Giving back to the place where it all started

wilson_alumniprofile-2-682x1024Jack Wilson runs a tight ship at his company, Wiltec Technologies, a successful electronics firm in Ann Arbor. But he’s not too busy to remember where it all began: Washtenaw Community College.

In the late ‘70s, Wilson, an Ann Arbor native, attended WCC, where he became educated in the skilled trades and graduated with an associate degree in architectonics and digital electronics.

“I learned about lighting systems and electronics, and I actually got to touch some of the same tools and equipment I would use in the real world,” he said. “My professors gave me the confidence and the skills to further my career in the electrical industry. There’s a lot of value in community colleges.”

After working as an electrician for five years, Wilson decided to take his career to the next level and opened two companies in electrical and fiber optics in 1988. Soon after, the companies were merged into Wiltec Technologies.

Wiltec offers design, implementation and service for access control, surveillance, fire alarm, and audiovisual, as well as electrical solutions. The company has offices in Detroit and Ann Arbor and focuses on the education industry.

“Just a few years after starting the business, St. Joseph Hospital [in Ann Arbor] called. We were hired to complete a large-scale cabling project of the whole campus, which really helped to solidify our company,” Wilson said. “We’ve been going strong ever since.”

What’s the key to running a successful business?

“I hire smarter people than me,” Wilson said with a laugh. “Finding the right people can be a challenge, but I have an amazing staff.”

Wilson also holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Cleary University and an MBA from Colorado State University. He is currently working on developing a program that addresses the needs for technical skilled trades. But he would like to fulfill a lifelong dream of passing down some of his wisdom and knowledge in a classroom setting, so he’s mapping out a plan to start pursuing teaching and mentoring in the near future.

“I have a passion for education,” he said.

Wilson also has a passion for giving.

A longtime supporter of the college, Wilson is very much involved in raising scholarship money for WCC students. He served on the WCC Foundation’s scholarship committee during 2008-10 and the Mardi Gras fundraiser committee during 2009-15. His company, Wiltec, has been one of the sponsors for the WCC Foundation’s annual Golf Outing fundraiser for the past nine years.

“Over the years, Jack has expressed how grateful he is to WCC for opening his eyes to what he could do and giving him the confidence to do it,” said Rose Bailey, interim director of college advancement for the WCC Foundation. “Thankfully for the WCC Foundation, Jack’s gratitude did not stop with words.

“Jack has served on numerous WCC Foundation committees and continues to provide monetary support through event sponsorships and donations,” she continued. “The WCC Foundation is now truly the grateful one! Being able to share this partnership with Jack, as both a WCC alumnus and community business member, is a gift.”

This story originally appeared in the October/November 2016 issue of On The Record.

Fine tuning

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Bonnie Billups, WCC audio instructor and Avid Pro Tools trainer, talks with students in the “MUS 175: Audio Recording Technology (Avid Pro Tools Certification)” course. (Photo by Jonas Berzanskis)

Revamped digital audio recording and engineering program gains certification

If music is your passion, but you prefer to work behind the scenes, then Washtenaw Community College’s recently accredited Audio Production and Engineering certification program is designed for you.

Throughout the program, students will sharpen their digital audio engineering and recording skills, while developing a more in-depth understanding of how to create a life in music technology, audio recording and music industry production.

Students will also learn piano or keyboard theory, music theory and music composition, as well as the use of current audio recording software.

What’s New? In addition to receiving the nationally recognized Avid Pro Tools certification, students will have an opportunity to build a portfolio and rub elbows with industry professionals, as well as build collaborative projects with the WCC, local and regional community.

Courses include “MUS 170: Introduction to Audio Technology,” “MUS 175: Audio Recording Technology (Avid Pro Tools Certification),” and “MUS 248: Sound Reinforcement for Stage.”

“We want to ensure that our students have very realistic and diversified skills, as they are not building a profession for their twenties but for the rest of their lives,” said Dr. Michael Naylor, WCC performing arts faculty member and music director, who spearheaded the effort for certification. “The more we help them think like this, the more their education at WCC will count.”

