Archive for the ‘Profiles’ Category

Heroes Among U.S.

by: Paul Bristol

”Excellence in all we do, that is something that will resonate in me for the rest of my life.”
There is a saying that all heroes do not wear capes.  Most of these heroes volunteer their time to be a part of something greater than themselves, by joining the American Defense System.

Brandon Alston grew up with a military background, but he was not influenced enlist right away in any of the armed forces.  Alston joined because he wanted to be a part of something bigger than himself.

Even though his father wanted him to join the military, he says he was very proud of his son when he enlisted in the American Defense System.

Although in the beginning of his service, he found it quite hard to stay the course.  “When you get to boot camp,” Brandon noted, “it is very hard because you do not know anybody and you are having a hard time keeping the motivation alive.”

The cards were against him, but that did not stop him from reaching the goal.  “It taught me a lot, going through boot camp, that you have got to keep your head down to find your motivation.”  Alston says.

Alston said that true character is revealed through times where everything is not going your way.  He ended up staying the course and found his motivation in Tactical Aircraft Maintenance.

There he would operate on some of the fastest, aerodynamic aircrafts on the face of the planet.  He mainly worked on A-10 fighter jets, but he also had training on some of the infamous F-15’s and F-16’s.

If you do not have a background in aviation, an F-15 itself can reach up to speeds of 2.5 machs (1,600 mph).  This is also the first fighter jet in American history that can accelerate vertically.

Although he worked on these jets, he never really got the chance to go overseas and experience action firsthand.  “It was kind of bittersweet” Alston noted.  “I really wanted a chance to go overseas, however circumstances out of my control prevented that.”

  • Enlisted in the Air Force
  • Became a Tactical Aircraft Maintenance Mechanic on F-15’s, F-16’s, & A-10 fighter jets
  • Never got a chance to go overseas for combat
  • Two years later, he is a full time student at Pellissippi State

He worked on these aircrafts for all of two years while in the Air Force.  Now, he resides in Knoxville and is a full time student at Pellissippi.

He has not worked on an aircraft or a vehicle since.  He has since strayed away from being a mechanic.  Alston is trying to find his true passion in life one day at a time.

“I do not have a set future career just yet.   I am taking this one day at a time to find my passion in life,” Alston happily exclaims.  “Just like my training in the Air Force, I am going to put my head down and find my motivation in life.”

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Personality of the Week

by: Paul Bristol

Learning the value of a dollar helps us go far in life, but for him, it changed his life forever.

Adolfo Felix, describes his time while living in Cancun, Mexico as an experience he will never forget even though, at one point in his life, he had only 20 Pecos to his name.

Felix was originally born in the US.  He described his childhood as being like any normal kid in the states.  “I played video games, watched TV, and I did chores around the house.”

At the age of 15, everything changed when he moved to Cancun.  “Mexico will always be home, but at the time we had no electricity, money was tight, and there were some nights when we would not eat at all.”

Felix really had to grow up quick.  Although he ran into a problem.  He was used to seeing cars everywhere in America.  In Mexico, there was hardly any vehicular transportation.

He would often walk two or three miles for a fresh water source.  Adolfo helped out any way he could to for his family.

“I was hired to buy groceries for other people, and I would try to save some money from my wages.  At one point I had 6 Pecos, which is equivalent to .60 cents (in America).”

Although conditions were rough, Felix saw his stay in Cancun as a beneficial time in his life.  He looks at his life through a new lens now.

“After seeing the worst, there is really nothing to lose in America.  I have a car that has no bumper, but it gets me from point A to point B.  I am very blessed.”  Felix explained.

Adolfo is now finishing up his last semester at Pellissippi State and is looking to transfer to UT-Knoxville in the fall to continue his studies in the communications field.

Felix commented, “College is something that is not taken for granted, because it is not an option (in Mexico).”

Felix wants to use his experiences in Mexico for good.  He wants to be a motivational speaker eventually and he wants his family’s extreme poverty to help others see the hope for the future that Americans are not always aware of.

We all wish him the best of luck.

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

Motivational Speaker

by Katherine Lown

A young Hispanic is on the track of fulfilling his dream to inspire people all over the world.

Adolfo Angel Felix’s dream is to be a motivational speaker. Having spent much of his teenage years living in Mexico, Angel and his family have seen firsthand the dramatic effects that poverty and hardships can have on people.

“People feel like this all the time and sometimes they don’t have anybody…experience in Mexico and seeing how they live, and then here – that’s probably the biggest thing,” Angel said. His passion is to encourage and inspire people who are walking through the rough times in life.

