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SCC Alumnus Overcomes Challenges to Graduate from ASU and Become a Commencement Speaker


Christian Payne did not know how he was going to afford college, so as a high school freshman he enrolled in the Surry Early College at Surry Community College hoping to at least be able to get an associate degree through the tuition-free early college program.

“I grew up in a low-income home wondering how I would be able to pay for college. It is because of the generous scholarships that I received from Appalachian State and others, that allowed me to complete my undergraduate degree with no debt,” Payne said. “As a young child, I never would have considered this a possibility. This is a testament that hard work is rewarded, and that students can rise above challenges.”

Payne graduated from the Surry Early College in May 2019 with an Associate in Arts and an Associate in Science along with his high school diploma and a 4.0 GPA. He was honored with the SCC Academic Excellence Award that is awarded to only one student each academic year at each of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges.

As a first-generation college student from Mount Airy, Payne will graduate from Appalachian State University with a bachelor’s degree in General Mathematics in May 2021, and he has earned the prestigious honor to be a commencement speaker for ASU’s College of Arts and Science. He will also have a third of the work completed for the master’s degree math program at ASU.

Payne’s parents divorced when he was young, and he started living with his grandparents at age 18. He overcame financial obstacles by tapping into community resources and performing well in the classroom. He has received the Academic Excellence Scholarship, ACCESS Scholarship, Chick-fil-A Remarkable Futures Scholarship, Edward M. Armfield Scholarship, Golden LEAF Scholarship and the S-STEM Scholarship.

“I ended up with a full ride to ASU. It’s been like a miracle,” he said. “It’s hard to believe it.”

His journey at ASU has been tough at times. “I have overcome many personal problems while at Appalachian. On September 20, 2019, my father unexpectedly passed away. This was a large burden to carry during my first semester at Appalachian,” he said.

As a student who was supported by the community and instructors who believed in him, Payne wants to give back by teaching.

“My goal is to teach math at a community college. I would love to work at Surry Community College. I love the atmosphere of the community college. It’s not just 18 to 20 years old. There is a wide range of students. I like the smaller setting where you can get to know people and really help them. Math can be intimidating for students. I want to always be welcoming, encouraging, and friendly to students.”

This semester Payne is doing a mathematics internship in SCC’s Math Department being mentored by Math Instructor Lyndsey Haywood.

“I am gaining amazing first-hand experience by sitting in classes and also teaching lessons each week. I am learning how to grade and do lesson plans,” he said.

As a math tutor at SCC’s Academic Support Center, Payne fell in love with helping fellow students, and he continued tutoring at ASU. He remembers the instructors who helped him in the beginning of his math studies and how he was introduced to the idea of becoming a tutor.

“I was in eleventh grade taking Pre-calculus Algebra with Mr. Darin Bauguess. He told me that I had gotten a 100 on a test and just grinned at me and asked me if I would like to tutor,” Payne said. “I started tutoring, and I thought, this is it. This is what I want to do. It’s rewarding to be a part of helping others.”

Payne will return to the SCC Academic Support Center to tutor students this summer and will also be completing an apprenticeship with Dr. Susan Worth, SCC Mathematics Division Chair. He will be helping her teach Calculus I and Statistical Methods I.

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