“The new Avid Pro Tools certification is a real feather in WCC’s cap and a wonderful opportunity for our students in preparing themselves for work in the audio field,” added Noonie Anderson, chair of the WCC Performing Arts Department. “WCC is one of the few educational institutions in the state to offer this training. I’m proud of all the work our faculty has done to see this come to fruition.”

For more information about the program, visit http://bit.ly/2du43kH.

This story originally appeared in the October/November 2016 issue of On The Record.

Scholarship recipients get opportunity to thank donors

Gratitude has been the recurring theme of the annual Washtenaw Community College Foundation Scholarship Luncheon for many years. This year was no different.

Held in late September, the WCC Foundation Scholarship Luncheon gives students a rare opportunity to thank their donors in person and allows the donors to meet the students and to hear the impact their generosity has on students’ lives.

“I don’t know how I’d be able to go to school without this scholarship,” said Lamar Turner, who received the Anthony Procassini Scholarship and underwent heart surgery in the two weeks leading up to the luncheon. “There’s no way I could miss this event. I want to thank every donor who sees the potential in us. It’s an extreme blessing, so please keep giving to students like me.”

For Tabetha Chaney, who’s working toward earning her GED, the WCC Foundation Scholarship gave her “peace of mind” and helped her understand she was “more than her circumstances.”

“I’m evolving into better versions of myself,” she said.

Throughout the year, the WCC Foundation awards more than 1,000 scholarships. This year alone, the Foundation completed nine new endowments.

Each student who took the podium was a testament that even the smallest scholarship can make a big difference.

Film student Joseph Dinda, who received the Morris J. Lawrence Memorial Scholarship, knows this firsthand but almost didn’t apply.

“I thought, ‘What are the chances?’” he said. “Receiving this scholarship boosted my confidence and inspired me to keep going. It’s like having a team in my corner cheering me on and encouraging me to succeed.”

To make a gift, visit wccnet.edu/foundation/give.

This story originally appeared in the October/November 2016 issue of On The Record.

Instructor exercising a life-long dream

Ann Brennan September 2016

WCC faculty member Ann Brennan (center) monitors a student measuring oxygen volume of another student. The VO2 Max test is considered the gold standard for assessing overall fitness. (Photo by Jessica Bibbee)

Ann Brennan, part-time instructor in the exercise science program at Washtenaw Community College, spent years living abroad in England, Spain and France teaching and working in education administration.

Despite obtaining a wealth of national and international experiences and two degrees—a bachelor’s in political science from Miami University in Ohio and an MBA from the University of Maryland—Brennan felt she had more to offer.

“I’m married with two kids and I was spending so much time away from my family,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I was doing something worthwhile enough to justify that time away from them.”

When it came time to switch careers, Brennan drew inspiration from her childhood. She loved playing sports growing up, but decided to take that passion a step further and explore a career in exercise science.

That meant heading back to school—a real challenge due to raising a family and working fulltime. Brennan was apprehensive at first but says WCC made it possible.

“Between the cost, location and reputation, I knew I’d be in good hands at WCC,” she said.

After building a solid foundation at WCC, Brennan transferred to Eastern Michigan University (EMU) and graduated with a master’s degree in exercise physiology in 2014. After graduation, Brennan accepted part-time positions in research and clinical settings, in addition to a teaching position here.

WCC’s exercise science program is designed for those pursuing a career in health, wellness and fitness. Students can earn an associate degree in exercise science, which prepares them for American College of Sports Medicine certification exams.

Students can also continue their studies at a four-year college or university that offers degrees in sports medicine, kinesiology and physical education.

WCC has an articulation agreement with EMU that allows students to seamlessly transfer and earn their bachelor’s degree in exercise science.

Graduates go on to land a wide variety of jobs in the healthcare field, such as physical therapist, clinical exercise specialist, personal trainer, or physical education teacher. Of course many of these professions require further degrees.

At WCC, students learn how to measure fitness, including cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and flexibility, as well as body composition.

“Students practice measurement techniques on themselves and each other, while collecting and analyzing the data they collect,” Brennan said. “They also have access to specialized equipment that you can’t find anywhere else.”

The list of equipment includes a treadmill, metabolic cart, EKG machine, power-measuring bike and inversion table, which is used to test how the body responds to different positions versus gravity.

“We make sure our students are well prepared when they enter the field or transfer to another college,” Brennan said.

