From the Charlotte Observer: Doctors said they’d be disabled. Now 17, the triplets have earned college degrees.

Doctors said they'd be disabled. Now 17, the triplets have earned college degrees.

  • Keenya and Richard Brown will watch with pride Thursday when their three youngest children triplets walk with other graduates of Central Piedmont Community College at Bojangles Coliseum.
  • But that will only begin the achievements of the 17-year-olds, born prematurely and expected by doctors to face lifelong disabilities.
    Next Tuesday, in a separate commencement, each teen will accept two diplomas they earned simultaneously: one from Cato Middle College High School and the second a CPCC associate's degree.
    Then they'll be off to college on scholarships, the two boys, Koby and Keyshawn, to study nuclear engineering at N.C. State University and Kayla as an accounting major on a Winthrop University basketball scholarship.
    "I tell everybody I'm about to get my life back," said Keenya Brown, who for years chauffeured her "miracle babies" about Charlotte.
    Brown and her husband set the course for their children decades ago.
    Both grew up in the Bronx, where their own parents struggled with drug problems. The Browns, a couple since they were 16, wanted a different life and left New York for a fresh start.
    The young family lived in Maryland when the triplets were born at just 25 weeks, each baby weighing less than 2 pounds.
    Both boys had bleeding in their brains, and all three babies stayed in neonatal intensive care for three months. Doctors predicted all three would suffer from cerebral palsy and have learning disabilities, particularly in science and math, due to complications from their early births.
    "It was touch and go every single day," said Keenya Brown, who is a physical therapy assistant. "I got on my knees and told God, if you think I can handle it, then let it be. If you think I can't handle it, then please intervene and clear the blood up."
    One last sonogram showed that the bleeding had stopped. All three triplets grew up healthy and smart in Charlotte, where the family moved in 2004.
    The triplets took advantage of North Carolina's Career & College Promise program, which lets juniors and seniors earn tuition-free college credits while earning their high school degrees at four of CPCC's campuses. Students and their parents may save thousands of dollars on college because they can start as juniors.
    The three Brown teens will be among five students at Cato Middle College High, on CPCC's Cato campus in east Charlotte, who will earn associate's degrees in two years.
    " 'Focus' is a very good word for them, as well as 'dedication,' " said principal Alicisa Johnson. "They are an example of what taking advantage of the Middle College program really looks like."
    Spring grades aren't in yet, but through fall classes Koby had a perfect 5.03 grade-point average, weighted to reflect the quality of classes he took. He ranked second in his class of 98 students. Keyshawn also had a perfect 5.0 GPA and ranked third. Kayla had a 4.7 GPA and ranked 13th.

    Education the key

    The boys are "joined at the hip," their mother said, sharing a bedroom at home and planning to room together at N.C. State. They're reserved and enjoy family trips.
    Keyshawn won a full academic Goodnight scholarship to N.C State, and Koby also earned several scholarships and grants. Both will go to State in June for a six-week transition program. The boys are interested in military careers after college both their parents served in the Army Reserves and in the National Guard.
    Kayla is more outgoing, Brown said, and is captain of her high school basketball team. The 5-foot-4 guard was conference player of the year for Mallard Creek High.
    "My parents from Day One always stressed that education is the key, that it was going to take us to where we wanted to go," Kayla Brown said.
    "When you're a kid you want to go do what everybody else is doing, to parties and hanging out, and sometimes you just can't. So many times I cried and so many times I asked, why do I have to do this? But I have hopes and dreams and know where I want to be."
    Kayla wants to be a forensic accountant, investigating fraud or embezzlement for the FBI or some other government agency. It's the suggestion of her father, a self-employed network engineer, who knew her knack for numbers.
    She also wants to be a philanthropist, an ethic she also learned from her parents. The family has volunteered at Second Harvest Food Bank and for the past two Christmases has sponsored homeless families.
    "We just knew you don't have to be a product of your environment, we always tell people that," Keenya Brown said. "We try to pass it forward."
    Brown and her husband "kept a book in front of their faces" and made a practice, in summer, of starting their children on the courses they would face in the upcoming school year. "School just started getting easier for them," Brown said.
    Because of their coursework at CPCC, the triplets could finish their undergraduate degrees in two years but will likely slow it to three. Kayla, with a four-year scholarship, could graduate Winthrop with a master's degree. The eldest son, Richard Jr., graduated from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla.
    "We timed it just perfect," Keenya Brown said.
    After commencement exercises are done, and before the next level of schooling begins, the family will squeeze in a week-long trip to Cancun in late May.
    Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051@bhender

Posted in Alumni, Announcements, Community, Foundation News.

