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IN THIS ISSUE: Alumni Success Stories Executive Director’s Welcome Rebranding COA College History Timeline


College of The Albemarle (COA) has been transforming lives in our region for more than 54 years. But through the strategic planning process we completed last spring, we found many in our communities weren’t sure who we really were, what we stood for and what we offered. It was time to reintroduce ourselves to those communities. We began the process of rebranding by meeting with and listening to students (both current and potential), faculty and staff, and community members. One of the words they used to describe COA over and over was catalyst – we believe every person, every student and every community has a spark of potential within. Sometimes that spark is hidden. But we believe it’s there, and our confidence in that potential becomes a catalyst to ignite the spark in ways that transform lives. That concept of a catalyst led us in the development of a set of Brand Pillars, a new logo and a new visual language that unites our communications and represents us in a fresh, distinctive way. The beauty and power of our new logo resides in the apparent simplicity of circles – seven circles representing the seven counties we serve – that come together creating complexity, depth and beauty. A spark radiates outward from the center representing that spark of possibility in each of us that the COA experience transforms. We hope you’ll take a moment to view the brand reveal video we’re using to reintroduce COA and share our transformational story. Check it out at


Our pillars focus on what makes us unique and what we are focusing on.

TRANSFORMATIVE We strive to make a transformative difference in the life of every student and fuel positive transformations in our region. MENTORS AND CHAMPIONS We strive to really know our students, to hone their interests and fuel the spark in them – we encourage, guide, challenge and champion them. UNITED IN OUR DIVERSITY There is a rich diversity at the heart of COA’s identity, a myriad of people, perspectives and opportunities all united to serve communities across the region that are distinct and yet interwoven. EXCELLENCE AND VALUE COA offers students an outstanding value in terms of both financial affordability and educational quality in our curriculum and continuing education programs alike. VESTED AND ENGAGED Since our founding as North Carolina’s first community college, we have been committed to serving the evolving needs and interests of the students, employers and communities who compose our seven-county service area. The logo is the anchor point of our new visual identity. Fresh versions of our traditional blue and orange, modern typefaces and dynamic visual elements will help us tell the COA story in a new way.


The spark symbolizes the spark of potential that lives within every student, every county, every person we serve. College of The Albemarle is the catalyst that breathes life into that spark, mentoring and championing our students as they transform their potential into purpose.

The movement of the mark radiates outward from the center, just as the transformative power of a COA education radiates outward in the lives of our students, their families, their workplaces and their communities. The visual mark, composed of seven circles, creates a system of “sevens” symbolizing the seven counties College of The Albemarle serves.

HELLO COA ALUMNUS! Welcome to the inaugural edition of College of The Albemarle’s alumni magazine. As one of the more than 14,000 graduates of COA, we hope you will take this opportunity to get acquainted with some of COA’s alumni and catch up on all that has happened at the college since its inception in 1961. When continuing education students are added to those who received degrees, diplomas or certificates, tens of thousands of students have passed through the doors of COA’s campuses over its 54 years. The next time you are at a gathering in our region, play the game of Six Degrees of Separation. It won’t take long to find an alum or the family member of an alum. Where did they all go? That’s what we have set out to know. Within the pages of our first edition, you will meet a variety of graduates from the first graduating class to the most recent, representing a range of academic programs. These personal stories of success and COA’s impact on their lives are but a sampling of the more than

110 alumni success stories we have compiled so far. You can catch up to more of these former students at We are proud of our alumni family, who individually and collectively, represent COA’s power to transform lives and its contribution to the quality of life of northeastern North Carolina. We hope you share that pride and have fond memories of your time here. Frankly, community colleges are challenged to establish an esprit d’corps among alumni. As commuter schools without residential housing, dining halls and major sports programs, community colleges have fewer ways to connect students to each other and the college. We hope to instill some Dolphin pride in our graduates. We invite you to let us know where you are and what you are doing, and share a little about your COA experience. Logon to We hope you enjoy the magazine and welcome your comments and suggestions.

How you can help the Students of College of The Albemarle

“As a COA alum myself, I know the value of the education I received. I also know the value of the support and encoragement I felt as a student and still feel each day. Help us tell the incredible story of COA by sharing your experience and life journey with us.” Lisa A. Johnson Executive Director COA Foundation and Development

As a College of The Albemarle alum, please consider helping others who are transforming their lives the same way you did? A gift of any amount will have significant impact on our students’ ability to enroll, complete their program of study and graduate! The financial assistance for tuition, books, fees and emergency needs the Foundation provides can keep our students on the path to success. To make your gift, go to or use the enclosed postage paid envelope.


THE PIONEERS College of The Albemarle opened its doors in September 1961 with 113 students. College Transfer was the only program offered. The first graduates earned their degrees in June 1963. Most of the early graduates went on to four-year schools to earn bachelor’s degrees, master’s and doctorates and had successful careers. You’ll find many of those students who helped launch COA in those early years still live in northeastern North Carolina. Some are retired, others continue to be employed. Here are the stories of four of those pioneers from the first five years of COA’s existence.

Dr. Howard Robertson In 1964, Howard Robertson was on track to graduate from high school a year early assuming he could arrange to take his two remaining courses, history and literature, somewhere else before the start of his senior year. “I wanted to finish early,” Robertson said, who eventually went on to earn his medical degree. “So I went over to College of The Albemarle and they let me take freshman English and freshman History.”


the time. Robertson and Chesson had spent summers measuring land allotments together in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties when they were younger. Robertson thought of Chesson as an older brother and while he was a student at COA, Robertson worked as a lab assistant for Chesson, helping to set up the biology lab for Chesson’s students.

He took the two courses the summer before his final year of high school and was able to graduate that summer. The 16-year-old liked the courses and campus so well, he decided to stay at COA for another two years and in 1966, he graduated with his Associate in Arts degree.

A little more than a decade later, in 1975, Dr. Chesson would end up leading College of The Albemarle, serving as its President for 16 years. During that time, Chesson turned to his boyhood friend Robertson and asked him to deliver the commencement address about 20 years ago. Robertson delivered a second commencement address at his alma mater several years ago.

It also helped that a longtime family friend, J. Parker Chesson, Jr., was a science instructor at the school at

Robertson is happy to talk about his time as a student on the Elizabeth City Campus and fondly recalls his time there.

It was the perfect environment, he said, especially for a younger college freshman like himself.