Her teaching style? A good mix of lecture-based and hands-on learning. Knowledgeable yet approachable. An emphasis on strong research and critical thinking skills, while also stressing the importance of common sense and empathy.

“A great deal of exercise science focuses on a specific body part or cell, but I remind my students to step back and think about how all of the parts work together to allow the body to function properly,” Brennan said. “At the same time, patients are real people, so listening and caring is equally important.”

Before making her way to WCC, Brennan worked as an administrator and program manager at large and small institutions, but she finds students at community colleges especially intriguing.

“WCC students are hard workers and they know what they want,” she said. “They’re highly motivated and each one has a unique reason why they’re here. They’re up against more barriers, and I just have such a respect and admiration for their choices and resilience.”

This story originally appeared in the October/November 2016 issue of On The Record.

The History of Dreadlocks

France Bob Marley

[Detangling Our Roots] Stop the co-opt. In this EBONY.com series exploring Black hair origins, we trace locs from the Ancient Egypt all the way to Jamrock.

When many folks think of dreadlocks, the drama that unfolded between Zendaya and Giuliana Rancic probably comes to mind. For those who need a quick refresher, Zendaya chose to rock faux locs on the red carpet at the Oscars last year. The Cover Girl adorned her locs with beads and wore a sophisticated Vivienne Westwood gown. Rancic suggested the following day on “Fashion Police” that the then 18-year-old’s hair probably smelled of “patchouli” and “weed.” Rancic later apologized on air for her seemingly racist remarks.

On Sept. 15, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it’s nondiscriminatory to ban locs in the workplace. That same day, Marc Jacobs was accused of cultural appropriation when his mostly white models walked the runway wearing pastel-colored locs during New York Fashion Week. The message was clear: Dreadlocks are not welcome unless the person wearing them is white.

The late Bob Marley introduced the hairstyle into mainstream culture in the ‘70s with Whoopi Goldberg further popularizing the look in the ‘80s. Lauryn Hill and Lenny Kravitz proudly rocked theirs in the ‘90s. Toni Morrison and Alice Walker have worn them for as long as we can remember.

The natural hair movement helped set off a resurgence in locs in recent years with Ava Duvernay, Ledisi, Willow and Jaden Smith, Chloe x Halle, and The Weeknd all making locs part of their signature look.

Over the decades, locs have become associated with all things Jamaica to the point where most people think Jamaicans invented locs, but written evidence suggests otherwise.

Dating as far back as 2500 B.C., The Vedas, Hinduism’s oldest scriptures, depict the Hindu God Shiva wearing locs or “jaTaa” in the Sanskrit language, according to Dr. Bert Ashe’s book, Twisted: My Dreadlocks Chronicles.

Ancient Egyptian pharaohs also wore locs, which appeared on tomb carvings, drawings and other artifacts. Thousands of years later, mummified bodies have been recovered with their locs still intact.

“Dreadlocks can be traced to just about every civilization in history,” says Chimere Faulk, an Atlanta-based natural hair stylist and owner of Dr. Locs. “No matter the race, you will find a connection to having dreadlocks for spiritual reasons.”

The Old Testament even tells the story of Samson, who lost his strength once his locs were shaved off. In Kenya, Maasai warriors are known to spend hours perfecting their famous red locs.

So, how did locs become synonymous with Jamaica?

Read more of my latest piece for EBONY.com [here]. 

Nneka Brown Helps Students Go B(l)ack to School in Style

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Nneka Brown is on her way to becoming a high school history teacher, but the 27-year-old CEO, single mom and army veteran is also busy making history of her own.

By now, you probably heard all about the collection of Black-themed school supplies that sold out in 24 hours.

Innovative Supplies is the company that’s shaking up things in online retail and Nneka Brown is the woman behind it.

When Jetmag.com caught up with Nneka Brown recently, she and her small-but-dedicated team were in the middle of shipping out more than 8,500 notebooks to customers who were anxiously awaiting their orders.

A self-proclaimed history buff, Brown says the idea came as she was gearing up for her first semester at Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga. after spending nine years in the military and being deployed overseas twice.