CPCC names fourth-annual Tony and Beth Zeiss Award recipients

last modified May 17, 2017 08:17 AM
Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) will present Amy Bagwell, English instructor, and Laura Temples, executive director of Enterprise Information Services, with the Tony and Beth Zeiss Award at the college's spring commencement ceremony, on May 18, at Bojangles' Coliseum.
The Tony and Beth Zeiss Award recognizes faculty and staff members whose efforts to support student success have been particularly extraordinary during the past year.
Amy Bagwell
Amy Bagwell has been a member of the CPCC family since 2010. She is a poet, mixed-media artist and teacher who seeks to present poetry to people in traditional and new ways.
She co-chairs the literary and steering committees for CPCC's annual Sensoria: A Celebration of Literature and the Arts, which this year featured more than 80 events attended by nearly 15,000 individuals.
She co-directs the nonprofit Wall Poems, Inc., a poetry and public art project, as well as the Goodyear Arts residency and events project in Charlotte, with support from the Knight Foundation and Charlotte's Arts and Science Council, among others. She received her MFA in Poetry from Queens University of Charlotte and her BA in English from the University of Georgia.
Laura Temples
Laura Temples began her career at Miami Dade Community College, where she worked part-time with the computerized placement testing national pilot. In 1988, she and her family relocated to Charlotte, where Laura continued to work with the national pilot in the Testing Center at CPCC.
Through her work at CPCC, Laura discovered her interest in computer programming, inspiring her to enroll as a non traditional student while continuing to work and raise a family. She earned her AAS in Computer Programming, Business in 1997. Following graduation, she accepted a position as a programmer analyst at CPCC, and is now the Executive Director for Enterprise Information Services in the college's Information Technology and Research Services unit.
As an alumnus of CPCC, she is passionate about the mission of the college and her belief that community colleges improve lives.
"Amy and Laura exemplify CPCC's high standards and commitment to excellence in all areas," said Dr. Kandi Deitemeyer, president of CPCC. "Thanks to their efforts, CPCC is a stronger community resource to its students, employees, partners and visitors."

Posted in Alumni, Announcements, Foundation News.

CPCC names Dr. Chris Dula the 2017 Richard H. Hagemeyer Award recipient

Dr. Christopher Dula

Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) will present Dr. Chris Dula, an associate professor of psychology at East Tennessee State University (ETSU), with the 2017 Richard H. Hagemeyer Educational Advancement Award at its spring commencement ceremony, on May 18, at Bojangles' Coliseum. The award recognizes a former CPCC student who has benefited significantly from experiences at CPCC and whose efforts have helped the community.

Dula describes his work/life situation prior to starting CPCC in 1992 as "chaotic," when the majority of his days were filled with random construction jobs, such as carpentry, performing sheetrock installation and metal/stud framing, and installing floors.
Wanting to change the direction his life was taking, Dula enrolled at CPCC when he was 23 years old with the support of his parents, and began taking psychology courses. Dula found the subject matter contagious, and his instructors' teaching styles infectious so much so that he has modeled his current teaching style after those he learned from in the past. "I credit my CPCC instructors with helping me get grounded and inspired in academia," said Dula. "Everything I've done as a professional is the direct result of being a CPCC student. I'm profoundly grateful for the opportunities the institution gave me."

Dula graduated from CPCC in 1994 with an Associate in Arts degree and went on to earn his Bachelor of Science degree from UNC Charlotte, his Master of Arts degree from Appalachian State University and his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Virginia Tech.

Today, Dula holds multiple positions at East Tennessee State University, located in Johnson City, Tenn.  Not only is he a full professor in the Department of Psychology, but he is also an adjunct faculty member in the ETSU Department of Family Medicine, an assistant director of Clinical Training and the director of ETSU's Applied Psychology Laboratory.

When not teaching at the university, he can be found writing he has written almost 20 peer-reviewed journal articles and five book chapters; speaking he has given 15 professional presentations and a number of community group talks; playing music he performs at charity events for FREE to raise money for a variety of causes, such as the March of Dimes, Down Syndrome Awareness, and Second Harvest Food Bank; mentoring he helps guide undergraduate and graduate students on their college journeys and advises them on how to manage anxiety/stress; career planning, etc.; and more.

