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Chris Harrison Named 2021 Academic Excellence Award Winner

March 19, 2021

Reality hit Christopher "Chris" Harrison at a young age. His mother left home when he was four and his brother was two. When he turned fifteen, his dad disappeared, leaving he and his younger brother to fend for themselves. As Harrison puts it, "My grandparents helped as much as they could, but it was up to me to keep my brother and I going."

With so much responsibility at such a young age, the Bear Grass resident had to quit High School and get to work. He earned his GED with high test scores and immediately joined the work force. Over the years, Harrison has worked for the public works departments in both Williamston and Martin County, for the prison in Windsor, Lowes, and is currently working for the AMC Theater in Greenville as a facilities manager.

His broad work experience taught Harrison that he was very skilled with his hands but conversely, his lack of academic credentials taught him that he was an easy target for lay-offs and often overlooked for promotions.

When he was nineteen, Harrison enrolled in MCC's liberal arts program but as he puts it, "I was living a colorful existence and soon discovered that I could not stay focused on my studies." He left MCC after two unimpressive semesters, and although he had a great SAT score, he could not find the time or financial resources to attend a university. Harrison found himself relegated to an existence dependent on low-paying jobs.

Fast forward to a wife, four children, and getting laid off from Lowes in 2017. Harrison instinctively knew that if he could get laid off after 10 years of hard work and dedication, it was time to go back to school and earn some "job-supportive" credentials. His wife agreed, and in the Spring of 2020, at the age of 42, Harrison returned to MCC in pursuit of an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Electrical Systems Technology (EST). Harrison knew that he wanted to continue working with his hands, and as he put it, "The trades are where it is right now."

His instructor, Dwayne Evans, noted in his nomination of Harrison for the AE Award, "Chris has a work ethic that is an example to any student. Chris is a father, husband, full-time employee (at AMC) in facilities maintenance, and a full-time student. As an older student, he sets a great example for the younger students in the class. Chris is always punctual, polite, attentive in class, and a dedicated student to his academic career. He strives for and expects a 4.0 from himself - even with his busy life and commitments."

When asked why he chose to return to MCC Harrison stated, "Initially, I chose MCC because it's so convenient and affordable. But now that Mr. Evans has joined the faculty, I just don't think I could find a better education in electrical systems anywhere in the state. Mr. Evans' experience in the field of electronics is amazing."

Harrison adds, "If I stay the course, I should be able to graduate in Spring of 2022. It takes a little longer when you're working full time, but so far, thanks to online classes, I've managed to maintain full time status every semester. I am learning so much, I may even decide to stay on to get just a few more classes. My main goal is to leave my children more than what my father left me, which was funeral debt when he died from COVID-19 in 2020."

Harrison's family is also a great testimonial to the Community College system. His oldest son, Daniel Bullock, recently graduated from MCC's Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) program and his second oldest son is an accounting student at Pitt Community College.

When asked about the advice he offers younger students and to others considering the pursuit of a college degree, Harrison states, "My philosophy comes from my future versus my hindsight, get your education while you can, because life happens."

One student from each of the 58 community colleges received Academic Excellence Awards (AEA). AEA selection requirements are consistent with Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society criteria. Students: Must be currently enrolled, must have completed at least 12 semester hours in an associate degree program, and must have a cumulative grade point average of no less than 3.25. Each student receives a plaque and medallion in honor of their academic accomplishments.