“Because I was a younger person graduating high school, I think the two years at COA really helped me with getting grounded in studies,” Robertson said. “It gave me the courage and understanding that I could accomplish college work.” “COA was like a tightknit family,” said Robertson, who went on to become a colorectal surgeon. He worked in the profession for nearly 40 years before retiring from a surgical practice in 2014. After graduating from COA, Robertson went on to earn his Bachelor’s in Science in Biology at Atlantic Christian in Wilson, NC, now Barton College. He then went on to earn his Medical Degree at University of Louisville School of Medicine in 1974. He did his medical residency in San Antonio, Texas with the United States Air Force. He later directed the general surgery program for the Air Force in Biloxi, Miss. When he left the Air Force in 1984, after a 14-year career with the military, he practiced colorectal surgery at Carle Clinic in Urbana, Ill., at a multi-specialty clinic. In 1988, he took a job that brought him, and his wife of 47 years, Nancy, back home to North Carolina. For the final 26 years of his career he worked as a colorectal surgeon in Greenville with Physicians East. These days, he can be found at Bath Christian Church in Bath, NC. He has used his retirement to capitalize on another dream of his – a career in the clergy. At one time, Robertson debated going to seminary school to pursue a degree in theology. In the end, he decided to focus on medicine, but his retirement has presented him with a wonderful opportunity. He teaches Sunday School now and fills in the pulpit when the church pastors are away. Robertson’s wife’s doctor jokes that he has gone from saving lives to saving souls. “It’s nice because it’s come full circle,” Robertson said. But he credits the close knit student community he found at COA as a 16-year-old student with giving him the academic start he needed. One that he wouldn’t have received had he gone on to a larger, four-year college after high school. He concedes that his decision to go to COA, was what gave him the academic start he needed to propel him forward.

David Harris After David Harris graduated from College of The Albemarle (COA) in 1965, the Elizabeth City native dedicated himself to his community and home state. Harris served for 23 years on the Pasquotank Planning Board, and also served on the old Albemarle Hospital Board of Trustees for 14 years. He spent another eight years working as Pasquotank County Manager. Harris credits his education at COA, where he earned his Associate of Arts, with giving him a great start in life. After spending two years at COA, Harris transferred to East Carolina University in 1969 where he earned a Bachelor of History and minored in business.

“Had I not gotten the degree at COA, I would not have had any of those positions. It gave me an excellent start,” Harris said. “Had it not been for COA being here, it might have been difficult for me to complete four years of college because of the expense.” “COA was really great because the level of instruction I received at COA was just as thorough as what I experienced at East Carolina,” Harris said.


Wilson Snowden When Wilson Snowden graduated from JP Knapp High School in 1961, he wasn’t exactly sure what his college plans were until he heard that College of The Albemarle was opening a new Manteo campus in the fall. He decided to enroll during the school’s second semester of its first year. It’s a decision that has served him well over the past 50 years, since graduating with his Associate’s in Arts degree as part of Manteo’s first campus graduation in 1964. Initially, Snowden expected to continue his college education at East Carolina University, pursuing a degree in chemistry, but fate had other plans. With the Vietnam War raging, he ended up joining the military, as part of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. After serving nearly seven years in the Coast Guard as an aviation electrician in New Jersey and Florida, he returned home to Currituck to help run the family business, the Snowden General Merchandise Store. But it wasn’t long before he was pulled in another direction. In 1972, he helped form the Crawford Fire Department and EMS, where he remained as assistant chief and later chief, for 30 years. And during that time, Snowden still continued to find other ways to serve his community and held numerous leadership positions in the county he grew up in. He was appointed magistrate of Currituck for one four-year term and in the early 1980s, he also served for one four-year term as a Currituck County Commissioner, working as chairman of the group for three of his four years. Those years in the early 80s, Snowden said, were critical to the development of Currituck County.


“It was when the beach was developing,” he said, adding that at the time, Currituck desperately needed to find a new way of generating local revenue to support the growth. During his tenure as Chairman, he helped push through a new transfer tax that would be assessed when a county property was sold. “Realtors weren’t happy about it,” Snowden recalled. “But what I remember about that time was that we got the transfer tax through. So anytime a piece of property moves, the county gets one percent of the sale. So that puts the county in good shape.”

During his tenure as magistrate during the early 70s, he was also working as a farmer on his 100-acre property. The two jobs sometimes got in the way of each other, he said. Now, he has someone who farms the property for him, but back then, he tried to juggle the two jobs, often with mixed results. He recalls working out in the field many days, sweating under the sun when he would get word that he was needed to perform a wedding. Quickly he would shower and get over to the courthouse. Snowden decided to serve only one term in the role.

“That’s one of the reasons,” he added, “we’re one of the wealthiest counties. We would have been in bad shape if we hadn’t done something.”

Over the past five decades, Snowden has served in a variety of professional and leadership roles. And in all of them, he said, his COA education had amply prepared him.

Looking back on his tenure as a County Commissioner, Snowden is happy to have had a hand in passing the transfer tax, which continues help fund the county’s needs.

“I enjoyed it,” Snowden said of his time as a COA student. “I met some nice people over there.”

In July 1971, Pippen graduated from North Carolina State with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry. Not many colleges offer a degree in forestry, Pippen said, so it is not an easy program to get into. Looking back on his education, Pippen credits his decision to attend COA with helping him fulfill his lifelong goal of working in forestry. “There are very few colleges that offer a BS in Forestry and NC State was top-ranked for it,” Pippen said. “It was very competitive. There were only 50 in our graduating class, so they were limited in whom they could have. “When you get a degree in Forestry from NC State, it carries some weight in the industry,” he added.

Robert Pippen, Jr. During Robert Pippen, Jr.’s, 46-year forestry career, he has spent decades supervising the planting of pine plantations throughout northeastern North Carolina. He has also supervised the eventual harvesting of many of those same trees, with the collected timber going on to produce a variety of products. “I’ve seen trees that I planted in my early career, that were harvested and converted into paper and lumber products in my lifetime,” said Pippen, a lifelong Elizabeth City resident. Pippen found his career so fulfilling, that nearly five decades later, he’s still working part-time at J.W. Jones Lumber Company, Inc., in Elizabeth City, where he began working in 1986. These days, Pippen still performs a lot of the same tasks he did in his former role. And he still enjoys it just as much. After all, forestry is in his blood. His father was in the logging business, and from an early age, Pippen said, he knew he wanted to work in the industry, too. He enrolled at College of The Albemarle (COA) in the fall of 1966. He took classes there for two years before transferring to North Carolina State University in 1968, just a few credits shy of earning his associates degree. When he came home for the summer, he took a few summer classes at COA, to get them out of the way at NC State.

