Aaron Watson, Computer Technology
This fall semester marks the first-time Central Carolina Technical College is eligible to award the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship to its students. The Palmetto Fellows Scholarship is a merit-based program established in 1988 to recognize the most academically talented high school seniors and encourage these students to attend college in South Carolina.
In May 2021, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster amended the eligibility of the scholarship program to include two-year institutions of higher learning and technical colleges. The scholarship is administered by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education and must be applied directly toward the cost of attendance, unless other financial aid is received.
CCTC’s first Palmetto Fellows Scholarship recipient is Aaron Watson. Born and raised in Camden, SC, Watson attended Camden High School where he heard about CCTC through the dual enrollment classes offered.
Watson is currently pursuing an associate degree and multiple certifications in computer technology. He hopes to graduate CCTC with an associate degree then work toward a certification in networking. His ultimate goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree then work as either a networking technician or a network administrator.
Watson’s favorite part of Central Carolina is the opportunity the college provides students to pursue higher education without going deep into student loan debt.
“The college provides a very affordable learning experience, which has been a huge help to me personally,” Watson said. “If I could share any piece of advice with a future student, it would be to never lose your faith, always give your best in all the work that you do and always keep your eyes open. You never know what door will open next and what amazing opportunity might be waiting for you on the other side.”
For more information on financial aid or the South Carolina Palmetto Fellows Scholarship program, call the CCTC Financial Aid office at (803) 778-7831 or email email@example.com. To find out more about ways to pay for college visit www.cctech.edu/paying-for-college/.
To share your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Solanda Wesley, Computer and Information Technology
For Solonda Wesley, following the crowd was never the option. She always wanted to stand out, and with her current internship with NASA, she can do just that.
Wesley is currently a Computer and Information Technology student at Central Carolina Technical College and an intern with NASA, where she is working with the Exploration Technology Office (ETO). Wesley works with the Technology Development Team to identify key technologies needed to achieve human exploration priorities along the pathway to the moon and to Mars.
In addition, Wesley helps the ETO develop a technology portfolio to ensure critical needs are prioritized, developed and delivered. With this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, she will work on additional projects for her degree as assigned by her mentors.
Wesley originally wanted to be a civil engineer with NASA, but later wanted something more complex and different that would allow her to step out of her comfort zone. She found another passion in technology which made her pursue this internship.
“I have a passion for technology,” Wesley said. “In today’s world, everything is technology based. There’s nothing you can do that does not have some form of technology attached to it. To be a part of it and help fix it, that’s me. I am a fixer-upper. Call on me and I’m there to solve the problem. You can teach others, which is what the ETO does. It teaches technology and how it can help NASA with their mission.”
Wesley is also excited about the one-of-a-kind networking opportunities that her internship provides, opening up even more doors for her in the future and setting her apart from the crowd.
“Another benefit of this internship is that you meet other people,” Wesley said. “You don’t just network with your mentors; you are networking with other people. It’s a great way to segue into government work.”
This networking gives Wesley options for her future that she never dreamed.
“This internship alone can open so many doors. You don’t have to stick with NASA. They want you to network with government officials and I find that to be extraordinary,” Wesley said. “Never in a million years would I have ever thought I would be chosen to do work with such prestigious people. I’m so excited to see where this goes for me. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine.”
Despite all of the work Wesley has done and will continue to do with NASA, she is forever grateful for the resources made available to her at Central Carolina..
“I could cry tears of joy,” Wesley said. “There are so many people who encouraged and motivated me. At first I wasn’t going to apply for the NASA internship. Then Ms. Renee Patchin said, ‘Hey Solonda, why not? Do it.’ My instructors motivated me even more to keep going forward. I’m so grateful for Central.”
Following graduation, Wesley wants to attend the University of South Carolina for her bachelor’s degree in computer science. She hopes to stay with the ETO office in NASA, either in Texas or Florida.