Graduate's Experience at Piedmont Tech Forged Path to Law School

September 5, 2019

T-shirts are plentiful these days and often discarded before the memories they signify have faded. Over the past few years, Piedmont Technical College (PTC) alum Jared Chapman has been to Clemson and then the University of South Carolina for his bachelor’s in political science. He recently arrived in Lynchburg, Virginia, to attend law school at Liberty University. It was a big move. He packed light.

“I still have a Piedmont Tech shirt and wear it all the time,” he said. In fact, Chapman chose to begin his college experience at PTC in part because of his humble T-shirt budget. “Law school is very, very expensive, so I wanted to save money looking at colleges. The first two years are very important. You get your GPA set and find out what your interests are. I tell everybody now to do what I did. Go to Tech. I loved it.”

Another advantage of PTC, besides cost savings, he added, is that spending one’s first couple of years in a technical college gives them time to sample courses and make those important life decisions before investing large amounts of money.

“Instead of going into loads of debt, I went the tech route,” he said. “I found out what I wanted to do, what my interests were and what I was good at.”

While attending PTC, Chapman worked at the YMCA in Greenwood. One day a child caught his notice because she was reclusive and didn’t talk to anyone. He soon discovered that the child’s parents were divorcing and that she had not seen her father in a very long time. This got him thinking about how profoundly the courts can impact families.

Chapman’s cousin was a family law attorney and allowed him to shadow her at work. His history instructor, Cami Westall, who often lent a counseling ear, indicated that members of her family were lawyers. He asked her for her perspective on the idea of going into the law profession.

“Ms. Westall said you should do what you feel like you are called to do,” he said. “It calmed me down and gave me peace. … When I left her office after talking to her ― that was the moment I truly knew what I wanted to do.”

Westall, who taught Chapman for two semesters, was struck by his leadership skills and ability to find common ground among a diverse mix of people. Calling Chapman “humble but confident,” she said she fully expects that he will do great things in life.

“I think he just has a sense of what is right, and he pursues fairness and wants to promote the interests of others ahead of his own interests,” she said.

Chapman was able to have a strong relationship with his instructors because of the PTC environment.

“At PTC, the small class sizes helped me out a lot,” he said. “In researching law schools, class size was an important consideration. I wanted smaller class sizes like I had at Tech. All the professors were very personable. You could go into their offices, and they were actually there. You didn’t have to compete for their time. They cared about your goals.”

Chapman says it is because of his education at PTC that he was able to succeed in the university setting. It provided a strong foundation, and the college’s advising staff made a huge difference.

“I was actually able to graduate on time because of PTC,” he said. “My advisor really sat down with me and went over my transcript with me. She showed me what to do, so I knew exactly what would transfer and what I needed to take at the four-year university” to prepare for law school.

Upon his graduation from PTC, Chapman posted the following on the college’s Facebook page: 

“… From the moment of signing up for my first semester of college to walking out the doors of my last class here, I was continually helped and had people who went out of their way to help me succeed. … I can’t even describe how bittersweet (it is that) this journey of my life is coming to an end. These past two years have opened my eyes to what I want to do with my life. … This school has inspired me so much scholastically, and I will never forget the experiences I had here and coming to class everyday with professors who wanted to be there and help you succeed.”

In her letter recommending Chapman for admission to law school, Westall wrote:

“It quickly became apparent that he is a visionary. This young man, whose presence delighted the class, was the product of a very small town where no one in his family had earned a college degree. And yet, there he sat in my office discussing not only his undergraduate transfer options after saving the money to complete his degree at a four-year institution, but also different graduate school program options. … This confident young man has the proper desire to seek a law degree and will use it in service to others.”

PTC has transfer or bridge partnerships with many four-year institutions in South Carolina, including Lander University, Anderson University, Presbyterian College, Newberry College, the College of Charleston, Clemson and the University of South Carolina. These institutions accept more than 80 PTC courses for transfer, and their relationships with PTC help ensure a smooth transfer experience. To learn more, visit www.ptc.edu/transfer.

 

PHOTO CUTLINES

  • Jared Chapman proudly wears his PTC T-shirt in front of Liberty University’s School of Law.
  • PTC transfer student and alum Jared Chapman recently began studies at Liberty University, where he is attending law school.