“I always liked back to school supplies and now that I’m going to school, I felt it was important to get the right tools that would help me throughout the semester. One of the tools would be notebooks, but when you go into the store, there’s not much to choose from,” Brown says. “So, I created a couple concepts in my mind and I had them produced and I was blown away by how good they looked. I knew this was something that other people would love as well.”

And she was right.

So many orders came pouring in that Brown had to press pause after just 24 hours.

In case you missed it: The notebooks depicted iconic Civil Rights leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., along with the #BlackLivesMatter movement featuring the late rapper Tupac Shakur rocking an “I Am Sandra Bland” T-shirt with a sprinkle of pop culture, including the hilarious Michael Jordan crying meme.

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The “Be Unique” and “Higher and Higher” notebooks instantly became customer favorites, selling 4,600 units combined.

Read more of my latest piece for Jetmag.com [here].

Review: The Mane Choice Soft As Can Be Revitalize & Refresh 3-in-1 Co-Wash, Leave In, Detangler

When a PR rep emailed me and asked to send The Mane Choice’s Soft As Can Be Revitalize & Refresh 3-in-1 Co-Wash, Leave In, Detangler for my review, I was excited but hesistant. I had heard a lot about The Mane Choice over the years, but never felt compelled to purchase anything for whatever reason. Tbh, I think I was just frustrated after trying so many “natural hair” products that never seemed to work or do anything special. But then I thought, “Ahh, what the heck?” So, I decided to give it a test drive….

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A couple notes before I share my thoughts:

–My hair in its natural state is somewhere around 3B, see “Hair Types” chart below.

–I don’t chemically alter my hair and I don’t go overboard with the flat iron, so I’d say my hair is pretty healthy overall.

–I’ve used this product for about a month now.

What I was looking for in the product: My hair blown out hits the middle of my chest, but I’d like to grow it another three inches at least. Also, my hair dries fast, so I’m always searching for something that retains moisture and reduces frizz — and because my hair tangles easily, I need a product that makes it easy to comb through when wet.

Hair-Types

Source: curlcentric.com

OFFICIAL PRODUCT DETAILS: A 3-in-1 conditioner formulated to revitalize and refresh the hair instantly. An advanced conditioner that can be used as a Co-Wash, Leave In, and Detangler. Adds shine, softness and manageability. Stops breakage during the detangling process. Leaves the hair softer and more elastic.

The nutrient contents of this conditioner makes the hair less dry and less prone to breakage by allowing the hair to hold in more moisture for longer periods of time. When used a Co-Wash this unique formula gently rinses away impurities and product build up. Infused with Biotin and Tea Tree to promote growth and retention. No Mineral Oil, No Petrolatum, No Parabens, No Sulfates, No Formaldehydes.

My thoughts: The product itself smells lovely and the consistency feels like a lightweight lotion and that’s because purified water is one of the ingredients, so this won’t weigh your hair down.

After using this as a co-wash, my hair felt velvety but still clean. According to the packaging, it removes impurities and product buildup, but it’s gentle enough for daily use, which is awesome. Even better, it’s an amazing detangler and my hair was super easy to comb through afterward. The results had me feeing like:

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Can’t say that I noticed any extra hair growth since using The Mane Choice, but I don’t think it’s fair for me to make any claims about this since some of its other products seem to lean more toward hair growth, such as the Manetabolism Plus Vitamins and Multi-Vitamin Scalp Nourishing Growth Oil. However, the 3-in-1 is infused with biotin and tea tree — both promote healthy hair growth. Side note: I spotted this fun Length Check T-shirt. 🙂

The Verdict: The Mane Choice exceeded my expectations. It made my natural hair incredibly easy to manage. Detangling was a breeze and my curls never looked or felt better. The only downside? I wish the bottle was slightly bigger. Eight ounces goes by fast when you’re using it as a co-wash, leave-in and detangler throughout the week. Although this product was provided to me by The Mane Choice, I would definitely purchase with my own money. There already several other products I’d love to try like the Crystal Orchid Biotin Infused Styling Gel and the vitamins, of course. Psssst…they even have a Comb Infused Talking Flat Iron! *Sounds like something straight outta The Twilight Zone!*

Price and where to buy: The Mane Choice Soft As Can Be Revitalize & Refresh 3-in-1 Co-Wash, Leave In, Detangler retails for $13.99 (8 ounces) and is available at www.themanechoice.com or at select Rite Aid, Sally Beauty and Target stores.