Pippen’s first job in 1971 was for a paper mill in Roanoke Rapids, NC. He spent seven years there working as a procurement forester, buying standing timber that was later used to make paper. He returned to Elizabeth City to work for Chesapeake Corporation as an area procurement manager and eventually became the North Carolina Manager of Operations for Chesapeake Corporation’s sawmill division. The company owned a plywood plant on the Eastern Shore, two sawmills in North Carolina and several paper mills in Wisconsin, which Pippen oversaw. He held that position until he began working with J.W. Jones Lumber. “Primarily what we make at Jones Co. is pine flooring, wall paneling, lumber for framing houses and stair tread,” Pippen said, adding that North Carolina is one of the top three producers of forestry products in the country. “It’s an everchanging industry.” So far, Pippen estimates that during his 46-year forestry career, he has supervised the planting of about 6,000 pine trees and bought in excess of 1 billion board feet of lumber. Board feet, he explained, relates to the amount of lumber a tree can produce. None of it would have been possible, he said, without getting a jumpstart on his degree at COA. While he spent two years as a student there, he was also able to work at the post office during that time, and save money for college at NC State.

“It gave me the discipline I needed to prepare for college life,” Pippen said. “It just gave me those two years to grow up a little bit and to work as well. I wouldn’t have even been able to go to college out of high school because of the cost. But COA gave me the opportunity. It gave me the start that I needed as far as my college career.” THE PIONEERS 5

ALL IN THE FAMILY Attending the same four-year university is often a family legacy. College of The Albemarle can boast the same phenomenon. COA’s alumni family include members with shared bloodlines, from multiple generations to multiple siblings. Typically, when one family member discovers COA’s value and promise, others may follow. In addition to the three examples chronicled here, you can read about the Tillett siblings, Jerry, Artie and Kathy, and their paths to COA at student-success. The Tilletts all live and work in Dare County.

The Gray Siblings Growing up above Gray’s Family Department Store in Nags Head, Walter and Marion Estelle Gray taught their five children the value of teamwork early on, busying each child with little tasks around the store. Working in the store is a tradition that has been passed down to a secondgeneration. Julie Gray and two of her brothers, Larry and Ronnie, now own the Outer Banks department store founded in 1948, and it has prospered under their care. But it was a circuitous path to taking over the family business that led Julie and Larry in different directions after completing their associates degrees from College of The Albemarle (COA). When she graduated from high school in 1970, Julie, now 63, wasn’t interested in working at the family store as she always had. She wanted to try something new. She took some


general education classes at COA, but was still unsure what she wanted to do. Julie decided to travel and worked jobs as a waitress or in an office.

“I told mom and dad I really didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Julie said. “And then my dad sent me a pamphlet on COA’s nursing program and said this looks like a great career opportunity.” In 1977, Julie received her Associate in Science from COA’s Registered Nursing program and became the first R.N. at the original Outer Banks Medical Center. She then worked at Duke University Medical Center before deciding to move back to the Outer Banks Medical Center. But in 1982, she decided to join her brothers in taking over the family store.

Every day when she comes in, she said, she views the business as a patient – looking at its vital needs and prioritizing what needs to be done. Her education at COA taught her that nursing management is precise and requires prioritization and careful record-keeping. These are skills she still uses to help run the family business. “All the experiences I had at COA were life-changing,” she said. “I just want to praise COA.” Her older brother Larry, 66, also credits his time at COA with helping him get off on the right foot academically. In 1970, he earned his Associate in Arts from COA and then went to Elizabeth City State University where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Like his sister, he moved away for a few years. When he moved back to the Outer Banks, he worked as a park ranger for two years before realizing it wasn’t what he wanted to do. In 1982, he decided to take over Gray’s Department Store along with Julie and Ronnie. In the late 1990s, the trio began plans to expand the business and now they operate five stores – two in Duck, two in Corolla and the flagship store in Kitty Hawk. Larry also credits his COA education with his success in running the family business.

The Parnell Women For Tessa Parnell, graduating from College of The Albemarle (COA) was a rite of passage. Tessa, like her mother and her maternal grandmother, took the same educational path but each had different goals. These women earned their high school diploma at COA before pursuing other programs at the Elizabeth City Campus. Tessa and her mother pursued their Associate of Arts. Parnell’s mother went on to earn her Bachelor of Sociology. Tessa’s grandmother took accounting classes before working for, and eventually retiring, from the Coast Guard Credit Union.

“I went because it was a big part of my family’s life,” she added. “It was like a family tradition.” When Tessa was a senior at Camden High School, her mother became ill. She decided to earn her adult high school diploma early at COA so she could help take care of her mother. Tessa went on to earn her Associate in Arts in 2003. She transferred to Lees-McRae College in Boone, North Carolina where she earned a Bachelor

of Science, with a concentration in Biology and Wildlife Rehabilitation. In 2010, Tessa returned to COA to help other students seeking their adult High School Equivalency Diplomas (HSED). Tessa oversaw the High School Equivalency Program (HEP) at COA for several years until last April when she became the administrative assistant for the Basic and Transitional Studies program. She manages new student records and makes sure they stay on track until they complete the program. Tessa still remembers a 76-year-old woman who earned her HSED a few years ago. “She was just so happy,” Tessa said. “It was just something that had weighed heavily on her and she wanted to complete.” Helping students earn their high school diplomas is fulfilling work, Tessa said, especially when these students decide to transition to a college curriculum program and pursue a degree. “We really enjoy watching our students succeed and helping them enroll in a college-level program,” Tessa said. “I don’t think people understand just how big this step is – to get an adult high school diploma and then go to college.”

“There were some very good professors at COA that demanded a lot out of you,” said Larry, a Southern Shores resident. “The instruction and the people at COA made you realize you had to work hard to succeed. It taught me the value of hard work.”


The Jacot Family In addition to sharing the same last name, all three of the Jacot siblings, Brittany, Andrew and Robert, share something else – a critical jump-start on their college educations that began while they were still in high school. During their junior and senior years at Perquimans County High School, the Jacot siblings took part in College of The Albemarle’s (COA) Career and College Promise program, a dual enrollment program that allowed them to start taking college classes while still in high school. As a distance learning facilitator at the school, their mother, Rose Jacot, knew well the benefits of the dual enrollment program. So when her oldest child, Brittany, was able to participate in the program, Rose pushed her to try it. By the time Brittany graduated from high school in 2006, she had earned 21 college credits from COA. With so many credits, Brittany was able to graduate from East Carolina University (ECU) in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Communications, with a double concentration in Public Relations and Journalism. “It was great,” Rose Jacot said. “Brittany was able to get two majors. Her advisor at ECU was amazed because she already had so many college credits.”