Angel also expresses a lot of compassion for people going through hard circumstances because of a unique view he has as a wrestling trainer. “I wrestle, and cutting weight drags on your mind and body. You’re hungry and exercising…you have to be very mentally strong and you’re in a low state of mind.” He says that being weak in mind can drag a person down a lot and often lead to unnecessary pain.

“In Cancun, a lot of people are poor… there are things harder out there,” he said, realizing that even his stress is light compared to the loads that many carry around the globe.

Recognizing the effects that depression and suffering has on people is what drives Angel to want to be a speaker and motivate others to a better life. He hopes to one day travel the world and have a full time job giving speeches. “I don’t think I’ll be getting paid yet,” he said, looking to the future, “but I’ll be living on my own, helping others, not doing many things besides putting time into what I want to do.”

As a guy balancing work, family, and school every day, Angel knows that young people are capable of far more than most people think. “We are capable of a lot of things and have a lot of things going on in our life,” he said. “Not all of us make such bad choices.”

Those who have made bad choices, however, are who he hopes to inspire. One of the biggest motivators for Angel is that he knows things can get better for everyone. “People are really strong,” he said. “They are the future…they go through tough times and good times. They will make a difference. They got to encourage each other and keep doing difficult things.”

Angel has high hopes of pushing his peers to excellence. “I think we’re going to do a lot of great things – this generation,” he said.

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

A Student Acclimates From Across the Globe

by Katherine Lown

If you pass Slavik in the hallway at school, you might not guess him to be much different from every other guy you see on the way to class. If you sit down and talk with him, however, his smile widens and his story unravels in a kind, Russian accent.

Some people might simply label him a refugee, while others may just call him a student. But 29-year-old Slavik Malenchii has proved himself to be a man of determination, as he journeys toward a bright future.

Having spent the majority of his life in Eastern Europe, Slavik comes from the small country of Moldova. At age 17, he learned his family was going to move halfway across the world to begin life again in the United States. The move would mean leaving behind all his familiar surroundings, his friends, even his girlfriend, and starting over in America without speaking a word of English.

But with Communism growing in his home country and religious persecution increasing, the Malenchii family, all 11 of them, decided to make the transition in 2004. Originally, Slavik had not planned on spending more than a year stateside, but plans changed and he spent the next seven years in Washington. There he lived in a Russian community and worked as many construction jobs as he could pick up with his very limited English.

“In the movies, money grows on trees in America,” Slavik laughed, explaining that, in reality, he found himself making only $7 an hour.

By 2011 Slavik had begun to realize the opportunities a college education could offer. Following the example of some of his family members, he moved to Knoxville, Tennessee to begin school at Pellissippi State.

The first obstacle he had to tackle was mastering English. Slavik began with some adult education courses, and it wasn’t too long before he mastered the language. Four semesters later, Slavik prepares to graduate Pellissippi and transfer to King University in the fall, where he will complete a degree.

In faultless English, he explained that he is studying business management and dreams of starting his own business one day with his brothers. Considering the goals he has already reached and connections he has made, it probably won’t be too long until the brothers’ business is underway.

In the meantime, Slavik works as a project manager for a construction company. He combines his social abilities and hands-on skills by working with customers, as well as doing whatever odd jobs are needed around the workplace.

Looking toward the future, Slavik sees himself settling down with a family, but presently he continues to work hard. “Right now, this company…it’s perfect,” he said gratefully of his present job.

Though the United States has provided many challenges, Slavik has learned much through his experiences and has come to appreciate much more than his schooling. A professional musician, Slavik enjoys playing the accordion in his spare time; he also excels in martial arts. After a stressful day, you will probably find Slavik doing one of his favorite activities: riding his motorcycle through the Smoky Mountains.

Perhaps one day the Moldovan will return to his country and visit friends, but for now, Slavik is content with his future goals and is satisfied with where his journey has led him so far.

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Student from East Africa

by Zaynab Bowers


Angelica Ndayiragije, a student at Pellissippi State Community College, moved from Burundi, East Africa, to Texas at the age of 4 in hopes of a better future.


“The reason me and my family moved here was because it was dangerous where we were living,” said Ndayiragije. “My mother wanted me to have better life opportunities.”


Her childhood was not that easy in Texas either. She was teased by students for being from Africa and struggled to fit in.


“I had to learn a whole new language and culture that often clashed with my home culture,” said Ndayiragije. “At home I was supposed to act a certain way, but at school, I was supposed to act another way.”


