MTCC Announces 2nd Annual Alumni Award Recipients

McDowell Technical Community College proudly announced the recipients of the college’s second annual Alumni Awards on Monday during a ceremony held in the Crane Resistoflex Auditorium on the college’s main campus. The winners represent a cross-section of alumni who attended McDowell Tech over a period of more than 35 years.

Commissioner of Labor Josh Dobson, Andrea Hope Wood, Lauren Sylvia Sparks, and J. Sean Fox.
Linda Roth Hamrick

The recipients are:

  • Distinguished Alumni Award: Josh Dobson ‘03
  • Outstanding Alumni Award (Career and Technical): Andrea Hope Wood ’16 and ‘20
  • Outstanding Alumni Award (College Transfer): Linda Roth Hamrick ‘09
  • Outstanding Alumni Award (Health Sciences): Lauren Sylvia Sparks ’13 and ‘15
  • Young Alumni Award: J. Sean Fox ‘11

“These individuals have made significant contributions to McDowell Tech, our community and to their professions,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President. “It is a pleasure to honor them for their service, leadership, dedication to others and for their technical and vocational excellence. These are the champions to whom our students, potential students and other alumni can look as examples of excellence.”

Recipients were nominated for these awards by a combination of professional colleagues, college faculty and staff, other alumni and members of the community. Finalists were chosen by a committee comprised of members of the MTCC Board of Trustees, MTCC Foundation Board, and MTCC faculty and staff.

“The selection committee,” said Merritt, “learned what we know is true. MTCC produces graduates who are leaders in their careers and our community, and this year’s tough selection process proved that fact. MTCC is a true economic engine for our region, and we were proud to celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of our recipients.”

Distinguished Alumni Award: Josh Dobson ‘03

Josh Dobson currently serves as North Carolina’s Secretary of Labor. He is a 2003 McDowell Tech graduate who went on to complete a bachelor’s degree in Human Services through Gardner Webb University in 2005 and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Appalachian State University in 2008.

Dobson began his career in public service as a McDowell County Commissioner before becoming a member of the North Carolina General Assembly (NC House), serving as Representative for NC House District 85 from 2013 to 2021.

During his time in the General Assembly, Dobson was a member of multiple committees and served in various leadership positions, including: Member, Aging Committee; Member, Alcoholic Beverage Control Committee; Member, Appropriations Committee; Member, Banking Committee; Vice Chair, Education- Community Colleges Committee; Member, Health Care Reform Committee; Chair, Health Committee; Vice Chair, Insurance Committee; Co-Chair, Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services; Member, Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and North Carolina Health Choice; Vice Chair, Pensions and Retirement Committee; Member, Regulatory Reform Committee; Member, Select Committee on School Safety; Member, State and Local Government Committee; Member, State Personnel Committee; and Chair, Subcommittee on Appropriations, Health and Human Resources.

In addition to his work and service in Raleigh, Dobson continues to find ways to serve the local community here in McDowell County, such as coaching his daughter’s recreation league and travel basketball teams, serving as a guest speaker at McDowell Tech, and serving as keynote speaker at the MTCC graduation exercises in 2013. From 2012-2019, Dobson also served as an adjunct history instructor at McDowell Tech.

“Josh used his community college education as a springboard to an exemplary career in public service,” said Dr. Penny Cross, Vice-President of Learning and Student Services at McDowell Tech. “We are grateful for his commitment to making our state a better place to live as a member of the General Assembly, and a better place to work in his current role as Commissioner of Labor.”

Outstanding Alumni Award (Career and Technical): Andrea Hope Wood ’16 and ‘20

When Andrea Wood graduated from high school, she also received her Associate in Arts degree from McDowell Tech at the same time, having taken college classes while she was dually enrolled in high school. She immediately enrolled in the EMT program in the fall of 2016, followed by the EMT-Advanced (AEMT) in the spring of 2017. Upon graduating from that class in the spring, she enrolled in the Paramedic program in the fall semester of 2017. Over the next two years, she worked part-time for McDowell EMS while she completed the paramedic program.

In May, 2019, Andrea graduated from the paramedic program and began working full-time with McDowell EMS the following August. In December, she completed a second McDowell Tech degree, her Associate’s in Emergency Medical Science, the first to ever receive that degree from the college.

Andrea is highly regarded as a Paramedic by her peers, former instructors, and supervisors. She has a servant’s heart and not only works to save lives throughout the year, she willingly takes on extra shifts at a moment’s notice when needed and assists her co-workers by filling in for them during emergencies or when they need to attend a class at McDowell Tech. To maintain high standards of care, Andrea has taken extra courses within her field and has completed professional certifications in ITLS (International Trauma Life Support), PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support), ACLS (Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support), CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), ICS (Incident Command System) 100, ICS 200, ICS 700, and ICS 800, just to name a few.

Due to her peer leadership skills, Andrea recently became a Field Training Officer (FTO) at McDowell EMS, a role in which she will help train and mentor new EMT’s (Emergency Medical Technician) and paramedics. Andrea enjoys teaching others life-saving techniques and how to help others when they are scared, injured or hurt. At a different level, she works at the local Youth Safety Camps in McDowell County teaching CPR classes to younger students.

Andrea has also volunteered to talk with middle school students about careers in medical service when they visit McDowell Tech, and has taught some of them CPR as well. To promote Learn and Grow Scholarships and Emergency Medical Science Programs, she appeared recently on a promotional billboard for the college.

“It makes me proud to know that so many young people in our county have been taught a skill that could potentially save the life of one of their family members or friends,” said her sister Ashlee Wood in nominating Andrea for the award. “She is confident, yet humble. She is strong, yet gentle. She is kind, smart, funny and heroic. She is a role model to others, and is proof that a degree from McDowell Technical Community College can take you farther than you ever believed.”