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. The opinions expressed in this post are mine only.

Don’t Play Yourself: Social Media Tips from Luvvie Ajayi

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Want to get the most out of social media? Follow these five basic rules…

Growing up, we were told to “never judge a book by its cover.” Right?

Well, forget what your mama told you because award-winning writer Luvvie Ajayi is doing plenty of that in her new book, I’m Judging You: The Do Better Manual. But she insists it’s for our [and her] own good.

“I called the book, ‘I’m Judging You’ because it’s true, I am judging everyone, but I’m also judging myself,” Ajayi says. “We all can and should do better.”

The truth is we all could use a little tough love, and when it comes to throwing some necessary shade, Ajayi doesn’t disappoint.

Ajayi’s debut book is packed with hilarious essays that tackle everything from race and culture to downright bad behavior, i.e. posting casket pictures. Oh, and hashtag abusers and over sharers? She’s coming for y’all, too!

Learning to communicate effectively on social media is key in this digital age—which is why Ajayi dedicated an entire section of the book to proper social media etiquette. A simple tweet or Facebook post can spark a movement, i.e. #BlackLivesMatter. As someone who was an early adopter of Facebook and Twitter and started blogging before it became everyone’s dream job, Ajayi understands this.

Want to get the most out of social media? Follow these five basic rules from the technology connoisseur herself.

1) Make sure your online persona matches who you are in real life.

If you’re not sarcastic and witty on a regular basis, don’t pretend to be online. “However you come across on social media should be pretty authentic of who you are in real life unless you have a satire account,” Ajayi says. In the words of Lauryn Hill, “It could all be so simple.” In other words: Do you boo boo.

2) Don’t randomly tweet people links to your work.

A little self-promotion never hurt anyone, but sending strangers links to your work is a no-no. “It’s like walking into a conference room and stuffing your business card into somebody’s hand before you even say ‘Hi’ and introduce yourself,” Ajayi says. Don’t be that person. If your goal is to get on someone’s radar by continuously tweeting them, you could end up on their blocked list instead. Is that what you want? We didn’t think so.

Read more of my latest piece for Jetmag.com [here].

All that jazz

Photo by Steve Kuzma

Photo by Steve Kuzma

Word of mouth travels fast.

That’s how Washtenaw Community College’s Jazz Combo established itself as a staple at nearly every event and celebration around campus.

The college has John E. Lawrence, former director of WCC’s Music Performance program, to thank for that. But, interestingly enough, the band sort of came together by accident.

The year was 2013 when Lawrence’s jazz combo class was scheduled to perform at the Honors Convocation—an event that recognizes WCC students who achieve a GPA of 3.5 or higher. But when the drummer didn’t show, Lawrence rolled out plan B.

“Johnny called to see if I could sit in for his drummer,” explained Arnett Chisholm, Dean of Student Diversity and Inclusion at WCC. “He later discovered that (history instructor) Thornton Perkins played the bass guitar, so he also drafted him to come and play.

“Then, communications instructor Jennifer Jackson informed Johnny that she would be interested in singing from time to time,” Chisholm continued. “Shortly after that, (business instructor) Maurice Stovall joined on the rhythm guitar and (pharmacy technology director) Kiela Samuels joined as lead singer.”

Pretty soon, there were enough people to form a real band. But when Lawrence retired last year, the remaining band members didn’t know if they’d continue without him. After consulting with Lawrence’s replacement, Steve Somers, who currently serves as the band’s leader, they decided to keep going—and now they’re stronger than ever.

“Our passion for music and learning has brought and kept us together,” Somers said.

The band performs at annual events throughout the year, including WCC’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, the WCC Foundation Mardi Gras fundraiser, and Free College Day. If there’s an event on campus, they are almost always there.

“I love performing and seeing the smiles on people’s faces and connecting with the audience,” Samuels said.

Band members come together at least once a week to practice and rehearse the music. The genre performed depends on the venue, but they specialize in jazz-style music due to Morris Lawrence’s musical legacy at the college.