Next in line, Robert, took 24 credits at COA while still in high school, and the youngest brother, Andrew, earned 21 college credits by the time he graduated in 2010. Both brothers earned their Associate of Arts degrees before transferring to Elizabeth City State University. There, Robert graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Science with a concentration in Aviation Management. Andrew earned his Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology, with a double concentration in Computer and Electronics. In November 2014, Robert completed USCG Officer Candidate School in New London and was commissioned as an officer. He credits much of his success with earning college credits while he was still in high school. “I was almost like a sophomore when I got to college,” Robert said. “COA prepared me for a fouryear university.” Andrew followed a similar career path as Robert, graduating from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Officer Candidate School in New London, Connecticut, and receiving his commission in November 2015.

“I was very grateful I got my education at COA in the first two years because if I had waited, I would have wasted a lot more time and money,” said Andrew. Unlike her brothers, Brittany’s career path has brought her back to Elizabeth City. She now works as the Associate Campus Director of the satellite campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a national and international aeronautical university, located at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City. Brittany oversees 200 students and serves as a student advisor, and manages the campus’ scheduling and budgeting. It is a position that keeps her busy, but it is also a job that she enjoys. “I love it,” she said. “I love working with higher education. There’s always something going on – a challenge.” Brittany credits her time as a high school student taking classes at COA with helping her find her interests early on. “COA helped me decide that was the path that I wanted to take,” Brittany said, referring to her interest in communications work. “It made me look more into the major. So when I went to ECU, I stayed on that.” Looking back on her children’s time as high school students, taking college classes at COA, Rose said the local community college was exactly what her children needed. “And I think it made their transition to a four-year college university much easier. It was just such an advantage,” Rose said.


HEALTH CARE UNITES THEM College of The Albemarle’s Health Sciences Division, currently under the leadership of Dean Robin Harris, has a stellar reputation in the health industry. Many graduates of the programs work in local hospitals and medical offices. In June 1996, the COA Nursing Program received national accreditation from the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC). Today, the programs range from phlebotomy and medical laboratory technology to surgical technology and practical nursing. In January 2015, the health sciences division scored a “fourfecta”. COA’s Associate Degree Nursing, Practical Nursing, Surgical Technology, and Medical Assisting Programs all had a 100% pass rate on their NCLEX exams. The rigors of the programs help build bonds between the students, many of whom stay in touch after joining the workforce.

Alicia White When Alicia White graduated from high school, she considered going to a four-year university before realizing there was a great nursing program in her own backyard. Family members told White College of The Albemarle (COA) had one of the best nursing programs in the state. Heeding their wisdom, the Elizabeth City native decided to save money on room and board and commuted to school until completing the Associate Degree Nursing Program in 2009. The decision proved to be one of the best she’s ever made. She saved money on tuition and was awarded academic scholarships, which paid for nearly all of her classes.

“I am very glad I chose COA,” she said. “I ended up going three years, but only paid for one semester. I’m very grateful.”

Since graduating from COA, White has worked as a staff nurse at DeVita Dialysis Center of Elizabeth City, caring for patients who no longer have normal kidney function. The dialysis machines at the facility filter blood to remove toxins from her patients’ bodies. White earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from UNC-Wilmington in 2013 and recently became a certified nephrology nurse, so she could improve the care she gives her dialysis patients. She now knows which patients qualify for different dialysis treatments, such as peritoneal dialysis, which is done through the stomach, and home and in-center hemodialysis treatments. And she learned which patients could qualify as transplant candidates. “I like being able to care for people and help people,” White said.


Amanda Binder Amanda Binder had finished two years at East Carolina University when she decided to return home to the Outer Banks and decide what to study. She chose to finish her studies at College of The Albemarle (COA) and then enroll in the surgical technology program. After completing her certification, Binder worked as a surgical assistant at the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia. She has since left and hopes to go back to school to advance her knowledge and skills. “I like being able to help patients at such a young age, that have so much of their life to live,” said Binder, who lives in Currituck County.

Binder said, “If I had it to do all over again, I would definitely go to a community college first.”

Michael Whitehurst In the late 1990s, Michael Whitehurst came to College of The Albemarle “on a whim.’’ Not long after completing an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) course, Michael lost his job as an electrician. He immediately fell back on his EMS training. “I lost my job on June 30 and started as a full-time paramedic on July 1. It was a blessing,’’ he said.

“I didn’t realize the opportunity the EMS program created for me on my short term and long term situation, by becoming involved in the healthcare field,” said Whitehurst Michael’s COA experience didn’t end there. He would return to the college to earn an Associate Degree in Nursing and eventually receive a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from Western Carolina University. Today, Michael is a staff nurse on the critical care team at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. He is also an adjunct instructor in the COA nursing program and is the Coordinator of COA’s new American Heart Association Training Center at the Elizabeth City Campus.


Dr. Michelle Fennessy Since graduating from College of The Albemarle (COA) in 1997 with her associate degree in Nursing, Dr. Michelle Fennessy has earned both her master’s and doctorate in Nursing. She has also become a renowned expert on how to use patient data more efficiently so health care providers can improve patient outcomes. A few years ago, she even created and patented her own medical software, Medical Registry Reporting Solutions LLC, to help hospitals submit data for their quality report cards electronically. “Right now, hospitals collect and submit data manually,” Fennessy said. “They don’t get report cards back for six months. I want to make the data easier to submit so hospitals can learn from it and deliver safe care. We should be able to analyze that data more efficiently,” she added.

“I built this unique system and set up a company,” said Fennessy. “I don’t know how many nurses have patented their ideas.” Now a nursing professor, Fennessy spends her days teaching her students – and medical professionals seeking her expertise – about the importance of data and how it relates to patient outcomes. “I’m getting nurses to start thinking about the data and be more proactive with it,” she said. “I’m giving them the tools they need to understand not only how the data works, but also how to make that change.”

Fennessy said her time as a student at COA was critical in her professional evolution.

“At College of The Albemarle, I learned to be a nurse,” she said. “I think my master’s program taught me how to measure a population of patients and how they were doing. And the Ph.D. helped me think more scientifically and I learned to commercialize my ideas.”

In 1999, Fennessy earned her master’s degree in Nursing from the Medical University of South Carolina. She spent the next three years working as a clinical nurse specialist and became more data-focused, using it to track patient outcomes. It was during that time, she had a revelation. “I realized we needed to find a better way to track outcomes,” Fennessy said. “I had an idea for some software and I thought, this data piece is going to be important, so I applied to doctorate programs.” While she was working toward her doctorate in nursing at the University of Illinois at Chicago, which she completed in 2011, she worked at University of Chicago Medical Center and developed a medical software program and patented it.