Ndayiragije later moved to Knoxville when she was accepted into the University of Tennessee’s Bridge Program. She is studying journalism at Pellissippi and will transfer to UT next fall to complete her bachelor’s degree.


Ndayiragije said that she is a lot happier with the environment at Pellissippi than she has been in other places.

“I like the students at Pellissippi, and I love the professors,” she said.


After she completes her studies, she hopes to achieve her lifelong dream of working for CNN.


“They stir up things that don’t need to be stirred,” she said. Ndayiragije believes that the news either exaggerates news or doesn’t inform people correctly. “I want to spread news the right way.”


Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Access And Diversity

by Stephen Marbury


Access and Diversity is a valuable academic support and degree completion program located in the Goins Building Room 162.  The Diversity Plan was developed by Pellissippi State Community College on the premise of increasing diversity among students, faculty, and staff. The primary focus of the plan is driven by the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010 to increase the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary degrees.


The department is run by Gayle Woods now in her 26th year at Pellissippi State. Woods describes her work as a mentor and advisor.  As Director of Access and Diversity, Woods and her staff are focused on enhancing the educational, cultural and interpersonal experiences of low-income students, adult learners age 25 and older and underrepresented minorities.


Programs such as Pellissippi Adult Learners, or PAL, are intended for first-time freshmen who may have obstacles and challenges to overcome in order to meet their college needs. Students are assigned a faculty or staff mentor who will assist them through their first year of college.


Another program designed to increase graduation rates is Project Making Graduation Attainable. The program is aimed to help students who have earned 45-plus college-level credit hours toward their degree. So far, more than 192 students have successfully participated in PMGA since 2012.


As the program’s vision statement articulates, Access and Diversity celebrate individuals by affirming strengths, gifts and differences each faculty, staff and student brings to Pellissippi State Community College.  The staff maintains contact with students on a bi-weekly basis with its weekly mixers intended to allow students to network with others about classes, career prospects or a chance to relax after classes with fellow classmates.


Access and Diversity has continued to promote a diverse student body by celebrating various cultures from around the world.  Gayle Woods and her staff have supported numerous international themed events around campus, including a celebration of persons from Spain, Mexico and South America during Hispanic Heritage Month and a Caribbean Carnival where students experience food, music and dance. During Black History Month in February students and faculty are encouraged to taste African coffee and teas while discussing the contributions of African-Americans.

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

College from a Grandmother’s prospective

By Zaynab Bowers


Cristina Marques decided to get her college education after becoming a wife, mother, and grandmother.

Marques has three children and two grandchildren and is now attending Pellissippi State Community College with two of her daughters.

“It’s very hard. As we get older, our brains are not the same as when we were younger. It’s hard to retain information,” Marques said. Still, she wants to teach her family the importance of education and said she definitely regrets not getting her education earlier.

As a young girl, Marques dreamt of becoming a neurosurgeon.

“I think being one would just be so interesting in the way that I could see what the mind physically is like,” she said.

Although Marques did not have the opportunity to attend college when she was younger because of financial difficulties, she hopes to achieve a lifelong goal by graduating.

“I have more free time now since my kids are older,” she said. “I figured why not use my time wisely and keep my brain active.”

Marques is currently studying professional administration and healthcare. She chose this major because it is related to business, which is something she loves and enjoys.

Despite Marques’ age, her daughters, Samira Tamimi and Ayat Tamimi, said they admire and respect their mother’s decision to further her education and pursue her lifelong dream.

Friday, October 9th, 2015

A Future Forged in Fire

by: Jane Cassidy

Graphic Design major Jason Campbell is forging his fiery future with the timeless art of the Blacksmith.

Campbell’s interest first sparked at a very young age while watching blacksmiths work at Dollywood. Campbell also said that he comes from a crafty family. His mother is a seamstress and his father is involved in wood working.

Campbell is currently taking Mike Rose’s blacksmith class for the second time. In his free time he is working on opening his own shop where he will make practical items such as wall hooks, pots and bottle openers for craft shows. He is also currently in the process of building a portable forge for Civil War reenactments.

One of the first projects Campbell made was a fire poker using the first basic principles learned in blacksmithing class.

Speaking of fire, Campbell has picked up a few scars along the way from “gray burning snowflakes” produced by the fuel used in this process. Battle wounds aside, Campbell explains that “It’s a very nice stress reliever to be able to beat a piece of steel into submission and create whatever you can picture in your mind; it’s a beautiful art.”

