Surry Community College student Cameron Brown originally thought he would graduate from high school and transfer to a university to study history and become a teacher. He wasn’t a 100-percent positive about his career path, so he decided to come to Surry Community College where he discovered his true interest and career path by taking Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math or STEM classes.
“When I first arrived at Surry Community College, I didn’t really know what I was going to do. I didn’t know I was going to leave here on the path to become an aerospace engineer. I had a dream of being a rocket engineer, but I was a little bit afraid to do that. I didn’t think I could handle the complex mathematics that came with it. The math seemed scary and difficult,” Brown said. “However, the fantastic instructors at SCC totally proved me wrong. Today, I am capable of computing and creating advanced mathematical models like deriving the general rocket equation, for example. I worked incredibly hard to make that happen. I am getting ready to transfer to North Carolina State University as a junior in their aerospace engineering program at a fraction of the cost, and I am also getting to live my dream. I am finally getting to do what I really want to do – become a rocket engineer and work at NASA someday to contribute to the next generation of human space flight.”
Brown of State Road said he was a solid student as one of the top 10 graduates at East Wilkes High School in 2019, and he felt the pressure to transfer to a university right out of high school.
“If you are a high school senior, there’s probably a lot of pressure to immediately go off to a university. There’s probably a lot of your friends who are heading to a university straight out of high school. I understand that if you are a high-achieving student, your peers and school administrators are probably expecting you to go off to a university. There’s just a lot of pressure and status associated with it,” he said.
He offers advice to students who were in his same situation.
“If you are struggling with knowing what you want to do, if you are trying to save some money, or if you just want to knock out some courses, it’s such a good idea to check out a community college first, and Surry is the best one that you can go to,” he said. “It’s the best decision I ever made coming to Surry because I am not at a university studying something that I thought I wanted to do. I would be two years deep in a major right now that I have no interest in, but I came to Surry first and figured out what I really want to do. I am now completely prepared to transfer to a university doing something I know I want to do and spend the rest of my life doing it.”
Brown advises students to start thinking about college options early.
“If you are a high school junior or senior, I highly suggest you take some Career & College Promise classes. I did when I was a senior in high school, and it saved me a lot of time and a lot of money just to get those courses out of the way especially since I changed majors,” he said. “It was really beneficial to have a lot of extra credits built up, so I wouldn’t have to go back and earn those later. So, there’s nothing to lose. You ought to really consider talking to your counselors and checking out some CCP courses.”
Sometimes people associate a stigma with community college education, and Brown says it is just not fair or accurate based on his experience at SCC.
“By starting my college career here at Surry, I was able to save a lot of money with the lack of expensive university tuition and anything involving room and board. I was able about to knock out some of my complex math classes that go along with becoming a rocket engineer. Furthermore, the quality of education here at Surry is equivalent to that received at a university. In all, not only was I able to knock out all the classes that I needed to transfer in as a junior, but I also saved a lot of money in the process,” he said.
While taking classes at Surry, Brown was employed as a math tutor in the college’s Academic Support Center on the Dobson campus.
“Helping people get an intuitive sense of mathematics makes the concepts more obvious to them. It makes it real, not just memorizing a formula. I would give my tutees examples and concepts that were familiar to them, which would bring the math concepts to life for them,” he said. “Math is going on all around us. It runs the universe, and I’m obsessed with it.”
By taking STEM classes at SCC, Brown fell in love with math and science and found himself talking about math and science all the time. He also was redirected into a path where his true passions lie.
“Sometimes the dreams that are ‘outside of your reach’ are closer than you think. Surry can show you that, and that’s what I learned here—it is well within my grasp to do whatever I want to do. It’s just a matter of going to the right place and having time to discover it. When I first came to Surry, I didn’t think I could handle these complex equations, but today, I am perfectly capable of deriving the general rocket equation. I am one step closer to achieving my dream by coming here to Surry, and it’s just been amazing my entire time here. The instructors have been so encouraging to me the entire way through.”
Brown will graduate from SCC in May with an Associate in Science, Associate in Arts, and an Associate in General Education. He will begin studies at NCSU this fall.
Choosing a college is an important decision, and we’re pleased that you’re interested in Surry Community College.