COLLEGE OF THE ALBEMARLE 1960: Pasquotank County voters approve a special tax of 15 cents per $100 evaluation to support a new college. December 16, 1960: State issues official charter, making COA the first college chartered under the Community College Act of 1957. COA will serve seven counties (Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Pasquotank and Perquimans). September 21, 1961: College of The Albemarle opens its doors in the remodeled Albemarle Hospital on Riverside Avenue in Elizabeth City. There were 113 students and eight full-time employees, five of whom were faculty. College Transfer was the only program offered. Fifty-seven courses were offered in areas including mathematics, English, social studies, science, foreign language and business. June 1963: COA holds first graduation. 1964: COA begins offering vocational and technical programs. December 4, 1968: COA receives accreditation and enrollment reaches 700.

1984: The Dare County Campus is established as the first satellite campus of the college.

June 1969: COA secures 42 acres of land north of Albemarle Hospital for a new Elizabeth City Campus. Classes are offered in Dare County in various borrowed facilities.



1980: College of The Albemarle Foundation is chartered as a nonprofit charitable corporation in support of the educational mission of the college.

1985: Enrollment reaches 1,487 and there are 120 full-time employees. The college celebrates its 25th Anniversary. November 1989: COA opens an Adult Education Center in Edenton (Chowan County) to improve literacy in the region.

1980s June 1977: Board of Trustees reluctantly votes to discontinue the COA intercollegiate athletics program because of uncertainties regarding funding.

February 1971: Groundbreaking ceremony for the Vocational and Technical building on new campus.



June 1996: COA national accredit Nursing Accredit

December 1992: The Chow is re-established as the “Ch new facilities, the center off instruction in reading, math Second Language classes.

A RICH HERITAGE 2000: Technology Building (John Wood Foreman Technology Center) opens on the Elizabeth City Campus. September 21, 2001: During its 40th anniversary, COA restores and erects the “College of The Albemarle Arch” from the “Old Hospital Campus” at the entrance of the current Elizabeth City Campus. 2002: Ground breaking for the Dr. Zack D. Owens Health Sciences Center and Albemarle Family YMCA building. 2004: Dr. Zack D. Owens Health Sciences Center and Albemarle Family YMCA building opens.

February 10, 2015: Ribbon Cutting Celebration for newly renovated Welding Lab on the Elizabeth City Campus. June 2015: COA adopts Strategic Plan for 2016-2021. The plan includes three strategic focus areas of Engage, Transform and Invest. Fall 2015: Board of Trustees reluctantly votes to permanently suspend athletics due to lack of on-going funding to sustain the program and add a second women’s sport to meet Title IX requirements.

2007: Ground breaking for Building A Expansion Project on Elizabeth City Campus. Fall 2007: COA Foundation launches a fund-raising campaign to reinstate athletics with a $1 million goal.

October 29, 2015: COA unveils new college brand – including a new logo and tag line, Transform Your Tomorrow, to students, faculty, staff, and community members.

2009: COA reinstates athletics with a baseball and softball program. January 2009: Opening of the newly constructed science labs, student support areas and renovated administrative offices in the Building A expansion at the Elizabeth City Campus.


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January, 2014: COA partners with NC Wesleyan College to offer a Bachelor of Science Degree in either Business Administration or Organizational Administration at the college’s Dare County Campus. November 21, 2013: Ribbon Cutting Celebration and Opening of newly renovated Dolphins Den student center on the Elizabeth City Campus. August 16, 2013: Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the Strategic Transitions to Education Progression (STEP) Center for RN to BSN Nursing Education at the Owens Center on Elizabeth City Campus. August 2, 2013: Ribbon Cutting Celebration (left) for Regional Aviation and Technical Training Center, a state-of-the-art, 37,000 square-foot facility – COA’s fourth campus. March 8, 2012: Ground Breaking Ceremony for the college’s Regional Aviation and Technical Training Center in Currituck County. January 18, 2012: Open House and Ribbon Cutting to celebrate the consolidated Edenton-Chowan Campus. September 2011: Pasquotank County and the city of Elizabeth City commemorate the college’s 50th anniversary with proclamations celebrating COA Anniversary Week – September 18-24 and COA Day – September 21. April 19, 2011: College announces cooperative partnership with Currituck County to build the Regional Aviation and Technical Training Center in Currituck County.


TRANSFER READY College of The Albemarle began with only a college transfer program. While the college has added a wide range of academic programs over the ensuing 54 years, including diploma and certificate programs, students earning associate degrees with plans to attend 4-year schools remain a key component of COA’s alumni. In May 2015, slightly more than 30% of the 261 graduates earned associate degrees in programs from which they are likely to pursue bachelor’s degrees, or beyond. These include associates in arts, fine arts, science, general education and business administration. East Carolina University and Elizabeth City State University are the most popular destinations for COA’s transfer graduates, but there are alumni at four-year schools across the United States, from Brigham Young University in Utah to Yale University in Connecticut. Read more of their stories at student-success.

Valerie Bobola Valerie Bobola graduated in May 2013 with her high school diploma and two associate degrees from COA, one in Arts and one in Sciences, thanks to a partnership between College of The Albemarle (COA) and the J.P. Knapp Early College High School in Currituck County. The Knapp class valedictorian is now a student at Meredith College in Raleigh where she is pursuing not one, but two bachelor’s degrees – in Chemistry and in Math. Having earned 64 credits at COA, Bobola expects to graduate in just three years, by May 2016. Valerie Bobola’s pathway to the private four-year school has been smooth, she said, thanks to her experience as a student on COA’s campus. Knowing how to navigate a campus, write research papers and communicate with her instructors are all skills she honed during her time at COA.


“It’s really given me something to expect,” Bobola said. “COA does a great job of portraying what college life will be like.” As for her future plans – Valerie said the painful experience of losing several members of her family to various forms of cancer triggered by environmental contaminants has motivated her to study to become an environmental lawyer. “I would ideally work for the government as an environmental lawyer to prosecute those who circumvent the laws that are there to protect the public,” she said. The early college high school initiative gets public funding to support the educational partnership between participating high schools and colleges. J.P. Knapp students don’t have to pay for classes or books while attending COA.

Travis Hunter During Travis Hunter’s year-long stint as a Student Ambassador at College of The Albemarle (COA), he spoke at public engagements and gave campus tours. It was good preparation, he said, for his future career in the ministry. Hunter graduated from COA with an Associate of Arts. His honor-roll GPA of 3.9 earned him a full scholarship to Mid-Atlantic Christian University in Elizabeth City where he is working toward his Bachelor of Organizational Leadership and Biblical Studies.

