MCCC Student Rodney Hargis Receives $5,000 Technology Award
in National Contest


WEST WINDSOR, N.J. -- A Mercer County Community College student is one of three winners of the 2008 Terry O'Banion Student Technology Champion award, sponsored by the League for Innovation in the Community College and Microsoft Corporation. Rodney Hargis of Hamilton received $5,000 in the national competition, plus a variety of software products from Microsoft.

A non-traditional student who has overcome significant challenges on his way to achievement, Hargis was nominated for the award by Associate Professor Debbie Kell, who also directs MCCC's Virtual College, where Hargis has been a student worker since May 2007. Kell says his work has proven invaluable.

Rodney Hargis, right, a Mercer County Community College student, has won the national Terry O'Banion Student Technology Award. He is pictured with Associate Professor Debbie Kell, director of MCCC's Virtual College.

"Rodney has been a pivotal player during a transition in learning management systems. He has developed and delivered faculty training and has excelled academically. An articulate, well-organized and witty speaker and trainer, Hargis is often asked for by name by faculty members seeking assistance."

After two semesters at Mercer, Hargis has completed 28 credits, is on the President's List, has a GPA of 3.86 and has received an achievement award from the Business Division. His work with "The Virtual College" has included producing narrated video screen captures for training purposes, assisting with the college's online resource center, creating style sheets and showcasing services. As a result of a faculty recommendation, Hargis now works as a consultant for a local solar energy company, streamlining its code and developing its web presence.

Born and raised in rural North Carolina, Hargis' first exposure to computers came in high school, where he learned BASIC and Pascal programming. While poverty prevented him from pursuing higher education, he found employment at a micrographics lab, where he learned to write software applications and gained skills in programming, networking and web design.

A series of personal tragedies derailed Hargis' professional progress, leaving him destitute. In 2001 he was homeless, suffering from drug addiction and mental illness. For the next three years, Hargis unsuccessfully battled his demons, spending time in jail and in psychiatric hospitals. In 2004 he began the long journey back to health, dreaming of one day returning to school and getting the degree which eluded him. With the help of financial aid programs, Hargis finally returned to college, entering MCCC in Spring 2007, 19 years after graduating from high school. "In the two semesters since his return," says Kell, "he has demonstrated a passion for learning, a hunger to succeed, superior technical skills and a gift for helping others.

Upon graduation from Mercer, Hargis hopes to attend Drexel University to earn a Computer Science degree.

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