor and adjunct instructor at Northwest Campus. “Those experiences strengthened the college-going philosophy I was instilling at home.”
 
It was natural for Stephanie to enroll at TCC after she graduated from Haltom High School in 2006. The College gave her many benefits: She could stay close to home to help care for her younger brother, work in the community where she grew up, save money before transferring to a university, explore different majors, and get a strong education. Stephanie immersed herself in campus life, taking part in theater productions and joining student clubs.
 
“There is a lot to be said for what can be learned outside the classroom,” she explains. “Student activities give you leadership skills, professional and personal development, networking opportunities, relationship building, and more.”
 
Stephanie’s time as a student gave her an even deeper respect for TCC faculty and staff.
 
“To tell you all the TCC employees who impacted my life would be impossible,” Stephanie says. “Of course, there’s my mom. She is my hero. Dr. Paula Vastine, the retired director of Student Development Services at Northeast Campus, means the world to me. History professor Peter Hacker taught me that every student should be held to the same high standards. Government instructor Nichole Horn taught me that as a woman, a woman of color, a young person, a student, and more that I have a responsibility to my community and the people in it. Spanish professor Janet Rodriguez never stopped encouraging me. Retired Northeast Campus president Dr. Larry Darlage treated everyone with the same level of respect, and I learned from that. Dr. Murray Fortner, professor and chair of sociology, has been and continues to be an integral part of my life.”
 
Dr. Fortner observed Stephanie’s empathy for others while she was a student.
 
“Steph has such a deep concern for humankind that it gives me hope about tomorrow’s leaders,” he says. “She is intelligent, caring, and destined for even greater success.”
Stephanie’s path to success continued when she completed her TCC studies, receiving an associate degree in 2009. Stephanie went on to the University of North Texas and earned her bachelor’s degree in political science.
 
Her career focused on public service and helping others. In 2013, she returned to TCC – this time, on the other side of the classroom. The College hired Stephanie as an adjunct instructor for Continuing Education’s ESL classes.
 
“I’ve had students from Africa, Russia, China, India, Ecuador, Korea, and Mexico, people who were doctors, lawyers, stay-at-home moms and dads, engineers, teachers, refugees, public officials, and business executives,” she notes. “They are some of the most interesting people, and they teach me a lot when they share their experiences with the class.”
 
A year after Stephanie began teaching, she chose to give back in another way, running for public office. Haltom City voters elected her as the first Latina to ever serve on their city council. At age 25, she also became one of Haltom City’s youngest representatives. In addition, Stephanie serves as the president of the executive board of directors for Proyecto Inmigrante, a nonprofit that provides immigration counseling services.
 
“Stephanie is successful because she cares about the impact she has on her family, friends, and society in general. She is successful because she is a servant leader,” says Lourdes.
Education remains extremely important to Stephanie. Next year, Amberton University in Garland will award her a master’s degree in human resources training and development. She also recently joined TCC full time as the coordinator of student activities for South Campus.
 
“Everything I’ve done in my education and career has led me to this position,” Stephanie smiles. “I always knew I’d come back to TCC.”
 

Stephanie on campus.

Stephanie Davenport, second from right, involved with South Campus students.


 
The Davenport feature is the latest in a year-long series celebrating TCC’s 50th anniversary through the lives of its students. Follow the links below to enjoy previous features:
 
Lee Graham, Sammie Sheppard, Sultan Karriem, and Erin Casey.

 

Extra, extra: Alum draws on lessons learned at TCC to craft career in journalism

Lee GrahamTarrant County College alumnus A. Lee Graham is marking 25 years as a professional journalist. His career has taken him from North Texas to the West Coast and back, reporting for both major and community newspapers. Graham’s beats have included business, government, education, the music scene and more. His interest in the written word, however, began long before he ever drew a paycheck.
 
“I always loved writing, beginning with fiction as a young boy,” Graham reflects. Still, “despite a lifetime of writing, journalism never occurred to me as a career until late high school. That’s where the seed was planted.”
 
When Graham joined his high school newspaper staff, everything changed. He became an avid consumer of local, national and international news.
 
“I saw the importance of an informed populace – and the responsibility that journalists have in keeping them informed and the ‘powers that be’ in check,” he explains.
 
Graham plunged into the study of journalism when he enrolled at TCC, then known as Tarrant County Junior College, in the mid-eighties. Graham refined the journalism basics he learned in high school and gained a foundation for his entire career, with Professor Diane Turner taking his talent and passion to the next level.
 
“She had the ability to be demanding and uncompromising when it came to what she expected from her students, yet she was fun and likable at the same time,” remembers Graham. “You wanted to do well. You didn’t want to disappoint her because you respected her both as an educator and as a person.”
 
Turner passed away in 2009, but her legacy lives on in students like Graham, according to Eddye Gallagher, director of TCC student publications and assistant professor of journalism.
 
“Diane had a tremendous impact on her students,” says Gallagher. “Occasionally, I’ll see a Facebook post where one of her former students will post a comment that Diane had made years ago that is still remembered or advice that is still followed.”
 