Outstanding Alumni Award (College Transfer): Linda Roth Hamrick ‘09

Linda Roth Hamrick began studying at McDowell Tech in 2005 as a single mother with two children. Times were tough and she took a job as a work study student to make ends meet while going to school. She graduated in 2009 with an associate’s degree and two years later finished her bachelor’s degree in Social Work at Appalachian State University. In 2017 she completed a master’s degree in Social Work from East Tennessee State University, and has completed a NC Family Development Certificate from Duke University. She was on the Dean’s List throughout her higher education career.

Last month, Linda began a new job leading a pilot program for the McDowell Local Food Advisory Council through the NC Healthy Opportunities Program. Previously, she coordinated a Kinship Provider’s Program in Buncombe County, acting as a liaison for families raising non-birth children in Buncombe, McDowell, Haywood, Madison, Polk and Henderson counties as a way to stabilize families in those areas. From 2013-2020 she was a Life Coach with McDowell Community Action Opportunities.

“Linda is the poster woman for a positive ‘can do’ attitude,” said Gabrielle Thompson, who nominated Linda for the award. “By (her) example and through her work, (she) has been a support for women and families who are victims of domestic violence and poverty… She has given time and energy to our libraries, schools, high school band, and interned with McDowell County youth sex offenders day program when it was non-profit. She has given two graduation speeches at MTCC GED ceremonies, and at her master’s ceremony she gave a graduation speech for herself and her class. She has volunteered and spoken at different civic events.”

“I met Linda when she was a work study student in the MTCC Library when I was Coordinator of Library Services. She happily did any job asked of her, even maintenance-related at times. She was/is such a joyous, upstanding, positive person, we became life-long friends. I feel blessed and honored to know her. (She) has overcome multiple struggles in her life and yet remained a positive person. She is a wonderful person, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and co-worker. Her outgoing personality and accomplishments have been the impetus for others to finish their education, find community help for addictions and other issues, and connect with jobs for career success. She has been, and continues to be, a role model for students, other alumni, her friends, and her family. In both her last and upcoming positions, Linda was approached to start new programs because of her capabilities. In my opinion, Linda is a shining star in McDowell County.”

Outstanding Alumni Award (Health Sciences): Lauren Sylvia Sparks ’13 and ‘15

Lauren Sylvia Sparks received her Practical Nurse Education Diploma from McDowell Tech in 2015 and went on to complete her Associate Degree Nursing from Foothills Nursing Consortium (through McDowell Tech) in 2015. Subsequently, she completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from UNC Charlotte and her Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) from Walden University.

Lauren began her career in nursing as a nurse aide in a long-term care facility, where she later worked as an LPN (licensed practical nurse) after completing her Practical Nurse Education degree. Later, after becoming a Registered Nurse, she began working as an Emergency Room Nurse at Mission Hospitals, HCA, which gave her a solid foundation to complete her Family Nurse Practitioner degree and give back to the health care needs of rural, underserved areas of North Carolina, said Judy Melton, Dean of Arts and Sciences at McDowell Tech.

Lauren has served on the Health Science Advisory Board at McDowell Tech and from 2018-2020 worked as an adjunct faculty member for both the Nurse Aide and Practical Nurse Education programs at McDowell Tech.

Young Alumni Award: J. Sean Fox ‘11

Sean Fox graduated from McDowell Tech in 2011 with an associate’s degree and diploma in Web Technologies. While at the college, he also completed his CIW Certified Web Associate certification and achieved gold level certification with the NC Career Readiness Certification program. He went on to complete a Data Center Institute Certificate at Isothermal Community College.

When he was 16, Sean obtained his Amateur Radio Technician License from the Federal Communications Commission, a license which he continues to actively use. At McDowell Early College, he received the Gold Presidential Service Award for completion of over 500 volunteer hours of community service. As a student, Sean was also chosen to be a People to People Student Ambassador to the country of Japan. As a college student at McDowell Tech, Sean helped the college’s IT staff, shadowing them and helping to provide IT support at all levels of the college.

Sean has worked for a number of well-known “tech” companies with operational facilities in Western North Carolina and Iowa: Operations Technician Assistant, Google Data Center; Systems Administrator, PRC Industrial; Data Center Tech IC1, Milestone Technologies; Data Center Tech IC2, Milestone Technologies; Data Center Tech IC3, Milestone Technologies; Data Center Tech IC4, Milestone Technologies; and Production Operations Data Center Engineer.

In addition to his technical skills, Sean has been active in public service since he was a teenager, starting as a junior firefighter with Marion Fire Department and progressing to volunteer and active firefighter, completing 8 total years of service. When he moved to the Mid-West for work, he volunteered another two years in fire and rescue service.

“Sean is actively looking for ways to improve his community,” said Sean’s mother, Aletha Wise Fox, who nominated him for this award. “He’s hoping and looking to bring connectivity to North Carolina communities…. (He) reflects such courage, service and responsibility. I am very proud of him and it’s an honor to nominate him for this award.”

Dr. Merritt summed up the Alumni Awards Program this way: “Each of these award winners represents just a fraction of the outstanding McDowell Tech graduates who are working with distinction in a variety of professions and serving our communities, the college and others in myriad ways, large and small. Our graduates are doing wonderful things, and we are elated to honor them in this way. Learning, Growing and Sharing—a McDowell Tech tradition.”
Photo, l to r, top to bottom: Commissioner of Labor Josh Dobson, Andrea Hope Wood, Lauren Sylvia Sparks, and J. Sean Fox. (second photo– Linda Roth Hamrick)