HAMLET — As long as he can remember, 19-year-old Brandon Swallow has dreamed of building machines that would make life easier for people. In fact, at age 8, he used his K’NEX Classic Construction building set to build a robotic arm to pick up toys and a crossbow to defend his fort. By age 9, he was building motorized cars and windmills.
Swallow is now on the path of taking his natural engineering skills to N.C. State University to get a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. An Early College student at Richmond Community College, Swallow is the first RichmondCC student to be accepted into the co-admission program with N.C. State called Community College Collaboration.
The C3 Pathway
C3 is a dual-admission, dual-enrollment program that provides guaranteed admission for eligible RichmondCC students to N.C. State.
“This co-admission plan gets me accepted at N.C. State and gives me the tools to prepare for admission into the Mechanical Engineering program, one of N.C. State’s more competitive programs,” Swallow said. “I also get advice about financial aid eligibility and how to keep student debt low at N.C. State.”
When Swallow’s mother read about the C3 program in the newspaper, she and Swallow immediately began working on his application because attending N.C. State had been Swallow’s goal for several years. Not only is it known for its excellent engineering programs, but NC State also has an excellent disability resource office.
Disabled But Not Disheartened
Swallow was born with optic nerve hypoplasia, strabismus, and systagmus. He also has cerebral palsy and was recently diagnosed with scoliosis. He navigates the world with an eSight device and a cane.
“In a nutshell, I have low vision, and I walk funny,” Swallow said. “However, that does not define me. I am motivated to succeed in life despite whatever challenges come my way because my purpose is to live life to the fullest.”
Swallow wants to make this possible for others who have disabilities.
“I have this profound sense of purpose and desire to put my problem-solving skills to better our world, especially those who function at a disadvantage,” Swallow said.
He already has a research project in mind: develop a computer program that recognizes pictures and articulates what it sees.
“I took a few computer classes at RichmondCC so I could better understand computer languages and how they make things work. By learning how monitors display images, I wondered how a camera operates, so I started studying code on an old camera app,” he said. “The idea is that one day I can apply programs to an external device so the blind and those with low vision, like me, can ‘see’ pictures.”
A Place to Grow
Swallow was accepted into the REaCH program at RichmondCC in 2017.
“I always knew I wanted to be a part of RichmondCC because most of my family on my mom’s side graduated from RichmondCC and then moved on to a four-year college,” Swallow said. “RichmondCC has been the foundation for my family’s education and livelihood. I wanted it to be my experience, too.”
REaCH has helped Swallow mature and grow from being a middle school student to a college student in a close-knit environment. While the classes have been challenging, Swallow has received a lot of support.
“Everyone seems to be more focused and goal-oriented at REaCH. There is a sense of peace and calm in the air, and there are fewer distractions by things that people my age have,” Swallow said.
Swallow will graduate from RichmondCC in 2022 with an Associate in Engineering degree, which is designed to provide all the prerequisite courses such as Calculus I, II and III and General Physics I and II needed to transfer into a Bachelor of Engineering program at a four-year college or university.
Focused on Succeeding
Swallow does have concerns about his future because of high unemployment rates for persons with disabilities.
“I worry about what lies ahead for me if people don’t see who I am beyond my disabilities,” Swallow said. “My parents are my most prominent advocates. They have this passion for lifelong learning and determination to grow and do well in life. They always tell me that my disability is no excuse for me not to succeed in life.”
For now, Swallow said he plans to focus on graduating from RichmondCC and getting his engineering degree from his dream school, N.C. State, thanks to the C3 program.
“I have to do my part, and I know God will take care of the rest,” Swallow said.
For More Information
To learn more about the C3 co-admission program with N.C. State, contact Dr. Mirian Watts at 910-410-1823 or email@example.com. Visit our Career & Transfer Center online at www.richmondcc.edu.
Dr. Dale McInnis, president of Richmond Community College, congratulates Brandon Swallow on being the first student from RichmondCC to be accepted into the C3 co-admission program with N.C .State University.