Stay-at-home Mom Becomes New WFD Firefighter

“I knew I wanted a career change,” said Laura Leigh Bransford, recent Cape Fear Community College First Responder Academy graduate and newly-hired firefighter at the Wilmington Fire Department. “And I knew I always wanted to help people.”

Bransford, a military wife and mother of a seven-year-old boy, was focused on her husband’s military career. After moving from Wilmington to Austin, Texas and back again, Bransford stayed at home with her little boy and worked as a part-time assistant and event coordinator for Poplar Grove Plantation. With growing passions for athletic training, teamwork, and helping others, she was naturally drawn to firefighting. “I realized it was never too late go after my dreams,” said Bransford.
In the summer of 2017, Bransford tried out for the Wilmington Fire Department. She did not make the cut, but Bransford persisted: “I knew I was not giving up. Then I found the First Responder Academy at Cape Fear Community College.”

Bransford described her experience with the First Responder Academy, “It was a key point in changing my career. The instructors and the classmates were great mentors and friends. It was a huge growing and learning experience. It was a big family and a great environment for learning. And I really came out of the program a different person…for good.”

Upon her First Responder Academy graduation, Bransford was hired by the Kure Beach Fire Department. Shortly thereafter, she went through the application process with the Wilmington Fire Department. Four hundred applications were taken, with just 24 spots to fill. After a series of written, physical, and oral tests and a panel interview by firefighters of all ranks, the Wilmington Fire Department offered Bransford a position.

Now, Bransford continues to work part time for Kure Beach Fire Department as she goes through her six months of training as a recruit with the Wilmington Fire Department.
Bransford offers advice to parents who have children and a family to support seeking a career change, “Going through school is temporary. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I would often call my friends and ask my parents, who lived two hours away, to help with my son. A support system is essential. Put in the time and I promise you, you will be rewarded.”

And to others dreaming of a career change, “change your negative thoughts into positive thoughts.” Bransford continued, “Put one foot in front of the other. Suck it up and do it; put that hard work in. As you start to accomplish small things, your confidence will build and you will begin to see those small accomplishments grow and grow.”

As a firefighter and mother, Bransford has learned that sweat and hard work are essential to growth. “That’s what you have to do to grow — you have to make sacrifices.”

Wilson Center & Arts Council of Wilmington Announce Initiative Offering Theater Experience to Area Youth

Broadway for a Better WorldThe Wilson Center at Cape Fear Community College and the Arts Council of Wilmington & New Hanover County are pleased to announce Broadway for a Better World, a new initiative and community partnership whose mission is to make performing arts accessible to under-served populations.

Particularly focused on providing exposure to the arts for disadvantaged youth, the program is a collaboration between the Arts Council of Wilmington & New Hanover County, the Wilson Center at Cape Fear Community College, and the Cape Fear Community College Foundation, and will be solely funded through the generous support of private donors.

Non-profit organizations in New Hanover and Pender counties will have the opportunity to apply for a Broadway for a Better World grant, which will provide recipients with free tickets to Wilson Center PNC Broadway or Stars Series performances. All non-profit organizations in New Hanover and Pender Counties are eligible to apply, with the understanding that a majority of the tickets granted will go to organizations serving area youth.

“Broadway for a Better World provides a unique opportunity for children and young adults who don’t have access or exposure to the performing arts,” said Mr. Jack Fuller, former CEO at GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and a founding member of the Broadway for a Better World committee. “We believe that experiencing the arts in this way will give kids a broader world view and insight into all the possibilities for their future. Not only will they have exposure to the theater, they will also have the opportunity to be on a college campus and learn about the educational options available to them at Cape Fear Community College,” said Fuller. “We can’t give tickets away, but we can ‘gift’ them away, and through the generosity of this community we can truly help children in need; children that deserve these opportunities.”

Local organizations may apply for a Broadway for a Better World grant beginning Thursday, December 7th, 2017 online at

The Arts Council of Wilmington & New Hanover County will lead an independent grant review committee which will assess the applications and make the grant award decisions on a quarterly basis. The first group of grant recipients will be announced in January 2018.

“This is an exceptional opportunity to not only entertain residents of New Hanover and Pender Counties, but to offer young people in our community the chance to experience the transformative, creative, live theater experience,” said Wilson Center Director, Mr. Shane Fernando. “And that experience will be life-changing.”

Individuals who would like to donate to the Broadway for a Better World program should contact the Cape Fear Community College Foundation at 910-362-7207 or visit

For additional information on the Wilson Center and a full performance schedule, please visit

CFCC Launches Series of International Culinary Classes

Culinary Technology Student

Cape Fear Community College is pleased to announce a new series of continuing education courses for home chefs who want to learn to prepare classic dishes from regions around the world starting January 2018. The Culinary Academy International Series will take students on culinary journeys to France, Italy, Mexico, and a variety of Asian countries. Students will study the culinary traditions of each region and sample the dishes they create with classmates.

