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Student Success Profile: Carmen Williams ‘17
Carmen Williams adjusted her mortarboard as she stood along the red velvet ropes that separated her from a growing line of regalia-clad faculty members.
It was still hours from the 2017 Durham Technical Community College Commencement, but Williams was ready. Alone in the line, she thought about her inspiration – Williams’ mother.
“I did it for my mom,” she said.
With her walk across the wood-paneled stage of the Durham Performing Arts Center on May 10, Williams, 38, became the first member of her family to graduate from college.
Williams earned an Associate in Applied Science in Architectural Technology after initially attending North Carolina A&T State University after high school. During her freshman year, Williams dropped out and moved back home to Durham to help take care of her mother who was recovering from spinal surgery.
While home, Williams lived job-to-job before settling as a Global Administrator at IBM. But the position was a job, not a career, she said, and Williams began looking at Durham Tech programs.
“I took a drafting class in high school and fell in love with architecture,” Williams said. “So I was excited to see that Durham Tech offered an architectural technology program. I read over the course description and it sounded great, so I applied.”
“It took me three years to complete the program because there were times I couldn’t afford to pay for full-time courses,” Williams said. “Sometimes I paid for school before I bought groceries, but the sacrifice was worth it.”
To relieve the financial stress, Williams applied for the O’Brien/Atkins Associates, PA Architectural Drafting Scholarship from the Durham Tech Foundation.
“I told my instructor I didn’t think I was coming to school that semester because I couldn’t afford it,” Williams said. “A couple days later, I received a letter in the mail from the Durham Tech Foundation that I had been awarded the scholarship. It was a huge help. Had it not been for the scholarship, I was not coming to school that semester.”
“I graduated high school 20 years ago, so you can always finish,” Williams said of her advice to future students. “You can always go back and pursue your dreams. It may not be in the timeline you’ve set for yourself, but it’s always attainable.”
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