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October 22, 2015
Each year, Piedmont Technical College chooses some of its best and brightest to serve as Presidential Ambassadors. These students represent the college at campus functions, provide tours and speak about their experiences to potential students. This year’s select 13 are from a variety of backgrounds, representing many program areas and hometowns, but they all have one thing in common. They all echo a common message of gratitude for the impact Piedmont Tech has had on their lives, both personally and academically.
Michala Barnum never dreamed of attending college in Greenwood, but circumstances kept her close to home. She tried a larger university, but she felt overwhelmed. She came to Piedmont Technical College with the goal of going into a health care field. She did the CNA program in high school, but a heartbreaking event during the clinical portion made her reconsider her career goals.
“My second day, I had a patient who died. It hurt too much to consider experiencing that on a daily basis,” Barnum said. “I chose the pharmacy technology program at Piedmont Tech because I could still help people, but I don’t have to be their primary care giver.”
Joel Boley had a great life and career he was happy with until a car wreck changed his life. The McCormick native has worked hard to reclaim his life and, in the process, has discovered a passion for helping others.
“I was in a therapy program that led me down to Charleston where I ended up helping a ministry with their computer needs and volunteered with the Men's Program,” said Boley. “What I discovered down in Charleston was that I really enjoyed working with the homeless men through being affiliated with the ministry and I decided that I wanted to be a crisis intervention counselor as soon as education would permit this. I enrolled at Piedmont Technical College where I have been very focused on working towards my associate degree in Human Services.”
Morris Campbell is not your average student. Born and raised in New York, he moved around the southeast before coming to South Carolina in 2002. Once settled, he knew he needed to further his education. He chose the radiologic technology program at Piedmont Technical College.
“I spoke to several people who all recommended Piedmont Tech as a great place to start,” Campbell said. “The Piedmont Tech family has been very supportive from the administration to my professors to my fellow students.”
Melissa Green tried college, but decided she was happier in the workforce. After 17 years in manufacturing, though, her company closed its Laurens location. She thought she could find a new job; what she found was that the job market was very different. At a job fair, the Waterloo native found the South Carolina Manufacturing Certification (SCMC) program through Piedmont Tech’s Continuing Education and Economic Development division. When she completed the SCMC program, she was encouraged to continue her education and earn an associate degree.
“I wanted a career with better hours, but I wanted to stay in manufacturing,” said Green. “I looked into the engineering graphics technology program and it turned out to be a perfect fit for me.”
Tyler Grubbs was familiar with Piedmont Tech before enrolling in the occupational therapy program in Newberry. The Prosperity native took several dual enrollment classes while he was a student at Mid Carolina High School, then took those credits to a four-year university. But a knee injury while playing baseball brought him back to his roots.
“In the end, it all worked out because the occupational therapy assistant program was just beginning here in Newberry,” Grubbs said. “My family has always given me the encouragement I need.”
Abigail Hershberger always dreamed of becoming a nurse. But the Due West native wanted to have a family first. She put her dreams off for 10 years before enrolling at Piedmont Technical College. Through online courses, she was able to complete her prerequisite classes while still being at home with her four children.
“I found the online courses to be very user friendly with helpful instructors,” said Hershberger. “It also made it possible for me to attend Piedmont Tech’s nursing program, which had been highly recommended to me by friends who were in the nursing field.”
Karen Martin says she has come a long way in a short time. She came to A Place for Us Ministries in Greenwood in 2012, where she became a mother. While there, she earned her GED, completed Project Hope and then enrolled in the pharmacy technology program at Piedmont Tech.
“I chose this career carefully after prayer, research and guidance,” Martin said. “I admire the fact that there is always a need for technicians and a vast variety of jobs.”
Carl Ouzts has always been a hands-on learner. He grew up in North Augusta, being homeschooled and participating in several mission projects. That is where he found a love of construction. He explored several programs across the state and came to the building construction technology program at Piedmont Technical College.
“The BCT program at Piedmont Tech stuck out as the most in-depth program,” said Ouzts. “Once I talked to Bobby (Roche, BCT program director), I was sold.”
Ashley Owens had plans to go into a nursing program at a four-year university. But her father, a Piedmont Tech graduate, convinced her that it was a better choice to start at PTC. She enrolled at the Saluda campus, and found her true path.
“I was accepted into the Honors Program, so I am now pursing two degrees – an associate in science-honors and a diversified agriculture degree,” Owens said. “My goal is to transfer to Clemson University, earn a degree in agriculture education and come back to Saluda to teach.”
Leslie Sargent found her calling a Piedmont Tech by accident. As a senior at Greenwood Christian School, she was asked to write a paper on what career she wanted after graduation. She randomly chose radiologic technology because she thought it would be simple.
“I thought it would just be taking pictures of people,” Sargent said. “But, it’s so much more and I really enjoy it.”
Jerri Smith’s journey to Piedmont Tech has been a difficult one. After graduating from Abbeville High School, she made several bad decisions that landed her in trouble with the law. She also started having health issues that caused her to struggle with her current job.
“I couldn’t appreciate more what Piedmont Tech has given me,” Smith said. “I never thought I would be here, but I am expecting to graduate in May with my associate degree in accounting.”
Jimmy Sweezy has returned to Piedmont Technical College for a second time. The Greenwood native earned an associate degree in electronic engineering technology in 1989 and entered to workforce. But, after 24 years, the company where he was employed closed and he decided to go a different route.
“Health care seemed like the way to go, so I enrolled in the radiologic technology program,” Sweezy said. “I love it. It’s more than I thought it would be.”
Logan Wooten knew in high school that he wanted to go into engineering. Upon graduation from Clinton High School, he enrolled at a four-year university. But he found it wasn’t the right fit for him. So he came to Piedmont Tech where he entered the mechanical engineering technology program.
“Once I graduate, rather than going straight into engineering, I want to get a job as a maintenance technician,” said Wooten. “I want to get a better understanding of the machines and how they work. That’s something you can only learn with hands-on experience.”
Presidential Ambassadors share their stories one-on-one, in small groups, and as part of panel discussions. Ambassadors also answer questions related to academics and campus life.
The Presidential Ambassadors are a select group of second year students who are chosen to represent the president, the college and their program of study. These students are selected on the basis of their academic achievement, college and community involvement, leadership skills and potential and a willingness to give service to the college. Students are selected to provide a broad picture of the “typical” PTC student.
Photo Caption: Each year, Piedmont Technical College chooses some of the best and brightest to serve as Presidential Ambassadors. This year’s ambassadors are, front from left, Karen Martin of Abbeville; Melissa Green of Waterloo; Ashley Owens of Saluda; Leslie Sargent of Greenwood; and Abigail Hershberger of Due West. Back, Morris Campbell of McCormick; Jimmy Sweezy of Greenwood; Carl Ouzts of North Augusta; Jerri Smith of Abbeville; Dr. Ray Brooks, PTC president; Logan Wooten of Joanna; and Tyler Grubbs of Prosperity. Not pictured are Michala Barnum of Greenwood and Joel Boley of McCormick.