Children inspire single mom to go after dreams

Daphnie Donnell. (Carla Kucinski/GTCC)

Daphnie Donnell. (Carla Kucinski/GTCC)

By Jana Carver

Daphnie Donnell is a single mom who knows what she wants and is going after it.

Donnell originally put off going to college because she didn’t want to miss out on caring for her son. Once her daughter was born, however, Donnell knew she needed a career in order to support her family.  The idea of being mom, breadwinner and student was daunting at first, but she has not let uncertainty stop her.

“I waited years to get my education,” said Donnell, 41, and mother of two.

Six years ago, Donnell transferred from Guilford College to Guilford Technical Community College to study computer technology integration with a web emphasis. Donnell discovered her passion when she decided to start a blog after going through a divorce, hoping that blogging would be cathartic. She sought out the help of a friend with a web design business to help her create a WordPress site, and she was hooked.

“I was amazed at what went behind the scenes of a website,” Donnell said. “Before that point, I knew nothing about coding or building a website.”

It was in that moment that she realized web design was something she could turn into a career. She turned to GTCC to help her gain the skills and knowledge to make it happen.

“I chose GTCC because it was less expensive than a four-year school,” Donnell said.

But GTCC was not exactly what she expected.

“I left Guilford College thinking community college courses would be easier; that was not the case,” she said. “I stress at the beginning of each semester and always do well in the end. I work hard to keep my grades high. I study almost every day.”

The reward has been worth her effort. Donnell has made the Dean’s List for most of her time at GTCC and is a North Carolina STEM Alliance Fellow, a grant program that provides students with tutoring, mentoring and financial assistance to navigate STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) career pathways.

Launched in 2015, the STEM Alliance is a partnership between Central Piedmont Community College, Davidson County Community College and GTCC to increase the number of underrepresented minority students who transfer to university STEM programs. Through the program, Donnell was able to apply for the $2,500 NASA/NC Space Grant Community College STEM Scholarship and learned right before Christmas that she was the recipient.

“Being a member of the North Carolina STEM Alliance has changed the way I think about my education and career goals,” Donnell said. “Now I understand what I can accomplish with a higher education.”

Donnell’s family is a huge source of her motivation, particularly her 25-year-old son.

“He always comes over to help me around the house and make me laugh,” she said.

Meanwhile, Donnell’s nine-year-old daughter wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

“She wants to make websites like me — on top of being a princess,” Donnell laughed.

Donnell says her family is very proud of her accomplishments and that it’s the love she has for her family that inspires her.

“There is nothing easy about juggling work, school and family,” she said. “I get tired, but quitting is not an option at this point. My children see what I do. I want them to understand the importance of hard work and education.”

In the fall, Donnell will be transferring to North Carolina A&T State University to study information technology.


 March 18, 2016