Daniela Jimenez-Leon

Piedmont Technical College

"It doesn't matter where you start, just start. You can start small or you can start big, but really starting is the hardest part."

My name is Daniela. I started dual enrollment in high school in 2016. After getting my CNA and realizing that nursing wasn’t for me, I took a gap year to figure things out. I’m picky about my career because I realize it is something I’ll do for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to jump into a program and then lose interest. I wanted to do something I could stick with. I started working and volunteering, and eventually that sparked an interest in dental hygiene.

There aren’t many schools for dental hygiene in South Carolina, just one in Charleston and one in Columbia. I didn’t want to travel an hour to Columbia, and I didn’t want to move to Charleston yet. Piedmont was really close, and I realized that I could take my prerequisites here which would save me time and money. 

My parents have four kids. I’m the only one who wasn’t born here and I have a special pass from the government called DACA. My other siblings could get scholarships to pay for school, but because of my DACA status, I wasn’t able to get scholarships with citizenship requirements. My parents place a lot of importance on education. They didn’t want me ending up unhappy in my career choice, and they understand that college is something that will open doors for me. 


What had you heard about technical college prior to going there yourself? 

I heard that people didn’t want to go to technical college because there aren’t any dorms and they wouldn’t be able to get away from home. At Piedmont, there are a lot of places students can go: a student center, a library, outdoor spaces. I’m doing this semester online, but before COVID-19 I spent a lot of time in the library, which is where I met one of my really good friends, Dale. We both spent a lot of time in the library studying and academically supporting each other.


What made technical college the right choice for you? 

Affordability, location and classroom size. I’ve always felt really close to my teachers, and they’ve always supported me and pushed me. 


What obstacles have you had to overcome on your journey? 

Being the first to attend college and also the oldest child in my family, I didn’t really have much direction. I wasn’t sure what to do or when to do it. I wasn’t sure when to apply for scholarships or schools. I had a lot of help from the admissions staff here at Piedmont. 


How has Piedmont Tech given you the support to succeed as a first-generation college student?

All of my teachers introduced us to new resources in the college, which is how I got interested in applying for the PTC Foundation Scholarship. Getting accepted started opening a lot of doors. That’s how I joined the Presidential Ambassador program, as well.


How has your journey impacted your younger siblings? 

They’re really proud of me. My younger sister wants to get into criminal investigation, but she wasn’t sure where to start. I suggested Piedmont. My high school is actually pitching the idea of paying for her first two years of college. They do it for all seniors so that they can have a chance to get at least a couple years of education. I think she’s going to do it, so I think I’ve influenced her there. 


What would you like to tell other people on their journey? 

It doesn’t matter where you start, just start. You can start small or you can start big, but really starting is the hardest part.