Two Outstanding Gaston College Graduates from the class of 2018/2019
Nick Tallent, who will graduate with an Associate in Science degree from Gaston College on May 10, has been nominated as a Goodnight Scholars Transfer Program finalist. The Goodnight Scholars Program at North Carolina State University (NCSU) invests in students from low-and middle-income families in North Carolina studying in STEM or STEM education disciplines and represents a commitment to the students’ personal, professional, and academic development through scholarship funding, comprehensive programming, and enrichment opportunities. The value of the scholarship is $20,000 and is renewable up to three years for transfer students. The Transfer Finalist Interview Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 27, and recipients will be notified in early May.
Tallent was also recognized as a semifinalist for the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship along with fellow Gaston College student Mideyshka Vazquez.
Tallent graduated third in his class from Bessemer City High School in 2017 and opted to begin his college career at Gaston College to avoid going into unnecessary debt. His two years at the College were filled with accomplishments and activities. He was involved with the SPARC (STEM Persistence and Retention through Curriculum, Cohort, and Centralization) program, the Math Club and the Science Club, and he also was a peer tutor in the school’s Learning Center. He also had the opportunity to present at a Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI) colloquium along with other Gaston College students. His research was on antibiotic resistance in wastewater. “I had a great experience at Gaston College,” said Tallent. “The undergraduate research I have been a part of there has been crucial to my academic success.”
Among the many instructors and mentors Tallent cites as having had positive impact on his successful experience at Gaston College is Susan Whittemore, Instructor of Biology. “Mr. Tallent was an excellent Biology student who went above and beyond in class, even continuing projects after he completed my course,” she said. “He worked extended hours in the lab in order to identify which types of bacteria were resistant to antibiotics. He also worked on setting up a data base, compiling several years of data that allowed him to look for and identify any trends in antibiotic resistance found in bacterial cultures from wastewater samples. His work will allow me and other students to continue compiling antibiotic resistance data and trends for any future wastewater samples.”
Tallent plans to major in Computer Science when he transfers to a four-year institution. He has been accepted at NCSU, Appalachian State, and at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he has been given the opportunity to graduate debt-free as a Carolina Covenant Scholar. He will make his final decision on which college to attend when he learns if he will receive Goodnight scholarship support.
If Tallent receives funding to continue his education into graduate school, he plans to base his graduate level research around Artificial Intelligence. His career goal is to create his own business that will deal with the applications and implementation of Artificial Intelligence in many fields.
Mideyshka Vazquez, who is also a member of the Gaston College Class of 2018/2019, will be recognized as an outstanding Associate of Science graduate at the College’s awards banquet on Tuesday, April 30. Vazquez has excelled as a participant in the SPARC (STEM Persistence and Retention through Curriculum, Cohort, and Centralization) program at Gaston College.
The Gaston College faculty members who have interacted with Vazquez are very impressed with her. “Mideyshka is a stellar student and we are so very proud of her,” said Dr. Melissa Armstrong, Chemistry Instructor and Chair of the Department of Science. “She does whatever it takes to be successful in her classes in a way beyond what we normally see from our students. When she was in General Chemistry I and II, she had gotten notes—in Spanish—from her sister to help her master the content. Now that she is taking Organic Chemistry, she has purchased a textbook in Spanish in addition to the required text for the class.”
When Vazquez was in high school, her parents moved the family from Puerto Rico first to Florida and then to North Carolina in search of better educational opportunities for Vazquez and her two sisters. Despite her struggles with learning English as a second language, Vazquez graduated from Winter Haven High School in Florida with high honors in 2016. The family moved to North Carolina in December 2016 and Vazquez transferred to Gaston College to obtain her associates in science degree and a biotechnology diploma. Her acceptance into the SPARC program proved to be very advantageous. “This STEM-based program has benefited me in expanding my knowledge by helping me engage in research coursework and by providing me great mentorship,” said Vazquez.
Vazquez presented her undergraduate research into finding new alternatives to current resistant bacteria at local poster sessions and at a state conference. On April 12, she presented her work in Atlanta at a national research conference that included community college and university students from across the United States. She travels to Washington, D.C., in May to present her research on Capitol Hill to legislators from the U.S. House and Senate.
Dr. Armstrong accompanied Vazquez and another student to present her work at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR) national conference in Atlanta. “Although she was very nervous about speaking to strangers, she did an awesome job speaking about her research,” said Dr. Armstrong. “She expressed herself very well and sounded very professional. The science faculty are all very, very proud of Mideyshka.”
The SPARC program and other accomplishments at Gaston College led to Vazquez being chosen as a semifinalist for a prestigious Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. Through this community college transfer scholarship, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation supports high-achieving college students as they transfer to some of the top four-year institutions in the U.S. to complete their bachelor’s degrees. This year’s semifinalists were chosen from a pool of nearly 1,500 applicants attending 369 community colleges in 45 states and the District of Columbia. In the press release announcing the semifinalists, Seppy Basili, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation said, “Countless highly-talented and motivated students begin their college experience at community college…We’re pleased to recognize this incredible cohort of semifinalists for their academic drive and achievement.” Although she will not be a recipient of the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, Vazquez was proud to have been chosen as a semifinalist. “Being a semifinalist was a prestigious honor to me since nearly 1,500 applied for the scholarship,” said Vazquez. “This was one of my greatest achievements.”
Community service and the research experiences acquired in the SPARC program have been crucial in Vazquez’s ambition to become a pharmacist. Vazquez plans to attend Wingate University, where she will pursue a bachelor’s in biology. She intends to acquire a pharmacy doctorate at Wingate School of Pharmacy. “My selection of this university,” said Vazquez, “is based on the programs the university offers and the opportunities I have to expand my professional and intellectual success.”