The Culinary Academy International Series will consist of four 16-hour culinary classes taught by award-winning chef and CFCC Culinary Technology Instructor Gwen Gulliksen. “I am so excited for us to offer these new international classes!” Gulliksen said of the new series. “Each week will be like a mini culinary vacation for our students. I look forward to sharing recipes from some of my favorite travels with them and teaching them how easy these delicious dishes are to cook.”

The Culinary Academy International Series segments into four class sessions, each four weeks long. The series will begin in January with Regional French Cuisine, continue in February and March with Regional Italian and Regional Mexican Cuisine, and conclude in April with Regional Asian Cuisine.

Students can register for each 16-hour class session separately depending on their interests. Classes will meet on Tuesdays from 10:00 to 2:00 p.m. in the Union Station culinary lab. For additional details, please visit or call CFCC Community Enrichment at 910.362.7199.

CFCC Receives Grant to Provide Assistance for Veterans Pursuing Truck Driver Training

CFCC Truck

Wilmington, NC — Cape Fear Community College announces today that they have received a grant for $97,607 from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) which will give CFCC the opportunity to award over $50,000 in scholarship assistance for veterans and active duty military seeking a commercial driver’s license (CDL) certificate through CFCC’s Truck Driver Training program.

Grant funds will be used to cover the cost of student fees and/or expenses above the amount that will be covered by veterans and active military educational benefits for qualified students, based on need. In addition, spouses and children of these service members will be eligible to apply for scholarships. “Students can complete the Truck Driver Training certificate program in just ten weeks and a day,” said Dean of Vocational and Technical Education Mark Council. “The demand for licensed CDL drivers continues to grow, and this grant will help area veterans and their families to pursue a high-paying in-demand career immediately after graduation.”

Funds from the grant will also support the hiring of a program-specific Recruiter & Job Placement Specialist, which will actively seek employment opportunities for graduates of CFCC’s Truck Driver Training program and strengthen program-employer relations throughout North Carolina. For graduates who desire to become owner-operators and work as private contract haulers, the recruiter will connect them with CFCC’s Small Business Center for additional assistance.

“With the unemployment rate of North Carolina veterans at 4.5 percent and a great need — now, more than ever — for educated and qualified drivers, I see this as a great opportunity, one that will equip the workforce and mitigate an ongoing unemployment issue for our nation’s heroes,” said Truck Driver Training Program Director Al Gover.

The Truck Driver Training program at CFCC has been training students for over 20 years. The program currently has 11 instructors, over half of which are veterans themselves. “Veterans are not new to Truck Driver Training at CFCC,” said Gover. “Currently, seven of our Truck Driver Training instructors are veterans. It will be great to see them sharing their skills and experience with fellow service members who are pursuing a new adventure.” CFCC also has three CDL examiners on-site, with another being added this month, which offers CFCC students the unique opportunity to take their CDL test on campus before they graduate. “Our students are trained in a variety of trucks, and in diverse road conditions so that they have the best practical experience possible, and they are better prepared for the workforce because of it,” said Vocational and Technical Department Chair Shawn Dixon.

Individuals who are interested in learning more about the Truck Driver Training program and available scholarships should contact the Truck Driver Training Center at 910-362-7320.

Former CFCC Metals student opens jewelry shop at Wrightsville Beach

Heather Talton

“When I know I want something, I work hard,” said owner of The Nicoblue Boutique and former Cape Fear Community College Metals student HeatherTalton.

In 2014, as a senior in high school, Talton started creating ceramic pendants and wrapping sea glass and shells found on the beach with wire to create jewelry. By requests from her friends and family, she started her own little business selling jewelry from her home.

With jewelry making as a hobby, Talton started at CFCC pursuing a career in occupational therapy. She used her electives to take Metals courses which taught the basic principles of metal design and contemporary art forms using brass, copper, and silver with emphasis placed on designing and fabricating jewelry and other objects.

“I pursued occupational therapy with a desire to help people. But my passion was in jewelry-making and CFCC helped me realize that” Talton said. “I am realizing how I can help others through jewelry-making, too. Jewelry isn’t necessarily something someone needs, but it has the power to make people feel something when it’s created with loving, genuine intentions.”

At CFCC Talon learned to create things, that before, she could only think of. Her ideas came to life. This inspired Talon to pursue her career as a Metalsmith. In January 2017, Talton opened The Nicoblue Boutique located at 7202 Wrightsville Avenue, Wilmington, NC, 28403. She now works full time at the shop creating and selling her jewelry. The boutique sells jewelry along with other local goods, some of which include essential oils and crystals, pottery, and bathing suits.

