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CCC&TI Success Coach Wins TRIO Achiever Award

Published: 12/05/2022

Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute’s TRIO/Educational Talent Search Success Coach Sarah Estes Cuthbert was recently named one of three NC TRIO Achiever Award winners. Cuthbert was nominated by CCC&TI TRIO Director Emily Garrison and was selected to receive the award by The NC TRIO Executive Board and 2022 NC TRIO Fall Conference Committee. Cuthbert was recognized at the recent TRIO Achievers Banquet in November in Charlotte. TRIO Achiever Awards are presented annually to individuals who are former TRIO students who have gone on to be successful in their chosen careers.

Cuthbert, a CCC&TI alumna, participated in TRIO/Educational Talent Search during Middle and High School and in TRIO/Student Support Services during her time as a student at CCC&TI. Cuthbert graduated from CCC&TI in 2018 with an Associate in Arts degree and transferred to Appalachian State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Cuthbert joined the TRIO/ETS staff at CCC&TI in 2022 and is also currently working toward a master’s degree in Higher Education, Community College and University Leadership also at App State.

When asked about the impact of TRIO on her own journey, Cuthbert says “in one sentence, it changed my life.” Cuthbert says that as a middle school student, she thought college was not a possibility for her or even a place where she thought she belonged. But, she says, her TRIO/ETS Success Coach helped her break down those perceived barriers and see the possibilities for her future. “[She] handed me a chisel and piece by piece helped me break down the barriers that were keeping me from achieving my dreams. TRIO/ETS taught me how to believe in myself and my dreams,” said Cuthbert.

The impact of TRIO was something that stayed with Cuthbert as she began charting her career. When the opportunity to join the TRIO/ETS staff presented itself, she saw the position as one way she could give back to the program and the college that had such a positive impact on her life as a student. “I wanted to come back not only to the program that gave me so much, but also to the community college that gave me everything I could have needed and more,” she said. “I remembered the impact that [TRIO] programs had on my life, and I wanted to be able to come back and have the same impact on others. I wanted to be that support that not only the students needed but be there for their families as well.”

In her award nomination, Emily Garrison, Director of CCC&TI’s TRIO Programs, noted Cuthbert’s energy, enthusiasm, optimism and tenacious spirit as just a few of the drivers that helped Cuthbert earn high honors and academic success as a student. Garrison said those same qualities, along with her experience with the TRIO programs, make her a natural fit for the Success Coach position. “I have been nothing short of impressed with the work she has done since her start date with us. That same energy I saw as a student, is exhibited daily in her work as a Success Coach. Students gravitate to her, and she truly has a heart to see her students succeed.”

Sarah Cultbert & Emily Garrison

Pictured at the NC TRIO Achievers Banquet are CCC&TI TRIO/ETS Success Coach and NC TRIO Achiever Award winner Sarah Estes Cuthbert, left, with CCC&TI TRIO Programs Director Emily Garrison.

Cuthbert says that earning this award is just one of the many things that has helped validate her choice to return to CCC&TI and to work with the TRIO programs. “I changed my mind about a million times on what I wanted to do with my life. I went through every helping profession in the book from teaching, nursing, and more. When I finally landed in TRIO, I knew without a shadow of a doubt I was home,” said Cuthbert. “And this award to me, just confirms I am where I am supposed to be. This award proves to my high school self who thought she would never be able to achieve her goals and dreams, that we made it after all.”

Cuthbert says that she hopes her story will help inspire other students who have doubts about what they can achieve or who believe that college is not a possibility for them. She says her first piece of advice for any student who wants to explore what’s possible for their future is to seek help. “I know so many times we think we can handle things on our own or that we shouldn’t ask for help. But trust me when I say there are people just waiting to help you achieve your goals and dreams of continuing your education,” she said. “Believe in yourself. When you go through a setback or face a trial, it is so easy to want to give up on yourself. But when you believe in yourself and your goals, you will see that setback or trial is just a bump in the journey to get you where you want to go.”

For more information on CCC&TI’s TRIO ETS program, visit www.cccti.edu/TRIOETS or call 828-726-2726.