2015 Scholar Technician of the Year finalists preparing for STEM Careers

COUNTY — The 2015 Alliance Pickens Scholar Technician of the year was Steven Hoke Durham, with Nathan Brown and Sylvia Townsend also placing as finalists.

Alliance Pickens officials caught up with each of them recently to see what they are doing now as they continue to prepare for their STEM careers.

Hoke Durham

Hoke Durham is a graduate of the Machine Tool Technology program at the Pickens County Career and Technology Center (CTC) who also attended D.W. Daniel High School. Hoke is currently approaching his two year anniversary of working as an apprentice at United Tool and Mold (UTM) in Easley. At UTM, Hoke is continuing to develop his machining skills, performing tasks such as basic CNC operation and mold tear down machine operation, while also learning new skills like CNC programming.

Durham said he used the Scholar Technician scholarship to help pay for his first semester at Tri-County Tech, and when asked to elaborate further, he said that thanks in part to the Scholar Technician award, “I ended up with a bill for 82 cents for my first semester of college.”

Durham is now in his second semester of the two-year Mechatronics Technology Associate’s Degree program at Tri-County Technical College (TCTC), which is being paid for in its entirety by his employer.

Durham’s plans for the future involve continuing to work at UTM, while also continuing to develop his specialized skills through applied technical education. His educational and apprenticeship experiences come with sage advice for students who wish to pursue the Scholar Technician of the Year award: “Dig in. Keep your head down. Work hard. Never give up.”

Nathan Brown

Nathan Brown is a graduate of the Mechatronics Integrated Technologies program at the CTC who attended D.W. Daniel High School as well. This past March marked Brown’s one year anniversary of working at Yokohama Industries Americas Inc. in Easley, where he works full-time as a Maintenance Technician. The main focus of his work at Yokohama is fixing problems with various automated machines, but he also assists with other tasks, such as machine programming and working with cleaning dyes.

Alliance Pickens regularly works with existing Pickens County industries to match CTC students with companies that have such opportunities available. Last year, Yokohama was one of the firms Alliance Pickens invited students to learn more about. Alliance Pickens first set up a tour of the Yokohama facility for CTC students so they could see firsthand where they would be working if they were selected; students were instructed to bring their resumes and those who were interested in Yokohama were interviewed at the conclusion of the tour. Brown was one of four students Yokohama interviewed and subsequently hired last year after the tour.

Brown is currently enrolled full-time in the two-year Mechatronics Technology Associate’s Degree program at TCTC, and he is being reimbursed for his educational expenses by Yokohama. As a testament to the strength of the technical education and training he received at the CTC, Brown is well ahead of the curve in both his academic and career endeavors despite his admission that he “didn’t even know what Mechatronics was a few years ago.”

When asked what advice he might have for students considering the pursuing the Scholar Technician of the Year award, Brown displayed wisdom and maturity beyond his years: “The quicker you figure out what you want to do, the better. Once you do figure it out, push hard for it. Be determined. Don’t set a limit — set a goal.”

Sylvia Townsend

Sylvia Townsend is another graduate of the Machine Tool Technology Department at the CTC who also attended Pickens High School. Townsend is currently working as a Machinist Apprentice at General Electric Co. in Greenville; she has been with G.E. for over eight months now. G.E. has her in a training program whereby they rotate her to different areas within G.E.’s operations so that she can learn the variety of machines at G.E.

Townsend is also taking a full course load at Greenville Technical College, and G.E. is covering her tuition, fees, and book charges in accordance with her apprenticeship. She is currently pursuing a Certificate in Machine Tool Technology; upon completing those requirements, she plans to continue attending Greenville Tech to complete the remaining required credit hours for their Associate’s Degree in Machine Tool Technology.

Townsend currently has a four year contract with G.E., and she hopes to have a long career at G.E. after the conclusion of her contract. Townsend also had some wise words for the students following her and her classmates at the CTC: “Take advantage of the incredible opportunity they have before them. The Pickens County Career and Technology Center has so much to offer them, not only during their time at school but also after they graduate. I hope they know how blessed they are for having the chance to be a part of a positively life changing school.”

In conclusion, Durham, Brown, and Townsend are superlative examples of the Scholar Technician and should serve as role models for future CTC students.

These three young adults have set the bar high, and their hard work, determination, and maturity are qualities that should be commended and emulated by the students following their footsteps at the CTC.