Graduation days are all about success stories, and when Blue Ridge Community College graduates walked across the stage Friday night, one among them received, in addition to her degree, an honor given to only a select few students nationwide.
Danielle Tate-Maccaroni has been awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship for the continuance of her studies at Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C. This year the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation received 769 nominations from community colleges in 45 states and the District of Columbia. Only 73 students will receive this highly selective and prestigious award, given to those who exhibit “exceptional academic ability and achievements, financial need, persistence, leadership and desire to help others.” The scholarship provides up to $30,000 a year for associate degree students to pursue their bachelor’s at a four-year college or university.
Tate-Maccaroni was the only student in North Carolina to receive the award.
She enrolled at BRCC three years ago after having been a stay-at-home mother for five years. When her son, Sean, entered kindergarten, she began taking classes, with the intent, at first, of obtaining an associate’s degree in science. “I then took an English course and very quickly decided what I wanted to do,” she said.
“The difficulty has been learning in increments how to balance it all: how to be a good mother, a good wife, a good employee, and a good student and still maintain my sanity.
Starting college at the same time her son started school, she said, has been a “bonding experience” for both of them. “We both have to sit down and do homework,” she said, adding that Sean has been able to see her study just as he has to and, at times, has seen her “stress out.”
Considering the workload she has carried for the past three years, she might be forgiven for, occasionally, feeling stressed. While working toward her degree, Tate-Maccaroni also worked about 30 hours a week at Cracker Barrel and, for the past year, held a work-study job in the English department.
“The difficulty,” she said, “has been learning in increments how to balance it all: how to be a good mother, a good wife, a good employee, and a good student and still maintain my sanity.”
She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in English, with the ultimate goal of teaching literature at the college level. Her mother has a doctorate in chemistry and teaches at Presbyterian College near Newberry, S.C., where Tate-Maccaroni, a New Jersey native, and her husband, Gino, and Sean lived for two years before relocating to Hendersonville four years ago.
Faculty member Jennifer Parrack-Rogers, whom Tate-Maccaroni assisted in the English department, refers to her as “the kind of student teachers dream of — bright, engaged and eager to learn more.” She is, Parrack-Rogers said, “capable of becoming a fine scholar.”
Besides maintaining a 4.0 GPA, Tate-Maccaroni also received the Nota Bene Reynolds Scholarship for her contribution to Phi Theta Kappa’s national literary anthology, Nota Bene. Two of her compositions — an essay titled “Of Pagans and Puritans: The Nuances of Anne Bradstreet” and a poem, “On Receiving the Collected Works of W.B. Yeats” — were among only 13 works selected for publication from more than 800 submissions. She is the first BRCC student ever to be published in the honors anthology.
When she starts studying at Converse College in the fall, it will be as an invited participant in the Nisbet Honors program, an honor not usually offered to transferring students. The program for academically gifted students will provide her the opportunity to do independent research with faculty mentors, to take honors courses and to learn from visiting scholars to the college.
Of her time at BRCC, Tate-Maccaroni said, “I have personally undergone so much positive change. This college has had such a wonderful, deep and meaningful impact on my life.”
This article was written by Gina Malone of the Hendersonville Times-News.