More than 200 people – including students, supporters, Carolina Chancellor Carol L. Folt and former North Carolina senator Howard Lee — attended the annual Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program (C-STEP) event in the Blue Zone at Kenan Stadium on Monday night.
C-STEP, which was designed for low- to moderate-income students who transfer to Carolina from a partner community college, began as a pilot project in 2006 with just three local community colleges. It now serves nine partner colleges and along the way has changed the lives of almost 500 students.
What makes C-STEP different is the specialized advising provided (both at community college campuses and at Carolina) and the increased graduation rate (now at 81 percent over four years) for the students it serves. Graduates of the program are changing the lives of countless others because they are now teachers, counselors, nurses, entrepreneurs and law enforcement officers, among other important occupations. Others have entered professional schools such as medicine, law and dentistry.
Rebecca Egbert, the C-STEP program director who served as Monday night’s emcee, opened the event with emotion: “Our annual kickoff event is one of my favorites, and it just gets better every year,’’ she said. “Tonight you can feel the energy in the room a mile away.”
She then recognized Vice Provost for Undergraduate Admissions Stephen Farmer, who launched the program eight years ago in an effort to improve the ability of N.C. community college students to enroll in and graduate from Carolina. “I know I speak for both of us, Steve,” Egbert said, “when I say look how far we’ve come.”
Folt delivered a rousing welcome from the University, and her address was followed by remarks from four current C-STEP seniors: Christopher Gremillion (originally from Craven Community College, earning a degree in biology); Chizoba Nnoruka (Nigerian native and senior majoring in nursing); Hafsa Mohamud (senior who escaped war-torn Somalia through Yemen and immigrated to the U.S. where she enrolled in Durham Technical Community College and is earning degrees in both psychology and biology) and Noah Boyd (from Wake Technical Community College who is earning a degree in psychology and will be on his way to graduate school as a McNair Scholar).
All four students came from different backgrounds, but their advice to this year’s newest C-STEP cohort was consistent — stressing the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity C-STEP offers and building relationships with each other and across campus.
Another highlight of the night was the keynote address by Lee, a veteran, former mayor of Chapel Hill, former North Carolina senator and an alumnus who holds a master’s degree in social work from Carolina. His words were delivered with his characteristic mixture of humor and wisdom, and he stressed the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity life brings you.
He closed his speech with a famous poem by R.L. Sharpe, which seemed fitting to the evening because it emphasized opportunity and painted an unforgettable mental image of C-STEP as a true stepping stone:
Isn’t it strange how princes and kings,
and clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
and common people, like you and me,
are builders for eternity?
Each is given a list of rules;
a shapeless mass; a bag of tools.
And each must fashion, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block, or a Stepping-Stone.
Others in attendance included Dwight Stone, UNC Board of Trustees member; Dr. William Ingram, president of Durham Technical Community College; and Lee Niegelsky, Rockingham County Education Foundation board member.
Story by Ashley Memory, UNC Admissions
Photos by Melanie Busbee, Communications and Public Affairs
Published September 16, 2014