“Being at COA laid the foundation for me, which opened the door for me at another university, which will lead me to ministry,” said Hunter. After graduation, Hunter plans to attend Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, where he can pursue a dual-degree program for a Master of Divinity and Business Administration.

Brian Stovall Following a parachuting accident, Brian Stovall’s military career was over. After serving 13 years in the Army and completing two tours in Iraq, he planned his new path. The single father of three enrolled in classes at College of The Albemarle (COA) in the fall of 2012 and graduated in June 2014 with a 3.89 GPA and an Associate of Arts. Stovall moved to Chapel Hill to continue his studies at the University of North Carolina. He plans on earning his Bachelor of Psychology, and eventually his Master of Psychology as well.

“I set a goal in the beginning and it’s not a matter of if I’m going to do it, it’s just a matter of time,” Stovall said. “I don’t feel I could accomplish what I have without the help of the faculty at COA.”


Hillary Rock Harrison When Hillary Rock Harrison gives tours of the Bodie Island Lighthouse, she takes pleasure in teaching about the natural and cultural resources of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, educating visitors about the ecology of the Outer Banks, a place she knows well. Harrison grew up in Manteo, playing on the sands where she now gives tours to visitors as a seasonal park ranger at the Bodie Island Lighthouse. Much of what she knows about the local ecosystem, she learned during her time as a marine sciences student at College of The Albemarle (COA). In 2010, Harrison graduated from the community college with two degrees, an associate in Arts and an associate in Marine Science, before transferring to the University of North Carolina – Wilmington where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology.

“When I go to create programs, I tend to look back on what I learned, especially at COA,” said Harrison, lead interpreter of the Bodie Island Lighthouse. “I learned about the ecology of the Outer Banks, the barrier islands and the barrier island dynamics and how they are always shifting and moving,” she added. “And that has an impact on the lighthouses and where they are situated around the Outer Banks.” She is happy to impart this knowledge to the families and children on her tours, when she teaches visitors about the regional ecosystem she’s so familiar with. Since 2008, Harrison has worked six months of the year as a

park ranger. From April to October, she delights in giving climbing tours of the Bodie Island Lighthouse, answering questions in the Visitor’s Center and putting together kids programming. “One of the things I made an entire kids’ program about, was the sand,” Harrison said. During this particular program, Harrison had students sift the sand. The last remaining sand to fall through their sifters was a black sand, magnetite. That’s the smallest particle of sand, Harrison said, and she had the children pick up the grains of black silt with a magnet. “Then, for each layer of sand, I had them glue it on a postcard,” she said. “So they had a little piece to remember when they brought it home. It was a good program.”

MANY HAPPY RETURNS Across the College of The Albemarle’s four campuses are a group of alumni with a special connection to COA. They work for the college. From administration to aviation to human resources and the business office, former students have returned to COA to pursue their careers. At last count, COA graduates numbered more than 60 on the faculty and staff roster. Some began working as students in part-time roles and workstudy programs and segued to permanent positions. Others found their way back as they gained professional experience or worked for other employers. Here are only a few of those for whom COA remains a tie that binds. Read more stories at www.

Kerry Krauss After graduating from Camden High School in 1973 and enrolling as a student at College of The Albemarle, Kerry Krauss simultaneously earned his Associate in Arts and Associate in Electronics degrees in 1976. Nearly four decades later, he continues to spend his days at COA’s Elizabeth City Campus. Krauss will retire from a 35-year career as an electronics instructor at COA at the end of the 2015-16 school year. Teaching students about a profession he still loves has been very fulfilling he said. Across his tenure, he has sent thousands of students off into careers in electronics. “I really will miss working with the students,” said Krauss, who also holds a bachelor’s degree from Elizabeth City State University in Industrial Technology.

While working at COA, Krauss also served for three years on a state planning committee that helped determine North Carolina’s technology curriculum in electronics and computer engineering. His work at COA also enabled him to become CISCO-certified and to earn a diploma from North Carolina State University in Renewable Energies. It was, Krauss said, a career that allowed him to continue learning about the profession he loves so much and to share that wealth of information with his students. Teaching students about automation, circuit analysis and microprocessors was satisfying.

“I really enjoy being a technical educator,” Krauss said. “Working in the lab to show the students how things work.” MANY HAPPY RETURNS 17

Angie Godfrey-Dawson Angie Godfrey-Dawson first earned a diploma in Surgical Technology from College of The Albemarle (COA). She never used it, though, and decided to continue her studies and pursue her Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration, which she earned in 1989. She later also completed her Bachelor of Business Administration from Elizabeth City State University. As a first generation college student, Dawson said she had to navigate the experience on her own. “The instructors were always very supportive. They pushed me to get my bachelor’s degree.’’ For the past 25 years, Dawson has worked at COA as its financial aid director and most recently also as director of admissions. During that time, she has enjoyed providing the same support and assistance that helped propel her along her academic journey.

“My days are filled with helping students who are not sure what step to take next,” said Dawson. “I love being able to give back what was given so freely to me and help them through that process.”

Joel Perry When Joel Perry came to College of The Albemarle’s (COA) Dare Campus in 2007, he was in his mid-30s and had long wanted to go to college, but was never really sure what he wanted to study. That quickly changed after he sat in Allen Aldridge’s math class. Aldridge had an enthusiasm for his subject that quickly transferred to Perry.

“I really wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do until I took math,” said Perry, a Kill Devil Hills resident. “It was interesting. I knew I was going to keep taking math classes until I couldn’t take anymore.” And by the time Perry graduated with his Associate of Arts degree in 2009, he had taken every math class of Aldridge’s that he could take. “He was definitely a big inspiration for me,” said Perry, now 46. Aldridge inspired Perry so much that after graduating from COA, Perry transferred to Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) where he earned his bachelor’s in Math and then a master’s in Applied Mathematics. In the fall of 2013 and spring of 2014, Perry served as an adjunct faculty member at COA, fulfilling a goal inspired by Aldridge. The only thing that could make it better, he added, would be if he was teaching with Aldridge. Sadly, Aldridge died in 2012. “In the back of my mind, I wanted to teach at COA,” Perry said. “I just didn’t know Allen Aldridge wouldn’t be here.’’

Constance Riddick Constance Riddick earned her GED from College of The Albemarle (COA) in 1992, but it wasn’t until nearly two decades later that she decided to pursue an Associate Degree in Architectural Technology from COA as well.

She is also an instructor at COA, teaching many of the same classes she sat in not too long ago. Riddick teaches Introduction to Architecture, Construction Materials and Methods, Sustainable Design and Architectural Presentation.

In between the two degrees, Riddick was busy raising her family and working in the family business, operating a neon sign company alongside her ex-husband.