Graham worked under Turner as a reporter for The Reflector, then the newspaper for South Campus. He remembers Turner’s love for journalism as “palpable.” Her guidance helped keep Graham going as he juggled college with work and other parts of his life.
 
“Time management is the most critical challenge a college student faces,” Graham says. “If a student can come up with a schedule and stick to it, that’s half the battle.”

Graham sketch as columnist

Sketch of Graham when he was a music columnist for The Reflector.


During his time as a reporter for The Reflector, Graham experienced one of his most vivid news memories.
 
“As we were racing against deadline one day, we looked up to the newsroom television and saw the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion happen live,” recalls Graham. “I’ll never forget pulling my story out of the IBM Selectric typewriter and watching that awful cloud spread across an otherwise blue sky.”
 
That experience further cemented Graham’s desire to keep people informed about events that affect their lives. After completing two years at TCC, Graham transferred to Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) to continue his journalism studies. A few months before receiving his bachelor’s degree, he met with a recruiter at a job fair. Graham went on to speak to the editor of The Hemet News in Hemet, Calif., by phone and then interviewed with one of his colleagues in Texas. The Hemet News hired Graham as a reporter. He rented an apartment long distance, loaded up his car and made the trip to southern California.
 
After three years, Graham moved on to The Californian newspaper; his career later brought him back to Texas. Graham worked for the Las Colinas Business News, The Dallas Morning News, The Plano-Star Courier and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s suburban newspapers before joining Fort Worth Business Press in 2011.
 
Graham is part of a network of TCC alumni making their mark in journalism and related fields.
 
“We have photographers, designers, writers and editors working across Texas and the country for newspapers, television, magazines, businesses, hospitals, cities and organizations,” notes Gallagher. “Whether in design, photography or writing and whether in print, broadcast or public relations, all are using their TCC-gained knowledge and experiences.”
 
Graham credits his professional success to innate qualities reinforced by Professor Turner: “Discipline, focus and a willingness to work hard. Really hard.”
 
Read A. Lee Graham’s reports in the Fort Worth Business Press.

 

The Graham feature is the latest in a year-long series celebrating TCC’s 50th anniversary through the lives of its students. Follow the links below to enjoy previous features:
 
Sammie Sheppard, Sultan Karriem, and Erin Casey.

 

A big serving of success: Culinary arts grad turns passion into a career

Chef Sultan KarriemTCC Culinary Arts graduate Sultan Karriem owns a thriving catering business, serving up healthy and great-tasting food to people across the Metroplex. But his passion for cooking started when he was much… shorter.
 
“My mother and grandmother introduced me to the kitchen when I was young, and they couldn’t stop me from asking questions and requesting samples,” Karriem says. “My mother said I could start cooking as soon as I could reach the stove. And I did.”
 
Once Karriem started cooking, he never stopped. He discovered that he had a natural talent for preparing meals from scratch and creating his own recipes. By age nine, he was making nightly dinners for his family. When he was old enough to get a job, Karriem worked in high-end restaurants. To make a career out of cooking, however, he knew he needed to continue his education.
 
“TCC elevated my skills in the kitchen. I learned trends in culinary arts, how to purchase products and what it would take to turn my enthusiasm for cooking into a living,” explains Karriem. “I trained under instructors with real-life experience and practical knowledge. TCC was the polish I needed to excel.”
 
Karriem’s instructors saw his drive and ability from the beginning.
 
“He was ready to learn and always delivered an outstanding product,” says Katrina Warner, coordinator and instructor for Culinary Arts, Hotel and Restaurant Administration. “Chef Karriem is a team player, and his leadership and kitchen skills made him an extraordinary student.”
 
Even before Karriem graduated, catering companies began asking him to prepare and serve his special brand of American comfort cuisine. While the new chef was achieving his goals, his success also presented difficulties.
 
“The main problem was time – finding time to study, work and have a life,” he notes. “I also had to not doubt myself in order to get to the next level.”
 
TCC helped Karriem overcome those challenges. He started his own business in 2011 (with a signature Poblano Chicken known as Karriem’s Chicken) and earned his associate degree the following year.
 
Today Karriem’s Catering is in demand, with a growing customer base that includes his alma mater.
 

Chef Karriem catering

TCC graduate Chef Karriem serving it up during African-American Heritage Month at South Campus.

 

“Whether it’s a small meeting, a multi-day event, or a special guest, we can count on Chef Karriem to provide quality food, with excellent service and presentation,” says Wendy Hammond, executive administrative assistant in the South Campus Office of the President. “It is apparent that he tremendously enjoys what he does.”
 
The fact that he is a TCC graduate is a great bonus, according to the offices that hire him. “Chef Karriem counted on TCC for his education, so it’s very fitting that he sees the fruits of his labor right here on campus,” says Maria Alvarado, administrative assistant in Community & Industry Education Services. “Talk about giving back.”
 
Giving back is important to Karriem, whose business has donated thousands of meals for families in need. For his contributions, the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce recognized him as its 2014-15 Businessman of the Year. This month, he will receive the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce’s Quest Award, which honors African-American entrepreneurs.
 
