PTK going strong at CCCC
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Dr. Rodney Powell (right), a chemistry instructor who currently advises the Central Carolina Community ... (more)
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Teresa Echeverria, a member of Central Carolina Community College's Phi Theta Kappa, currently serves ... (more)
SANFORD - Phi Theta Kappa didn't even exist on the Central Carolina Community College campus seven years ago, when college officials started considering an international honorary to replace the local honorary.
Now, CCCC's Beta Sigma Phi Chapter is winning friends and influencing people with national accolades, one student being elected a regional vice president and service projects reaching well beyond the college to shape the entire community.
"Basically we've gone from not really having any activity to the large amount of work that our students do now," says Mark Hall, who was faculty advisor when the Phi Theta Kappa chapter was formed and now serves as provost of CCCC's Chatham Main Campus. "That's huge. There are a lot of chapters that have been around for a long time and still haven't achieved as much."
Phi Theta Kappa recognizes the academic achievement of community college students with more than 3.2 million members and nearly 1,300 chapters in the United States and a few other locations. Students must meet rigorous academic standards to be eligible for membership. At CCCC, that includes a 3.7 grade point average and at least 12 semester hours of coursework that may be applied to an associate degree.
But unlike many honoraries, Phi Theta Kappa doesn't merely recognize outstanding students. It helps members become effective leaders by stressing service projects on campus and beyond.
Dr. Rodney Powell, a chemistry instructor who currently advises the Phi Theta Kappa chapter with English instructor Becky Finken, says CCCC students complete two large service projects each year.
One is based on a national theme. Last year, local members tackled the "How the World Works" theme by conducting a survey on campus to see what people didn't understand about renewable energy and then offering educational seminars to provide perspectives. Another annual project, designed to enhance the college, helped recognize and appreciate instructors.
Watching students become thoughtful, competent leaders is one reason Powell says it's a privilege to work with young people he describes as the best and brightest on campus. "Every year we get to see growth in students' leadership, especially for officers in the group," Powell says. "Every year I see something different happen and it's enjoyable to have a role in how they're developing as leaders."
One of best and brightest is Teresa Echeverria, a Broadway resident and Western Harnett High School graduate pursuing her Associate in Science. Echeverria entered the college to study dental hygiene, but was offered admission to a competitive academic program leading to admission to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she plans to study biology and pursue a career in pediatric dentistry.
Echeverria, who describes herself as fairly quiet and reserved in high school, didn't know much about Phi Theta Kappa until she received email one day commending her academic achievement and offering her membership. From that moment, she threw herself into the experience -- learning how to create and execute community projects, become an effective public speaker and, as she puts it, "let her personality out."
All of that came together when she was elected Phi Theta Kappa Regional Vice President for North Carolina, a role she's using to find ways to elevate other students by strengthening other honorary chapters across North and South Carolina.
Though she stepped into regional office just recently, she says Phi Theta Kappa has already changed her life. "I would have still been that shy little girl from high school," Echeverria says. "I wouldn't have made as many friends or be open to so many people. I'm still trying to work on that, but I wouldn't be who I am right now."
Powell is pleased with what the chapter has achieved in just a few short years. More students are active than ever before and they're working to change their community and the world beyond -- all in a positive way.
"There are other community colleges many times larger with many more members, but their students don't develop any more than ours do," Powell says. "Our students are now developing their own identity on campus as high-achieving students. We want them to feel proud of what they do and how they do it."
For more information on Central Carolina Community College, visit the college website at www.cccc.edu.
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