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PCC Selects Paralegal Technology Student for N.C. Academic Excellence Award

Mary Gardner

WINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College has selected Paralegal Technology student Mary Gardner as its recipient of the N.C. Community College System Academic Excellence Award.

Gardner, a Greenville native, will receive her award Friday, when PCC holds its annual Academic Excellence Awards program in the Craig F. Goess Student Center to recognize 50 of its best and brightest students.

PCC Paralegal Technology Director Vicki Coleman nominated Gardner for the statewide award, which is presented annually to a top student from each of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges in recognition of outstanding achievement in the classroom and volunteerism.

“It has been an honor to have Mary Gardner in our program and my classroom for the past two years …,” Coleman said. “Life circumstances brought her to a new phase and she chose a legal career—much to our delight. She is hard-working and thoughtful, and her enthusiasm for the law has spread to her fellow students.”

Coleman said Gardner had a fall semester internship that turned into a spring internship and added that her employer “is by no means willing to let her go” at the end of spring semester.

“She has combined her business acumen derived from her past experience with having squeezed every bit of information and skills from our courses to become a fully-fledged paralegal,” Coleman said. “She is truly all we could ask for in a student and alumna.”

Gardner says she first enrolled at PCC in the spring of 2013 at age 46, having served in the Air Force and operating a home and office cleaning service. She said she entered higher education with no real direction and an intense fear of failure.

“I did not excel in high school, and it had been over 18 years since I was in a classroom setting,” she explained. “In my first semester, it was my English 111 instructor who steered me toward the paralegal program at Pitt Community College, based on my love of reading, research and writing. In Legal Research and Writing (class), I found that I excelled way beyond anything I could have imagined for myself.”

Gardner has indeed excelled in the classroom with a 3.94 GPA in her Paralegal Technology classes and a cumulative 3.79 GPA. She is a member of several paralegal clubs and organizations, including the national paralegal honor society and PCC Paralegal Association, and is responsible for starting and leading a study group that has helped raise the performance of a number of her classmates.

This past summer, Gardner received the Caitlin Faulkenberry Scholarship, an award named for a former PCC paralegal student who was killed by someone she loved and trusted. Coleman said Gardner’s commitment to community service and an essay explaining her plans for future work locally persuaded the scholarship committee that she was far and away the most deserving candidate.

“My experience with Pitt Community College, faculty and staff has been one of the most rewarding of my life,” Gardner says. “I have developed a passion and enthusiasm for knowledge that is a direct result of the tutelage and advising of (PCC’s) Dr. Lora Clark, Vicki Coleman and Anthony Dunn. I have been the humble receiver of their intense desire to ensure I succeed at all my future endeavors.”

Away from campus, Gardner has a passion for assisting victims of domestic violence and has worked tirelessly to improve the environment at the New Directions Safe House in Greenville. She also volunteers with the Celebrate Recovery Program at Covenant Church, Salvation Army and N.C. Eastern Regional Alzheimer’s Association. In fact, she assists several Alzheimer patients she came to know through her cleaning business and raises funds for and walks in the Alzheimer’s Walk each year in their honor.

Upon completing her associate degree in Paralegal Technology, Gardner says she plans to continue her education. She wants to obtain an Associate in Arts Degree at PCC before moving on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in history.

“PCC faculty, staff and instructors helped me find my passion and then steered me toward it,” Gardner said.


03/10/2016