Paula Parrish truly believes Johnston Community College is a life-changing experience.

“I tell my students that we’ve all come from somewhere, we all have a story, and taking the step to come to college can change your life for the better,” the office administration instructor said. “I know it did mine.”

A Wilson native, Parrish enrolled in the information systems programming degree program in 1997. Tired of working in manufacturing, Parrish said she decided it was time to make a change and better her future.

As a student, she worked in a computer lab on main campus and got the opportunity to teach a networking class. “That’s when I feel in love with teaching,” she said.

After Parrish graduated, she became a coordinator in the continuing education division. She later went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in business and organizational development from Mount Olive. In 2006, she was named director of computer applications in continuing education, a job that involved managing business and industry and computer courses at the college’s main campus and off-campus computer labs. In 2011, Parrish took on a new challenge of teaching office administration.

Because of her dedication to her students, Parrish was named JCC’s Earl and Dot Helms Excellence in Teaching recipient in 2018.

She said she gets to know each of her students so she can guide and encourage them individually.

“I try to figure out their strengths as well as things they struggle with,” Parrish said. “So many students think they can’t do this, so the biggest reward is to see the students push through, complete their goals and succeed,” Parrish said.

In her combined 20 years as a student and instructor at JCC, Parrish said she’s witnessed progress and growth.

“The college has grown tremendously,” she said. “There are so many good changes, diversity in employees, number of buildings, physical size of campus has grown, and technology has improved too,” she said.

From advising her students before they register for classes to serving as advisor of the college’s National Technical Honor Society, Parrish says the role of advisor is important to a student’s success.

“I tell them you have to work hard, but you are not alone,” she said. We’re here to help them succeed.”