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‘It’s like we’re real adults now’: Forsyth Technical Community College opens doors

Sam McCart and John Belk beamed with pride while standing next to a welding machine in Forsyth Technical Community College’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing. Sam and John have been married for ten years, but the last year and a half have presented them with a unique opportunity to find their own pathway to prosperity through hard work and the help of Forsyth Technical Community College (FTCC).

John Belk and Sam McCart in the FTCC Welding Lab. Nation Hahn/EducationNC

Sam spent nine years working in fast food, eventually rising to a shift line manager, but despite her hard work, she and John always found themselves living paycheck to paycheck. On the hunt for a career, Sam found her way to what she termed “a mom and pop welding shop” where she discovered an aptitude for welding but largely had to teach herself.

Eventually, Sam realized she needed to better understand the science and art of welding if she intended to make it her life.

Enter FTCC and Dr. Jackie Woods.

Dr. Jackie Woods at Forsyth Technical Community College. Nation Hahn/EducationNC

Dr. Woods and the welding program led Sam to work for Deere-Hitachi. This job allowed her and John to finally breathe a bit easier as her pay, vacation days, and benefits gave them a safety net for the first time in their lives together. Sam’s job also allowed John to quit his job in the food industry and go to FTCC, following in her footsteps to become a welder at Deere-Hitachi.

John and Sam told us that they now have a house without a leak in the roof, a car that is less than twenty years old for the first time in their life, and they broke out in a big smile while telling us about the cruise they are about to go on to the Bahamas.

“It’s like we’re real adults now,” Sam interjected.

Laughing, John responded, “It’s only taken us 30 years.”

Dr. Woods later told us that John and Sam define success for him. With a smile, he declared, “This is the fun. This is the joy of teaching.”

“We all have to make a final assessment in life, and I think when we make the assessment, the question is did I make life better for someone?” – Dr. Jackie Woods

Technology

FTCC President Gary Green also led us through their technology building to learn more about their efforts around cybersecurity and information technology, and they also introduced us to Kamigami robots.

FTCC is a leader in cybersecurity programming among North Carolina community colleges.

We met Jován Morgan, Samuel Wilson, and Glen Olsen, who all attend FTCC to shape their own future in the cybersecurity space. They are part of the scholarship for service program, which gives them a full ride, a stipend, and a paid internship in cybersecurity. After they graduate, the students will go on to work in government or higher education. 

The future of Forsyth Tech Community College

Over the past several months, our team has visited community colleges across North Carolina. We have had the chance to see the equine program at Martin Community College, the brewing curriculum at Asheville-Buncombe Tech and Nash Community College, and the photography program at Randolph Community College.

A common theme which has come up in conversation after conversation with the leadership teams at each institution is that often it is the college transfer programs and general education which provide the funds the colleges need to tackle these unique programs. President Green broke it down for us:

Another common theme is in order for community colleges to increase the number of students who persist and ultimately complete their degree or needed certifications, more institutions have had to consider the manner in which they provide financial aid.

President Green retires at the end of the year.

The bulletin board in the FTCC Technology Building. Nation Hahn/EducationNC
Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the director of growth for EducationNC.