"I frequently mention CPCC in my talks to students," said Dula. "I note how the college helped me turn my life around and do what I now love for a living."

A scholarship will be granted to a CPCC student enrolled in the college's Associate in Arts program the area of study that most closely reflects Dula's background.

The Hagemeyer Award takes its name from Dr. Richard H. Hagemeyer, CPCC president for 23 years, who led the college from its beginnings as a trade school with 1,200 students to one of the largest N.C. community colleges. Previous award winners include Elaine Lyerly, Gary Mims, Ronald Caldwell, Sheriff Jim Pendegraph, Dr. Margaret Stanley Hagan, Paul Griffin, James White, Joe Weatherford, Chief Luther Fincher, Dr. Kenny Welch, Frances Queen, Richard Zollinger, Stanley Law, Cindy Castano, Fabi Preslar, James Taylor Jr., James E. Rogers, David L. Howard, Alain S. Miatudila Sr., Paula Vincent, Joe Vagnone and Larry Klutz.

Posted in Alumni, Announcements, Community, Foundation News.

CPCC Alumna Fabi Preslar: 2017 Woman Business Owner Award Winner- Congratulations!

National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Charlotte selects Fabi Preslar as 2017 Woman Business Owner Award Winner.
 Fabi Preslar is founder and president of SPARK Publications, a 19-year-old, Charlotte-based graphic design and custom publishing firm specializing in the design of print and digital magazines, books, catalogs, and marketing materials. Clients include enthusiasts, trades, national associations and professionals. The firm was started
Fabi Preslar SPARK Publicationsas a home-based business and has moved, expanded, and restructured several times.
Fabi identified her passion at age fifteen when she saw graphics on a highway billboard. She knew she wanted to be that person communicating to the masses through design. At 17 years old she moved to Charlotte by herself, had no car, knew no one, and had no money. She enrolled at Central Piedmont Community College, worked three jobs and with student loans lived in a girls' boarding house with 60 other girls seeking education at a variety of local colleges.
Currently Fabi celebrates having the best team in her career history which includes her husband of 30 years, Larry, their daughter Sofi, top design talent, and two past clients.Fabi now owns the office space that houses her firm and three years ago launched her own magazine, b2bTRIBE, for greater Charlotte area small business owners ( SPARK Publications has won more than 150 industry awards in the past few years. In 2015, Fabi was named B2B Marketer of the Year by the Business Marketing Association of the Carolinas. She's received numerous other honors, including Entrepreneur of the Year by the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, Enterprising Woman of the Year by Enterprising Women Magazine, a Gold Stevie® Award for Best Entrepreneur with under 100 employees and the Greater Women's Council Trailblazer Award (WBENC). See more about Fabi's firm, her amazing team, and highly engaging and effective work at

Posted in Alumni, Announcements, Community, Foundation News.

The Mecklenburg Times names PBS Charlotte’s Amy Burkett one of its “50 Most Influential Women”

last modified May 15, 2017 08:40 AM

The Mecklenburg Times has named Amy Burkett, general manager for WTVI PBS Charlotte, to its 2017 class of "50 Most Influential Women." Burkett, together with 49 of her peers, will be honored during a special event at the Hilton Charlotte Center City in Charlotte, N.C., on May 19, 2017.

The 50 Most Influential Women event was created by The Mecklenburg Times to spotlight and recognize the important role women play in the greater Charlotte region, in the economy and in society. The honorees represent the most influential women in business, government, law, education and not-for-profit fields.
Nominees are selected by a panel of independent business leaders based on each nominee's professional accomplishment and community involvement within the Charlotte area. To view the complete class of 2017, visit

"It is an honor to be recognized for contributing to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community in such a special way," said Burkett. "As general manager of PBS Charlotte, I strive to ensure we're telling the stories that capture the very fabric of this region, while fostering lasting relationships with both community members and business and industry. Thankfully, I'm surrounded by incredible people who not only make my job enjoyable, but also join me in raising awareness of PBS Charlotte on the local, regional and state level each and every day."
During the May 19 event, an overall "Woman of the Year" award will also be named from the pool of honorees and presented to the woman with the highest overall score from the judges. The award is presented in partnership with CREW Charlotte and is kept confidential until the evening's festivities.

To learn more about the event, visit To learn more about PBS Charlotte, visit

Posted in Alumni, Community, Foundation News.

