Student Success: Stephen Hopkins Goes From Truck Driver to 4.0Category: Academics, Students
A turning point in someone’s life can take many shapes and forms. In Stephen Hopkin’s case, it was “taking a bath” in fertilizer at his day job. Just entering his forties, Stephen had been working as a truck driver, an employee for two local agricultural outfits on the Shore. He graduated from Nandua High School in 1995 and attended Eastern Shore Community College for the welding program. He also utilized ESCC to obtain his Commercial Driver’s License through the college’s Tractor Trailer Training Program. Even as a hard worker with solid employment, he knew he wanted more. Stephen’s fertilizer mishap probably takes second place to the motivation provided by wanting to do the best he could for his wife and four children. His father retired from a 45 year career in the information technology industry, providing Stephen a direction and inspiration. In January of 2017, while continuing his full-time job, Stephen returned to ESCC and started to put the pieces in place for a change.
As demonstrated by Stephen’s work ethic, he doesn’t back away from a challenge. He describes his classroom experiences as being very positive, but Oracle Structured Query Language seemed to pose the biggest hurdle for him to cross. Getting a 72 on his first test wasn’t going to suffice for Stephen, and that lower grade pushed him to achieve. Friends and co-workers could attest he was “in it to win it” by the fact that he and his SQL text book were seldom apart. Encountering the nurturing and supportive qualities of ESCC faculty members, Stephen hit a stride with classroom success. Learning important lessons like “why do I have to take English in a technical curriculum” from Professor Bill McCarter, and benefitting from career guidance from College Success Coach Debbie Daniels, who was instrumental in helping Stephen act on an internship opportunity that would prove to be extremely beneficial.
The internship offered was at the Eastern Shore of Virginia Chamber of Commerce, just south of the college campus in Melfa. The Chamber was embarking on a huge project with search engine optimization that went hand-in-hand with Stephen’s studies in computer programming and database management. Robie Marsh, Executive Director of the Chamber commented, “Stephen is the type of individual that all employers hope they get each time they post a job opening. While Stephen’s internship at the Chamber was volunteer, he treated it at every step along the way as if the Chamber was his forever employer. I have supervised and managed employees for roughly 15 years and Stephen ranks among the top of the class.”
As a Chamber volunteer, Stephen helped with the Regional Job Fair that is presented in partnership with ESCC and the Chamber. It was this event that put Stephen and hiring staff from the E.S. Community Services Board in the same place at the same time. This encounter ultimately resulted in Stephen being hired as a System Administrator in Electronic Medical Records with the agency in Parksley. So even with nine classes left to complete his degree, Stephen’s hard work and dedication is paying dividends and helping him realize the goal he set while wiping away fertilizer from his work clothes.
While maintaining a 4.0 grade point average, Stephen’s career turnaround hit a high note before even crossing the finish line. As he looks forward to making his return to college official with completing his classes, he appreciates the help from ESCC advisors, faculty, and especially Christina Duffman, Chevelle Mason, and Financial Aid Coordinator Carole Read, all of whom were instrumental in his journey from “truck driver to 4.0”. Stephen is very sincere when he tells others that the tools to achieve bigger and better things are right here for the taking, with the right people who are really cheering you on and helping you every step of the way at ESCC.