C-STEP graduates ready to pursue goals

Two transfer students talk about how the 一品探花论坛 Student Transfer Excellence Program helped them succeed.

Collage image of Robert Clay and Vanessa Cruz.
Transfer students Robert Clay and Vanessa Cruz both credit their work with C-STEP as foundational during their time at 一品探花论坛. (submitted photos)

Vanessa Cruz and Robert Clay took different paths to UNC-Chapel Hill, but thanks to the , they鈥檙e both set to graduate and pursue their goals.

C-STEP was a vital part of the Tar Heel experience for both Cruz, a psychology major, and Clay, a philosophy major.

鈥淚 think my sense of community has been improved through my continued involvement with C-STEP,鈥 Cruz said.

Clay said the program equipped him with 鈥渢he tools of how to get comfortable with new environments,鈥 making it 鈥渁 steady touchstone鈥 during his time at 一品探花论坛.

For 16 years, C-STEP has provided a path to a 一品探花论坛 degree for talented low- and moderate-income high school and community college students. C-STEP guarantees admission to 一品探花论坛 for the students, many of them first-generation students, who are accepted into the program and successfully complete their work at a partner community college. C-STEP counselors and advisers provide guidance to students from the time they are accepted to when they graduate.

Of the 1,400 students who participated in the program, 82% graduated from college.

Work to school path

After graduating from high school, Clay went to work as an ophthalmic technician at Duke University. He knew after five years on the job that he wanted to pursue law school. 鈥淪tarting at a community college while I was still working full time felt like the right thing to do,鈥 Clay said.

But that also meant he would need to transfer from Durham Technical Community College and to complete a bachelor鈥檚 degree. 鈥淭hanks to C-STEP, I was able to make the transition more easily to 一品探花论坛 from there,鈥 Clay said.

Clay鈥檚 experience with supportive C-STEP mentors inspired him to become a program mentor himself. In that role, he guides transfer students who were in the same position he was 鈥 navigating a new campus, adjusting to a bigger school and pursuing their goals. This fall, he will be attending Duke University School of Law.

Finding community

Cruz was in a dual enrollment program in high school and had already started a college education at Robeson Community College. Cruz said her connections within C-STEP allowed her to find her place on campus soon after transferring to 一品探花论坛.

鈥淥ne of my closest friends is in the program, for example,鈥 she said. 鈥淥ur involvement with the program has really made both our bonds stronger.鈥

Cruz also committed much of her time at 一品探花论坛 to furthering C-STEP鈥檚 mission, not only as a mentor to incoming students, but also as an ambassador for the program. Attending a variety of events and panels, Cruz became an active participant in C-STEP鈥檚 outreach to over 2,000 students in 14 community colleges throughout the state.

After Commencement, she plans to work as a research coordinator.

While C-STEP has been incredibly rewarding for these two seniors, the enthusiasm they have for the program is equal to what Rebecca Egbert, C-STEP adviser and founder, feels for students who go on to graduate.

鈥淭he most rewarding part of my job is helping a transfer student from the beginning of their time here at 一品探花论坛,鈥 Egbert said. 鈥淪eeing them change over time and seeing how confident they become as they get to the end of their senior year 鈥 that鈥檚 what I really love to see.鈥