To others shy or afraid to go after what they want, Talton advises, “honor your soul and do what makes you happy. Surround yourself with the things that feed you. Work hard. When you want to do something bold or different, the first thing you need to change is your mindset. If you think ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I won’t profit from this’ then you will never allow yourself to take the first step.”

Former CFCC landscaping student fashions his own business from the ground up

Wilson Stratus

Wilson Stratas is not a typical 20-year-old. He is a business owner, with plans for his future which seem both practical and well-thought-out. He’s a realist, a hard-worker, and a Cape Fear Community College graduate.

Stratas graduated CFCC with a Landscaping and Gardening Certificate in 2017, though he had already started his own business during his senior year of high school.

“I didn’t think I would pursue this career, but I tried it and liked it,” said Stratas. “I like being outside, and I like being my own boss.”

Stratas’ business, Oceanside Landscaping & Maintenance, has a motto: No problems, Just solutions.  It’s a concept Stratas seems to have taken to heart. Starting your own business in high school is rare enough, but honing that business into a successful, growing operation at such a young age is almost unheard of. Stratas has been methodical in his approach. He studies his competition, is careful with his image, and is proactive in his relationships with his clients.

He also values education and chose to come to Cape Fear Community College to learn skills to enhance his operation.

“My favorite class was Turf Management,” says Stratas. “I learned a lot about pest and weed control and what chemicals to use to control them.” Stratas is now preparing to take a licensure exam that will allow him to begin offering lawn pest control as part of his business.

“I want to be a full-service operation,” says Stratas.

Learning skills to enhance his business is not only Stratas’ plan for his current operation but also part of his long-term vision for the business. He knows he will not only need to expand the services he can provide but prepare for the physical toll this type of work can take.

“Long-term, I see myself supervising several crews, and doing some of the lighter work – like insecticide application – myself,” says Stratas.

It’s obvious that Stratas is a planner, constantly working on ways to improve and build upon his already growing business. He advises CFCC students interested in taking a similar path, “Do your research.  Know your competition. See how people are running their businesses. Observe, work, and get involved. Learn from your experiences.”

Stratas explains his future plans with a gleam in his eye. “I want to see how big I can get,” he says. “I like challenging myself.”

He also advises those following in his footsteps to be aware of their image. “Have respect for your own work and process. Your work will advertise for you. If you do good work, it will be noticed. As you grow and expand, you will realize that there are differences between your customers. Treat your customers well and expect the same from your clients, and recognize that your image makes a difference. You can’t show up in a trashy-looking vehicle and expect to get high-end clients.”

Stratas began his business with a lawnmower that had no engine cover that had to be lifted into the back of his vehicle each day. “I’ve come a long way,” he says. “I buy equipment as I can.  It doesn’t have to be brand new, but it’s a long way from where I began.”

To learn more about Landscape Gardening at CFCC, contact Program Director Ken Wells at (910) 612-4447 or at

CFCC Announces Hiring of Dean of Health Sciences

Angela Ballentine

Cape Fear Community College is pleased to announce that Dr. Angela Ballentine has joined its staff as Dean of Health Sciences. Ballentine most recently served as Vice President of Academic Affairs at Vance-Granville Community College in Henderson, NC.

Ballentine is originally from Eden, North Carolina. She attended Greensboro College for her undergraduate degree and later became certified in Radiographic Technology through the Radiologic Technology Department at Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro.

Ballentine began her career as a radiographer, specializing in mammography. She worked as a mammography specialist in Houston, Texas before beginning her career in higher education at Vance-Granville. While working at Vance-Granville, Ballentine earned both a Master’s of Education degree and a Doctor of Higher Education at North Carolina State University.

“Dr. Ballentine brings a wealth of experience to Cape Fear Community College – both as a healthcare professional and as a community college leader,” said Melissa Singler, CFCC’s Vice President for Academic Affairs and Workforce Development. “We feel very fortunate to have her on board, and we look forward to working with Dr. Ballentine as we continue to expand and enhance our highly-demanded health science programs.”

“I am excited and humbled to join the Cape Fear Community College family,” said Ballentine “This is an environment where student success is paramount, and our students are both highly-motivated and service-oriented. The health science disciplines require real teamwork, and I can already see that our faculty and staff truly rally around our students to make sure that everyone is successful.”

Cape Fear Community College’s Health Science programs include Associate Degree Nursing (RN), Dental Assisting, Dental Hygiene, Cardiovascular Sonography, Early Childhood Education, Medical Sonography, Nurse Aide, Occupational Therapy Assistant, Pharmacy Technology, Phlebotomy, Practical Nursing (PN), Radiography, and Surgical Technology. For more information about the Health Science programs offered at Cape Fear Community College, visit

CFCC Culinary Instructor Participates in Chinese Gourmet Expo in JiNan, China

Chef Gwen at Chinese Food Expo

Cape Fear Community College Chef Gwen Gulliksen was one of four chefs selected by the Traveling American Chefs to attend and participate in an all-expense-paid Chinese food conference, the 18th Chinese Food Festival & International Gourmet Expo 2017. The Expo was sponsored by the China Hotel Association, the JiNan Government, and the International Hotel & Restaurant Association.