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Hope and Faith

by David Ball

Most college students this time of year are focused on finals, jobs or where their summer vacation may be. One Pellissippi student, however, is focused on more than just the norms of college life.

Charlie Graham, 20, a social work major at Pellissippi State, is focused on friendship. Moreover, she is focusing it towards someone who truly needs it.

“It’s when I see her on the front porch, smiling, and the way she runs down to my car and gives me a hug. You know, it’s definitely worth it,” said Graham.

Over the past year, Graham has been a friend or “big sister” to 10-year-old Daniya from East Knoxville. Daniya is one of many young children involved in a program called Hope Central, which serves as a safe house for children in a 50-block area near Magnolia Ave., Winona and Cherry streets.

Children like Daniya come from low-income areas and homes that endure frequent relationship problems and emotional instability.  Hope Central’s goal is to step in and help create a family environment through educational activities and a big brother/sister program.

A combination of Graham’s faith and career interest prompted her to get involved. With 20-30 kids participating, there was no shortage of need. “I was looking for an opportunity, to see what kind of things are out there for social work, volunteering or internship.”

Now, every other Friday, Graham picks up Daniya at her house and they spend a few hours together. “She gets that kind of secure stable relationship with me, because things are so unstable in her house and life.”

The two girls have fun outdoors, lunch at the mall, or participate in activities planned by Hope Central, such as Bible studies. Also on the itinerary for Graham is spending time with Daniya’s mom. She finds it makes a greater impact to have a familial relationship with Daniya and her relatives.

“I’ve seen a tremendous difference in Daniya. Her mom has told me even in school, Daniya’s grades are definitely improving. To hear her mom say ‘because of you, she is changing’ is rewarding,” said Graham.

As beneficial as this has been for both girls, Graham warns that this is not for everyone. “Not everyone may have the heart to be completely sold out,” she said. “Me being in the social work field, it’s natural for me to want to do this.”

She plans to continue being a big sister for Daniya and follow the path that her faith lays out for her.

If interested in being a part of a young person’s life as a big brother or sister, contact Veta Sprinkle at 865-314-8514.

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

What’s Pellissippi’s tie to the terror attack of 9/11?

by Stephen Gyebison

As Americans looked in horror at the black smoke billowing from both towers of the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, one of our own had to spring into action.

Fred Breiner, who is now the director of safety and security at Pellissippi State, was a detective captain for the New York Police Department.

“ I was sleeping when the first plane hit the World Trade Center,” he said. “I had worked late the night before. I was actually stuck on a job until  the early morning hours at a shooting where we had to gather some information for the police commissioner.”

I figured there will be mobilization because it is a major disaster in a very high-density area. I thought they will need every possible hand. I called work and found they would not mobilize.”

He said, “Initially it could have just been an accident,” he said.

Second Plane Hits

Breiner learned more when he turned on the TV. After the second plane hit, I called work again to see if we needed to be mobilized. Again they didn’t mobilize us, he said.

Two hours later, New York send out a broadcast mobilizing fire and police officers.

Knowing Those Who Died

Breiner knew some who died in the tragedy.  “I had two police officers that I worked with for a short period of time who died,” he said.  “I had actually been their supervisor. I also knew several firefighters who lost their lives.”

“Almost everybody in New York knew somebody who died,” he remembered.

Breiner worked on the scene between 40 and 100 hours. Because he worked in Brooklyn, he was kept in his assigned area just in case there was public unrest.

“Sometimes there is looting and rioting when you have something like that,” he said. 

It was almost a week before officers were assigned outside their burroughs. They went to Ground Zero, and he worked side by side with officers and supervisors. They saw body parts removed from the debris.

Health Hazards

 “I am being monitored by the World Trade Center monitoring crew for health reasons because of the smoke and possible chemicals. But I was not affected by it,” he said.

“Initially we didn’t have any kind of protection. Then they gave us dust masks, and later they gave us a respirator, which I wore all the time.”

Breiner said he could see the smoke from his house, which was 30 miles from the incident.

Different parts of the federal government were investigating events leading up the 9/11 attack, he said. But they could not put the pieces together in time to stop the attack.

“The different units were not investigating as well as they should have,” he said.

Breiner was a police officer in New York City in 1993 during the first attack on the World Trade Center. “I attended training,” he said. “Basically it was terrorist training. It was pretty serious back then.”

Breiner worked for the NYPD until 2003 when he retired because it got too stressful, he said.

“I had a great career,” he said. “It was just time to leave.”





Saturday, April 6th, 2013