Dental Hygiene Program 50th Anniversary- Archives and Stories Project

The Dental Hygiene Program is getting ready to celebrate the program's 50th Anniversary. In conjunction with this event, CPCC Archivist Erin Allsop, has created a project to capture moments and objects reflective of the program.
"The CPCC Archives will be present at the alumni event on June 8th to scan any documents or photographs you wish to contribute to the archives. If you prefer to donate the physical copies, those are acceptable as well. For any questions, please contact Erin Allsop, CPCC Archivist, at"
If you haven't received your invitation, contact for information. We'd love to have you join us!

Dental Hygiene Archive Project

Posted in Alumni, Announcements, Community, Events, Foundation News.

From the Charlotte Observer: She juggled 4 part-time jobs. Now, at 49, she's graduating


MAY 04, 2017 7:30 AM

She juggled 4 part-time jobs. Now, at 49, she's graduating college and headed to Duke grad school.

  • Watching her oldest son graduate college four years ago awakened a deep urge in Charlotte native Cheryl Gregory: It's my turn.
  • After decades of work while raising two boys, Gregory, 49, not only returned to school but excelled. She'll graduate Saturday from Queens University of Charlotte and then start graduate studies at Duke University.
    College wasn't an option while son Laran, now 25, studied business at Elon University. Gregory danced in the aisle as he crossed the stage on graduation day in 2013, her highest hopes for him answered.
    "I knew I wanted to go back to school," she said, "but I didn't realize how much I wanted it until that day."
    Gregory grew up the next to last of 17 children. Her mother died when she was 3, leaving her father, older siblings and neighbors to help raise her.
    She got pregnant at 16 and gave up the child for adoption. It was a hard decision for a 10th grader from a well-regarded, religious family, but one her faith tells her was best.
    "My child had to have a better life than what I could provide right then," she said. Gregory also believed she and her infant daughter, who was adopted by loving parents, would meet again. They did in 2013, starting what Gregory calls a developing relationship.
    After graduation from Harding High School came some classes at Central Piedmont Community College and a diploma in secretarial science. Gregory then worked as an administrative assistant and for a couple of years ran a soul-food truck, specializing in "the best damn ribs anywhere."
    Gregory's older son, Laran, worked for Honeywell before recently moving back to Charlotte. Younger son Jimmie attends East Mecklenburg High School and wants to play tennis professionally.
    Gregory called CPCC immediately after her older son's graduation, vowing to finish her bachelor's degree before her younger son completes high school in 2018.
    She enrolled at CPCC as a full-time student while also holding down a night job. She graduated in 2015 with a 3.9 grade point average and, by then juggling four part-time jobs, went on to Queens. She liked the school's small class sizes and support for older students.
    At Queens, Gregory served as president of the Hayworth Student Association for adult students, competed on the Ethics Bowl team and was certified a tutor. She spoke at a silent protest on campus during Charlotte's racial unrest last summer.
    Merit scholarships, grants and an on-campus job helped pay the bills. Gregory later won a Wings Scholarship from Women Executives for Community Service.
    Gregory will graduate Queens as one of just three philosophy majors among nearly 600 graduates. She was first drawn to philosophy while still at CPCC, after her pastor commented that Gregory didn't think like most people.
    "I am an intellectual being who is capable of seeing the bigger picture, and from a young age," Gregory said. "What is a self? What is a soul? How does that make them functional in society? I can see down through the rabbit hole and understand the whole thing."
    She credits Queens philosophy professor Norris Frederick with nurturing her talent.
    Frederick, for his part, quickly recognized a student who was eager to absorb philosophy's big questions and strengthen her critical thinking. Gregory brought positive energy to the classroom, he said, and an ability to work well with younger students.
    "One of the things I admire is that she speaks very passionately and from her own perspective, but is really good at listening to the perspectives of other people," Frederick said.
    Gregory also boosted the ranks of women, a minority in philosophy, and the even smaller minority of African American women.
    "She's got a deep longing to understand, and a good ability to make connections," Frederick said. "She's got a really deep sense of mission in her life and what she wants to do."
    At Duke, Gregory will pursue a master's degree in liberal studies, with a goal of earning a doctorate in philosophy. She'll have to spend just two nights a week in Durham, and scholarships and grants will pay the bills.
    Her goal is to open a school teaching expository writing, professional development and public speaking tools for navigating society and careers to high school students. She hopes to start a pilot program this summer in Charlotte.
    "It's not so much what I want to do with it, but what I will do," she said of her Queens degree. "I want a deeper depth of that knowledge and to be a beacon for other young women."

Posted in Alumni, Community, Foundation News.