The Transylvania Times -

BRCC Offers Students An Alternative


May 14, 2018

John Lanier

Tham Dang (left) and Sophie Davis graduated from Blue Ridge Community College this past weekend. They will be heading on to four-year universities in the fall.

Thirty-six students from Transylvania County participated in the Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) ceremonies this past weekend.

Some of them will go directly into the workforce while others, such as Tham Dang and Sophie Davis, will continue their education at four-year universities and colleges.

Both Dang and Davis attended Pisgah Forest Elementary, Brevard Middle and Brevard high schools, but their reasons for selecting BRCC for their first two years of college were different.

"It was affordable," said Dang.

She said depending upon the number and type of classes she took at BRCC, the cost for the year ranged from $1,800 to $2,100. Money from FAFSA, the federal student loan program, covered those costs, so she basically attended college at no personal expense. Attending BRCC also allowed her to continue working full-time at her parents' nail salon in Pisgah Forest.

Davis, on the other hand, had planned to attend a four-year school. But when she became pregnant, she decided to stay home, raise her child and work on the family farm in Little River.

BRCC afforded her the opportunity to attend school full-time while being able to be a mother and help out on her parents' farm.

Both said their time at BRCC helped them refine and clarify their career goals.

Dang, who received an Associate of Arts degree, is going to attend Western Carolina University, where she plans to major in business administration and law. Classes such as introduction to business, and microeconomics and macroeconomics helped confirm her decision.

She eventually wants to work in a hospital's finance department and help people who are struggling financially make their medical payments. Davis, who received an Associate of Science degree, is going to attend Mount Olive University, a small, private institution in the eastern part of the state. She plans to pursue a bachelor's degree in agricultural education and minor in business.

Davis' goals are twofold.

She wants to become an agricultural teacher, so students understand the vital role agriculture plays in everyday life, "from what we eat to what we wear."

Her second goal, which she said she received in an epiphany from the Lord during one of her classes, is to help operate a family farm. The farm would have a place to house young, pregnant women.

"I was one of those teen moms. I was lucky enough to live with my family," said Davis, adding that a number of pregnant teenagers do not have family support and are trying to make it on their own.

"I want to use it as a mission field to those girls and their babies as well," said Davis.

Both women said attending BRCC gave them the opportunity to take the core classes, which transfer to all public state institutions, and the time to carefully consider their career paths.

Davis noted that most freshmen change their majors before they graduate, so taking your core classes and sampling a few other classes was beneficial before deciding on a major.

They also praised the small class sizes at BRCC, particularly the local campus. Dang said her smallest class was World Civilizations II with four students while her largest class was English with 24 students.

Davis said there were 70 students in her chemistry class at the Henderson County campus. The class was too large for her, so she withdrew.

"It was overwhelming. I didn't have a good experience," said Davis said.

But when she took and passed the class at the Transylvania campus, there were 10 students in both the lecture and lab portions of the class.

Both women said that while BRCC had small classes and professors who worked to help them be successful, they had to be prepared and punctual. Deadlines were never extended and if they missed a test or quiz, they were not able to make it up.

"They do make you grow up," said Davis of the faculty.

But the staff, they said, was always willing to answer questions and provide help whenever needed.

Davis said that included professors writing letters of recommendations at all hours of the night.

"If you have the determination and the drive, they are willing to help you reach your goals," said Dang. "They pushed me to succeed."

That support can be crucial, particularly during the first year of college when students may be uncertain of themselves and their future plans.

"I felt welcomed. I was comfortable," said Davis.

Just as different reasons brought Dang and Davis, so to will they have different experiences upon leaving.

Not much will change for Dang. She plans to take all of her WCU classes online, so she will still be able to live at home and be a full-time student and full-time employee.

"I don't have to drive over there (Cullowhee) until I graduate," said Dang.

Dang said she would not miss the dorm and "party life" because she wants to focus on her career and work.

Davis, on the other hand, is looking forward to moving downstate with her child to live with her fiancé.

"I'm ready for the change," she said. "I'm mentally and emotionally ready to go to a university."

Both young women said they would recommend students, particularly those who may face financial constraints or are unsure about their future vocation, attend BRCC.

They noted that even in a worse case in which BRCC does not work out for a student, the student would not have incurred much, if any, debt. But for both Dang and Davis, BRCC provided exactly what they needed at a particular point in their lives.

Davis, in particular, noted that obtaining an education with a newborn to take care of would have been much more difficult without BRCC.

"I'm thankful for Blue Ridge," she said.


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