Riddick tells students about housing codes and building regulations, and teaches them the principles of good design. “It’s a labor of love,” Riddick said.

The business closed in 2003, and around that time, Riddick got a divorce and decided she needed a major career change. “I was cleaning cottages and didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life,” Riddick said. “I just knew I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing.”

Returning to school as an older student wasn’t easy, especially juggling the demands of work and home. And then there was all the work-study coop she had to complete with the Town

of Hertford’s planning department and all the math she had to master. “I struggled through, but I made it,” she said. Those experiences make her a better instructor, she said, especially when students come to her, ready to give up on a class or their degree.

“I tell them, if I can do it, anyone can do it,” Riddick said. “I know it was a great decision for me. I never thought I’d be asked to come back and be a part of something that changed my life.”

She gave a lot of thought to what exactly what she did want to do. “In high school, I took drafting and I took shop class,” she said. “That’s what appealed to me about the architectural program.” In 2007, Riddick began studying to earn her Associate in Architectural Technology degree. The 67-credit hour program usually requires two years of study but Riddick completed her degree in 2010. “I didn’t start until I was in my 40s and I had a home and business to take care of,” Riddick said. “So it took me three years.” Now remarried, Riddick helps run another family business, Donald Riddick Builders in Hertford, with her husband. The couple designs retirement homes and custom homes, ranging between 2,800- to 4,000-square-feet.


COMING TO AMERICA College of The Albemarle is home to more than 150 international students who come from places like Liberia, Russia, Vietnam, Romania and the Ukraine. Many come to the United States on work visas and spend their summers working in the Outer Banks.

Shadrick Addy At 14, Shadrick Addy immigrated to the United States with his brothers and sisters to escape the civil war that was raging in Liberia, the West African country where they were born and raised.

For Addy, MEDIA was a lifesaver.

After graduating high school in Atlanta, he moved to Elizabeth City and enrolled at College of The Albemarle (COA). His goal was to transfer to Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) after one year.

Addy’s success was profound. He graduated from COA in 2014 with associate degrees in Arts and General Education and is now a graphic design major at ECSU. After graduating in spring 2016, he plans to pursue masters and doctorate degrees in graphic design at North Carolina State University.

Unfortunately, the focus and drive that had served him so well since moving to the United States faltered. Because Addy began to struggle as a student and with numerous academic and disciplinary issues, he was on the verge of being expelled from COA. College officials suggested he join the school’s minority male mentoring program Men of Excellence and Distinction in the Albemarle, or MEDIA.


“MEDIA made me feel like I could be somebody. They helped me organize goals and focus on school,” he said. “It was a great help to me.”

“The opportunity COA provided me changed my life,” Addy said. “Once I realized that opportunity, things started to change for the better. I was inspired. I’m just grateful to have gone through that experience.”

These students have a strong desire to get an American college degree and as the summer comes to an end, they come to College of The Albemarle’s Dare County Campus and enroll to work towards their associate degrees. They are very good students who persevere in their studies and many graduate with high honors – two more recent international graduates received the prestigious President’s Cup at commencement. International students at COA also have strong bonds as they understand each other’s hopes and dreams. They band together to help their communities and continue on the path to great things.

Yulia Vozzhaeva College of The Albemarle (COA) graduate Yulia Vozzhaeva still can’t believe her good luck. In early 2013, the Russian-born Vozzhaeva found out she had been accepted to Yale University as a transfer student. Since then, she has found out she was one of approximately 24 transfer students accepted by the Ivy League university. “I was told transfer students are very unusual here,” Vozzhaeva said. “I don’t know how this happened. I couldn’t have dreamed it. I surely wanted to be here and it probably came through in the interview.” Vozzhaeva came to the United States and specifically the Outer Banks through the exchange program called Work and Travel. The program allows full-time students from Russia to come to the U.S. for the summer to work and practice their English. Vozzhaeva heard about COA from her international friends.

There she served as president of the Dare Campus Student Government Association and president of the Literary Club. She also had a hand in guiding the college’s future as a student member of the college’s Quality Enhancement Plan committee, and she served as a student ambassador. Aside from her efforts to improve and promote COA, Vozzhaeva also was a tireless volunteer in the community. She taught Russian language and culture at Water’s Edge Village School in Corolla and volunteered with Corolla Fire and Rescue and Ruthie’s Community Kitchen. She also organized an event to help local businesses in Manteo clean up after Hurricane Irene hit the Outer Banks in August 2011. “People were thankful for our help,” she said. “We went to Manteo Booksellers, it was a mess. We sorted

through books and did whatever they asked us to do.” Vozzhaeva had a seamless transition settling in at her new Yale campus. She credits her success to her time at COA. She expects to graduate in May 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in German.

“When I came to this country, COA was the perfect way to start my education,” she said, adding that the large numbers of international students on the Dare campus helped the school feel like home. “COA was the perfect transition. It was an introduction to American culture and an American system of education.”

“I was told that many other international students study there,’’ she said. ‘’I visited COA and spoke with Sarah Adams who, at the time, was the international student liaison. I was very much interested in pursuing my education in the US, and COA was that very perfect opportunity to start. In addition, the college staff were very friendly and encouraging.’’ It was a lot more than luck and encouragement that earned Vozzhaeva a spot at one of the country’s top universities. A quick look at her COA transcript shows it was hard work that singled Vozzhaeva out from the competition. Besides earning a perfect 4.0 GPA at COA, the 25-year-old Vozzhaeva also held numerous student leadership positions during her two years as a student on the Dare County Campus.


Chi Cynthia Nguyen In 2011, College of The Albemarle was one of only seven North Carolina community colleges to receive funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Accelerating Opportunity Grant, allowing the school to send eligible adult learners without their GEDs or high school diplomas to dual enroll at the school, and pursue a secondary program of study while completing their high school degree requirements. Although the Accelerating Opportunity Grant is no longer funded, COA is still seeing dividends in the success of students used the dual enrollment program to pursue advanced degrees. Chi Cynthia Nguyen, a native of Vietnam, is one of the first students who benefited from the Accelerating Opportunities program. After graduating from high school in Philadelphia in 1993, Nguyen soon

started a family, sidelining any plans for continuing her education. In 2008, the family relocated to Camden County. Three years later, Nguyen’s world was rocked when she and her children’s father ended their more than 20-year relationship. At that point, Nguyen decided she had to do something for herself. At the advice of faculty and staff at Grandy Primary School in Camden, where Nguyen volunteered, she decided to go back to school. She already had her high school diploma but thought she needed to brush up on some subject areas so she enrolled in COA’s Basic and Transitional Skills program for some refresher courses. She grew stronger both academically and personally with each challenge presented within every Basic Skills class. The Basic and Transitional Studies department, College of The Albemarle, and the Workforce