For those who don’t know, Lawrence (no relation to John E. Lawrence) was a renowned jazz musician who helped propel WCC’s jazz orchestra to national and international acclaim. Under his direction, the band performed at the White House, Carnegie Hall, and the Montreux/Detroit Jazz Festival, among many others. He died in 1994, but continues to inspire others through his music, which resulted in his name on a campus building.

Samuels says the growing demand for the band to perform at upcoming events is more proof that music brings people together in ways that only music can.

“We just have a good time when we’re up there,” she said.

Although the WCC Jazz Combo consists of WCC faculty and staff from various departments, current music students and alumni are encouraged to show off their musical talents as well due to their open-door policy.

“Performing with the band really allowed me to get to know the professors on a more personal note,” said community member Claudia Young, who completed two Jazz Combo and Improvisation courses. “Sharing the common ground of jazz definitely builds bridges between students and professors.”

Spoken like a true musician.

Whether it’s brushing up on old skills or playing for the pure enjoyment, every member of the band seems to have their own unique reason why they perform.

“Playing with the WCC Jazz Combo, I get an opportunity to work with some great individuals, and I feel like it’s a form of giving back to the college—being able to do something fun and upbeat that’s outside of my job duties,” Chisholm said. “Playing the drums relaxes me and it’s a form of self-expression. When I’m playing, I don’t have a care in the world; it’s all about the beat.”

This story originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of On The Record.

‘Everything gets easier after the first class’

WCC graduate Marcel Henderson (left) works with Chris Young, a member of the group study session Henderson runs for new computer programming students. (Photo by CJ South)

WCC graduate Marcel Henderson (left) works with Chris Young, a member of the group study session Henderson runs for new computer programming students. (Photo by CJ South)

Henderson goes from dropout to graduate to small business owner

Washtenaw Community College alumnus and soon-to-be Eastern Michigan University graduate Marcel Henderson has come a long way.

In between completing his final semester at EMU and developing web applications and running a group study session at WCC for new computer programming students, it’s hard to imagine how Henderson finds the time to operate his new business, Go Time! Technologies.

Even harder to imagine is a time when Henderson didn’t take his studies or future seriously.

Henderson first enrolled at WCC eight years ago but soon dropped out. He tried his hand at nursing and plumbing careers but quickly found that neither field suited him.

“I didn’t do well my first semester,” he said. “Right after I graduated from high school, my father died and I think that was a big part of why I wasn’t focused. I just wasn’t ready. I always liked computers, but I still didn’t know what I wanted to do.”

After taking a few years off, his 4-year-old daughter, Natalie, inspired him to give school another chance in 2012.

“My family grew up without a lot of money, and I didn’t want my daughter going through that,” Henderson said. “I knew the only way to do that was to go back to school and find a career I was passionate about.”

At 26, Henderson came back more determined than before. The first thing he did upon returning? Sign up for the same computer science course he failed the first time around.

“I didn’t have any problems the second time I took the class,” he said with a smile.

Seeing how passionate his instructors were about computer science was all Henderson needed to know he was heading in the right direction.

“The professors at WCC are unmatched. They over-prepared me in many ways,” Henderson said. “The smaller classes and hands-on learning gave me a jumpstart that other students didn’t have.”

Henderson earned an associate degree in computer science with a concentration in Java programming and graduated from WCC with an impressive 3.9 GPA. Now he’s on track to graduate from EMU this year with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

He looks forward to growing his business, Go Time! Technologies, with his business partner Matt Bolin and building a solid clientele that will eventually allow him to work from any-where, including the beach.

Go Time! Technologies has a device that uses a thermometer that’s able to send data readings on medical tissue samples from the thermometer through the internet to the website they’re designing.

Many departments around campus played an integral role in Henderson’s success, including the Entrepreneurship Center.

Like many new business owners, Henderson had no idea where to begin, but through one of the Center’s free workshops, he was able to establish a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC).

“I know a lot about computer science; I know nothing about business,” he added with a laugh. “It’s great to have people who are willing to help you.”

Henderson’s story is a classic example of “it’s how you finish that counts.” Nevertheless, he’s grateful to have started his educational journey at WCC and wishes more students under-stood the value of a community college education.

He also had some encouraging words for other non-traditional students: “It’s never too late to follow your passion. Everything gets easier after the first class. Don’t give up.”

This story originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of On The Record.