The Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program, or C-STEP, housed in the office of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, seeks to admit, identify, enroll and graduate high-achieving, low-to-moderate income students transferring to UNC-Chapel Hill from partner community colleges.
Fayetteville Technical Community College’s C-STEP program began in 2011. Each year, two cohorts of students — a group of first-year FTCC students and a group of second-year FTCC students — participate in C-STEP.
FTCC students Halona Dantes and Anjali Saji attended FTCC’s open house during summer 2019. Both young ladies arrived in Fayetteville the day before the open house event. Both students are from India where their mothers, who are nurses, participated with a recruiting agency for nurses to allow their families to emigrate from their home country to the United States. Neither student nor family knew each other before their arrival in Fayetteville.
“My parents sacrificed a lot for me, and the thought of having a chance to better myself with the educational opportunities within the United States is what motivated my parents to make the move,” Dantes said.
The process for Dantes' parents to leave Kuwait and Saji’s parents to leave Bahrain began in 2018 and was not an easy feat.
Dantes said, “The process is hard and intense, and I wanted to do well in college because of all the advantages my parents were trying to afford me with.”
Each family had to complete a compilation of tests and exams in English and score proficiently in each area to pass. They also had to complete and pass an interview. At the time, they did not know that both mothers would end up working as nurses at Cape Fear Valley Hospital.
After applying and being selected to C-STEP, both students quickly adjusted to the program and made friends with their cohorts.
Saji reflected on that early period: “I was really scared, and I had a fear about coming from abroad and being accepted," she said. "However, my cohort group was very accepting and welcoming. The fear I had about making friends vanished because I got to make friends through class engagement and various other components that the program provides.”
Each student exudes the embodiment of what it means to be a C-STEP student. Each student has goals, accountability, strong character and a desire to achieve and give back to the community.
The C-STEP program requires interested students to earn their associate degree at a North Carolina Community College and then transfer to Carolina to complete their studies. Once a student completes a degree at FTCC, he or she is guaranteed admissions into Carolina.
But the advantages offered to C-STEP students go far beyond providing them with admission into UNC-Chapel Hill. C-STEP is an all-encompassing program that allows students to gain extensive knowledge of the Carolina campus, meet key individuals who will be of aid when they arrive at Carolina, and receive an opportunity to learn and grow with like-minded individuals who become far more than just peers.
Saji summed up her motivation to succeed: “How could I not do well in my classes? My parents have given up and sacrificed so much to give me a better chance.”
For more information about FTCC and C-STEP, please contact the author, the FTCC C-STEP Progam Director, at
Pictured: (Left) Halona Dantes and (Right) Anjali Saji. Both are students in FTCC's C-STEP program.