Karriem’s business ventures aren’t limited to catering. He recently shot a pilot for a cooking show and is now in discussions with producers and networks.
 
“For students who are struggling to balance school, work and their personal life, I recommend not focusing on where you are right now. Envision where you want to be in life,” Karriem says. “Keep your eye on your objective, and you’ll get there.”
 
Want to cook like Chef Karriem? Try his recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini.
 
Chef Karriem’s Chicken Tetrazzini
 
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 15 min. Bake: 30 min.
MAKES: 8 servings
Ingredients
• 2 cups sliced mushrooms
• 1/4 cup butter, cubed
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 cups chicken broth
• 1/4 cup half-and-half cream
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper
• 3 tablespoons white wine or chicken broth, optional
• 3 cups cubed cooked chicken
• 8 ounces spaghetti, cooked and drained
• 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
 
Nutritional Facts
1 serving (1 cup) equals 258 calories, 13 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 71 mg cholesterol, 763 mg sodium, 13 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 21 g protein.
Directions
1. In a large skillet, cook mushrooms in butter until tender. Stir in flour; gradually add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in the cream, parsley, salt, nutmeg, pepper, and wine if desired. Fold in the chicken and spaghetti.
2. Turn into a greased 3-qt. baking dish; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 8 servings
 
The second in a year-long series celebrating TCC’s 50th anniversary through the lives of its students. Follow the link below, to enjoy the first feature:
 
JANUARY: Erin Casey
 

‘It’s just the right thing to do:’ TCC sign language grad volunteers for family in need

Erin CaseyFor Erin Casey, free time is hard to find. Since graduating from Tarrant County College in 2012 with her associate degree in American Sign Language interpreting, she has bridged the gap between hearing and deaf individuals in schools, emergency rooms, graduations, conferences and more. She also mentors TCC’s interpreting students and is preparing to return to the classroom as an adjunct instructor. But one mother’s wish prompted Erin to embrace a huge, new responsibility.
 
Tracey has a two-year-old son who has endured difficulties with his ears and hearing since birth. Samuel’s inability to hear properly led to speech problems, and Tracey became desperate to communicate with her son.
 
“Samuel gets so frustrated not being able to tell me what he wants or needs,” she says. “He just falls down and cries.”
 
Tracey taught Samuel a few signs from a book and realized the potential for sign language to change their lives. She wrote to the Kidd Kraddick Morning Show about her dream to learn sign language. Erin’s friend works for the radio program—and when Erin heard about Tracey and Samuel, she didn’t hesitate to volunteer.
 
“Tracey is so anxious to learn sign language, and that is just amazing,” Erin says. “Unfortunately, not all parents are like that. Samuel’s life will drastically change. He’ll be a different kid within a couple of months.”
 
Erin and Tracey arranged for three months of private lessons. As Tracey learns, she will teach Samuel.
 
“Sign language will give me the ability to communicate with Samuel and my son the ability to communicate with others,” says Tracey. “Erin has given my family a gift I will forever cherish.”
 
Erin’s generosity doesn’t surprise Sammie Sheppard, TCC’s Sign Language Interpreting Program coordinator.
 
“She is one of the hardest workers I know and one of the most caring people I know,” says Sheppard. “Erin has always been one to lift others up and give back.”
 
Erin maintained her positive attitude despite serious personal challenges that threatened to derail her education and career. During college, Erin shared one car with her mother and brother, and the family practically lived out of it. Money was very tight, and Erin didn’t see how she could finish the interpreting program.
 
“Erin was a very talented student with so much ahead of her. There was no way I was going to see her leave the program,” says Sheppard. “We started to work on ways to get her transportation and other assistance.”
 
Erin returned to class, but in her final semester, her hands began tingling and going numb—a serious concern for anyone and especially for a sign language interpreter. Shortly after graduation, Erin was hospitalized and diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
 
“Not only did she come back from this,” says Sheppard, “she roared back, determined she would not be defeated by MS.”
 
Erin took charge of her health, going on a diet and exercise program and losing more than 100 pounds. She also passed her state certification for sign language interpreting and took on a full-time job. Today she is an advanced-level interpreter. Sheppard believes Erin’s experiences will make her an excellent sign language instructor, for college students and for Tracey.
 
“Erin knows what it’s like to go through a very challenging program with additional personal challenges and come out on top,” says Sheppard. “We are proud to count her among TCC alumni.”
 
For Erin, volunteering her time for Tracey is a way to show gratitude for the blessings in her own life.
 
“I’d been looking for a way to give back, and Tracey’s story touched my heart,” says Erin. “I don’t need recognition for this. It’s just the right thing to do.”
 
Listen to Tracey and Erin’s story on the Kidd Kraddick Morning Show.
 

Erin Casey, right, signs with Betty Goodridge.

Erin Casey, right, signs with
TCC’s Betty Goodridge.


 
Erin Casey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first in a year-long series celebrating TCC’s 50th anniversary through the lives of its students.