Investment Act were there to support her until she achieved her goal – enrollment into the culinary program. Due to her superb dedication and outstanding attitude Nguyen was selected for recruitment into the culinary program, a two-year work study program that is just one of COA’s nine Accelerating Transitions Career Pathways Programs. Nguyen received financial aid from the Workforce Investment Act, which provided her the tuition and books, child care and gas money for travel to the Edenton Campus where the program is located. She is living proof that great things are possible when federal, state and local agencies work together for the good of the local community and its people. Nguyen graduated in May 2015 with her Culinary Arts Diploma. But without the financial assistance from the Workforce Investment Act and the dual enrollment in the Accelerated Opportunity program, she said she never would have realized her dream. “They helped me pay for tuition, books, gas, and daycare after school,” said Nguyen, who completed her culinary internship with Camden County Public Schools, where she helped prepare meals for students several days a week. Nguyen now works for Camden County schools. She also plans on pursuing an advanced culinary arts degree through an online course at Johnson & Wales University.

“I’m really excited and really thankful,” Nguyen said. “I’m looking forward to a better future.”


JOB MARKET READY Some high school graduates know a full four-year education is just not for them. For some, they’re looking for a short-term program that can lead them straight into the workforce. At College of The Albemarle there are several programs designed to do just that. With programs such as HVAC Technology, Professional Crafts: Jewelry, Welding Technology, Electrical Systems Technology, Cosmetology, Basic Law Enforcement Training and Computer Integrated Machining there are so many opportunities to come to COA for a year, and graduate with a diploma or certificate that will provide job ready skills for good paying jobs. The college also offers a Work Based Learning component in many of these programs so COA students get on-the-job training before they graduate. Many of the employers the college works with are so satisfied with the students that they hire them upon graduation.

Chris Hudson Before graduating from College of The Albemarle’s (COA) Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) program in May 2013, Chris Hudson bounced among low-paying jobs. Determined to find a better professional path for himself, he decided to go back to school at COA and earn his diploma in HVAC Technology. “I heard you can make a career out of it,” said Hudson. In addition to studying, Hudson also made the most of COA’s Work Based Learning program which allowed him to spend 160 hours working for a local HVAC company, going out on service calls and learning the trade firsthand. He made such a strong impression on his bosses there that they hired him three days after graduation. “It felt pretty good,” he said. “I definitely worked hard for it – trying to

get good grades in school.” There are usually 16 to 18 students a semester in the HVAC program and all of them are placed into coops with area employers. Besides providing students with solid work experience – repairing gas furnaces and troubleshooting heating and airconditioning systems – Work Based Learning allows students to see how they like their chosen profession. After graduating Hudson excelled so quickly in his new vocation that he is already manning a George & Company service truck on his own. Usually, Harrell said, it takes new HVAC technicians about two years to have that opportunity.

“I just wanted to learn everything I could possibly learn,” Hudson said. “In this trade, you learn more from experience than anything.” JOB MARKET READY 23

Steve Torrens Steve Torrens dropped out of high school during his sophomore year. Years later, the 33-year-old Torrens had a resume filled with an assortment of jobs, including digging ditches, washing cars and working in restaurants. They were all low-paying jobs, Torrens said, that lead nowhere. Torrens, who earned his High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) from College of The Albemarle (COA), while simultaneously taking classes in the school’s Welding Technology program. The school’s Accelerating Opportunities program allows students to pursue vocational classes while studying to earn their HSEDs.

Tara Haskett Tara Haskett left high school in 2003 when she was 16 and pregnant with her first child. By the time she was 19, she had three young children. It meant her dream of becoming a cosmetologist had to wait. “That’s what took me so long to get back to school,” said Haskett, who earned her high school equivalency diploma (HSED) from College of The Albemarle in December 2013. She was one of 293 students who completed the equivalency program that fall. In 2014, she enrolled in COA’s cosmetology program. She should graduate in May 2016 and have her cosmetology license in hand. She plans on moving from Elizabeth City to a bigger city once she earns her license so she can fulfill her dream of working in a big salon. “I want to do it all – I want to do hair, I want to do nails,” Haskett said. “I definitely want to work in a big salon when I get out of school.”

“Without the HSED, I wouldn’t be able to pursue this dream,” said Haskett, adding that her success in earning her high school diploma at COA encouraged her to continue her studies there. “At first it was intimidating,” Haskett admitted, “but getting my HSED made me more comfortable in taking the other step to do what I had to do. It encouraged me to go back and do what I always dreamed of doing.”


“It gives them a trade to learn while they’re completing their HSED,” said COA welding instructor Michael Lopes, referring to the Accelerating Opportunities program. “So they will have experience to go out into the workforce and get a job.” After three semesters of study, Torrens graduated from COA’s Welding Technology program and was accepted into the Iron Workers Union in Norfolk to work in the organization’s apprenticeship program.

“I can go pretty much anywhere and weld now. I got to push the restart button in life.”

Tyler Kight While attending the School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, Tyler Kight had visions of building and designing movie sets.

Now, Kight is working with his father at DRS Technologies, Inc., which contracts with the Coast Guard.

But after earning his associate degree in Applied Science in Aviation Systems Technology from College of The Albemarle (COA) in August 2014, Kight is now working to keep Coast Guard airplanes in the air.

Kight, an entry-level mechanic, performs heavy maintenance on the Coast Guard’s venerable C-130 aircraft, inspecting planes and replacing parts. Kight’s experience at COA, including the industrial-like setting at the RATTC, eased his transition from school to work.

Kight enrolled at COA in 2012, straight out of high school. “For the first year, I went without knowing what I wanted to do,” Kight said. Then COA opened its fourth campus, the Regional Aviation and Technical Training Center (RATTC) in Currituck County. “My dad is the one that told me it was opening up and suggested I go try that,” Kight said.

“The classes give you a nice supporting background so you’re not lost when you get in there and start working,” Kight said. “The classes were very educational and fun. Being in the shop – seeing

progress being done – was fun for me. It was something completely new. When I went, I didn’t know how airplanes worked. Sitting in a classroom and learning how things work, you can see how they correlate with each other.” Kight earned his Airframe Certification in May 2015 and is working toward his Powerplant Certification. “The certification opens up more job opportunities,” Kight said. And learning how to repair aircraft has spurred a new interest for Kight. He wants to learn how to fly and earn his pilot’s license. He has about eight hours in the air already. “I enjoy every minute of it,” he said.


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COA Alumni Magazine Winter 2016  

COA Alumni Magazine Winter 2016