Gulliksen attended the Chinese Food Festival & International Gourmet Expo from September 15 to 17th, where she worked alongside famous chef masters and chef educators to share and showcase cooking skills and food culture.

Gulliksen’s primary responsibility was to represent authentic American holiday food by preparing food for display in individual regional demonstrations on stage and sampling. Gulliksen prepared 100 warm biscuits with honey butter. “At first no one would touch them,” Gulliksen said. “Everyone was standing around looking. Then one person tried one and they were gone within two minutes!”

Gulliksen organized and conducted an Authentic American Cuisine Class exclusively for the top Chinese hotel chefs to teach them how to create and authenticate American holiday food. Her individual demonstration was to create an Authentic American Southern Easter Brunch. Gulliksen prepared Smithfield ham, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, biscuits with honey butter, and robin-egg blue dyed Easter eggs. “They just could not get over the Easter eggs,” she said.

The conference inspired Gulliksen to perfect and master cooking dumplings; she has plans to teach a dumpling class in the near future and to continue sharing the knowledge she gained in China with her students moving forward.

For upcoming culinary classes taught by Chef Gwen Gulliksen, visit

Landfall Foundation Grant Supports CFCC Student Veterans

Wilmington, NC – With a donation of $3,102, the Landfall Foundation sponsored an initiative to purchase laptop computers for use by student veterans at Cape Fear Community College. CFCC’s Veterans Affairs Center was established three years ago to support the degree and program completion requirements of all military-affiliated students and student veterans. The funds received from the Landfall Foundation will allow CFCC’s student veterans to complete curriculum coursework on laptop computers in the Veterans Center. The convenience of working among their peers helps student veterans to feel more comfortable studying and completing their academic assignments.

Over the last five years, more than 700 student veterans have either graduated or completed a certificate program at CFCC. In fact, the college enrolls well over 700 student veterans each semester. CFCC’s Veterans Center provides resources to help ease veterans’ transition to college and enhance their educational experiences.

Sustainability Awareness Week 2017

Sustainability Awareness Week 2017

March 20-24th, 2017

Sustainability Awareness Week is a week long celebration of all things sustainable hosted by CFCC Sustainability committee. The week’s activities are designed to engage and educate the college community about sustainability. Events include lectures, demonstrations, workshops, presentations, documentary films, a sustainability fair, and a pop up farmer’s market.

Monday, March 20th

*RESCHEDULED FOR MARCH 24: Workshop: Build your Own Compost Bin – Karly Dahlin, Schwartz Center Courtyard — Pre-Registration required:

Lecture: Wind Power Science and Industry Basics – John Wojciechowski
4:30-5:45 PM — Union Station — U-153

Tuesday, March 21st

Meeting: ECO
3:00-4:00 PM — Union Station Lobby

Wednesday, March 22nd

Lecture: Solar Power for Homeowners with Cape Fear Solar Systems 
12:00-1:30 PM — Union Station — Room U-529

Tour: Electric Vehicle Charging Station – John Wojciechowski and David Kanoy

Meet at room NB 141
2:00-2:30 PM — North Campus

Thursday, March 23rd

Open House: Tiny House with Sustainability Technologies students 
Drop in to see the house and the 3 projects that have been done to improve it: sustainable interior, high-performance cladding systems, and solar photovoltaic array.
11:00 AM-12:00 PM — North Campus — Carpentry program parking lot

Documentary: “Bringing it Home: Industrial Hemp, Healthy Houses and a Greener Future for America”

This documentary tells the story of hemp: past, present and future and a global industry that includes textiles, building materials, food products, bio-plastics, auto parts and more.
Documentary screening and discussion
12:00-1:30 PM — Union Station Auditorium

Friday, March 24th

Workshop: Build your Own Compost Bin – Karly Dahlin
Noon – 1pm — Schwartz Center Courtyard — Pre-Registration required:

Sustainability Fair

  • Seed swap
  • Plant sale (Laura Moore)
  • BYO-Tshirt tie dye workshop

Possibly Featuring:

  • Bike workshop
  • Solar demonstration
  • Full Belly Project
  • Cape Fear Riverwatch
  • Legacy Arch. Salvage
  • Food Truck
  • The Produce Box

10:00 AM-2:00 PM — Schwartz Center Courtyard

Farmers Market

2:00-6:00 PM — Schwartz Center Courtyard