By Bob Dickson
TMC graduate Nicholas Worrell believes in the value of hard work. It’s something that was encouraged in him when he was a political studies student in the early 1990’s, and it’s something he believes will make the difference for the latest crop of Master’s College students preparing to enter a challenging job market.
It certainly did for him.
On Wednesday, Aug. 28, Worrell, who has worked as a safety advocate for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in Washington, D.C. since he graduated in 1995, returned to campus to share his experience with the students of Dr. John Stead’s U.S. Government and Constitutional History classes.
“Twenty years ago I was sitting in your place,” Worrell told the group. “And let me tell you that what you’re doing is worth it. What you do today is going to create your future.”
Worrell would know. His time as a TMC student was critical in shaping his future – a future that began to take shape in the years before he stepped foot on campus.
When he enrolled at Master’s in 1991, Worrell was just a few years removed from his upbringing in Barbados. He was living in New York City with his mom when he heard TMC president, Dr. John MacArthur, preaching a message on the radio.
“I told my mom, ‘I want to go to this college in California,’” he said. “I left New York City with $1,500 in my pocket. I didn’t know anybody, but I came.”
For a young man 3,000 miles from home, the transition wasn’t easy. Worrell didn’t possess the level of proficiency in the English language that his classmates possessed. His scores on standardized tests didn’t stand out.
But he did possess two key ingredients: Desire and faith. He wanted to attend TMC and he believed it was God’s plan for him to attend.
The years that followed would put his faith and his determination to the test. He worked double time in his classes to keep up. He sought extra help from his professors. He worked two and sometimes three campus jobs to make ends meet.
“I never saw a student work as hard as Nick did,” Stead said. “He had to overcome a lot of challenges, but he never gave up.”
Worrell credits the mentorship of his professors – especially Dr. Stead – with helping him stay the course.
“When I got to the college, I was a terrible writer,” he said. “So I sought help and there were people willing to help me. Dr. Stead showed me the way to get to the next step. I sat many times in his office, frustrated. I was working so hard to get where I wanted to be and I thought it should have been a little easier for me … Doc always used to say, ‘Nick you can do it.’ He would say, ‘Nick I admire you, the fight that you have.’ Simple encouragement like that helped me keep pushing.”
Two years into his time at TMC, Worrell joined the Marine reserves. The Corps was offering money for college, and Worrell was willing to make whatever sacrifice he needed to make to pursue a TMC education.
“The hardest lesson I learned at Master’s was the value of hard work,” Worrell told the group. “But what made my hard work easier was that The Master’s College taught me to rely on God. That’s so important. Those chapels? Those prayers before class? Those things are building a foundation that will sustain you into the future.”
Worrell graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political studies in 1995. But even before he received his degree, he had been hired by the NTSB.
The opportunity was born out of a semester internship he pursued through the college’s American Studies Program, which allows students to earn semester credits while working for government agencies in the nation’s capitol. It’s the kind of hands-on, real-world experience that TMC students continue to pursue today.
“He didn’t come back for his second semester of his senior year because he was immediately hired,” Stead said. “The NTSB hired him and he’s been working there ever since.”
Through the NTSB, Worrell works on cases involving transportation safety, which incudes air, train and automobile travel. As a safety advocate, he brings the agency’s recommendations before state legislatures.
Currently, he is recommending that the minimum blood alcohol level to be considered impaired while driving be lowered from .08 percent to .05 percent. He’s also recommending a ban on all cell phone operation while driving.
“The five seconds you look away to view a text is a long time,” he said. “People are dying because of it. You can’t do it. You just can’t. As we say at the agency, no call or text is worth a human life.”
In between assignments at the NTSB, Worrell found time to earn a master’s degree in public administration from Howard University and is closing in on a second master’s degree, this one in public relations from George Washington University.
“Dr. Stead always told me, ‘Nick, keep going. Keep learning … life is a constant learning process,’” Worrell said.
It isn’t easy to commit to being a lifelong learner, Worrell admits. But he’s never been afraid of hard work. He recognized its value a long time ago.
“The hard work made me a better person, a better employee,” he said of his time at TMC. “When the hard work comes up at my agency, I’m not afraid to do it. That’s why I tell these kids now that you have to go the extra mile with what you are doing. In four years they’re going to be out there … the college is showing them how to make God the foundation, and that’s going to help them in their employment life. It’s going to help their marriages. It’s going to make the difference with their friendships. If you keep that foundation the hard work will become easier because you know why you’re doing it.”