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Commitment to minority students earns Carter National Black Engineer Award

Published Feb. 14, 2007

“It’s amazing to see the advancements by students.  Their self esteem can improve by somebody saying, ‘Hey, I care about you.  Why don’t you go to college?’ It gives me a great feeling when I can help a student achieve a responsible goal.” 

   Tony Carter knows the value of a good education.  The son of a sharecropper with only a seventh-grade education and a mother who was only able to finish the 10th grade, he gained an appreciation for hard work at an early age weeding cucumber patches from sunup to sundown.  His grandmother encouraged his education, giving him a quarter for every A on his report card. 

   “Once the desire to make A’s was instilled, the quarters didn’t weigh as much as the grades and I continued to strive for all A’s through high school,” he recalled. 

   With a solid foundation in his formative years, Carter headed to college and received a scholarship at North Carolina A&T University majoring in architectural engineering.  After graduation, he was offered five different jobs and in 1978 chose the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Not forgetting his roots and passion for learning and helping others, he was encouraged by Wilmington District EEO counselors to recruit minority engineers.  Today, he heads ROCAME, the Region O Council for the Advancement of Minorities in Engineering.  His selfless service to the organization earned him the Black Engineer of the Year Award for Affirmative Action in Government. 

   “ROCAME is really taking off.  One of the major employers in Wilmington is hiring an engineer a day, and they anticipate hiring a few engineers a day next year,” he said.  “With that kind of activity in the private sector there’s a big push to get more engineers into schools and graduate them to fill jobs.  ROCAME is playing a great role in that by getting more kids interested in engineering and getting them into and graduating from college.”

   Carter said ROCAME members work with students who show an aptitude for science and math.  To get them into college they’ve organized scholarships and volunteer as mentors. 

   “But mainly we just want to introduce kids to the world of engineering and let them know that a lot of their world is based on engineering.  The kids who are interested in engineering are the ones that usually get hired first out of college.”

   Carter feels potential minority engineering students need a push from ROCAME as well as from leaders in their communities.  Growing up he didn’t have that luxury.  

   “I was fortunate to get things to fall into place without any guidance.  I can provide guidance.  There’s no telling what these students can do.  Students today, by the time they’re in middle school they’ve already been encouraged to go into fields like engineering.  And an engineer is very respected in the community.  As an engineer you can help better your world.  You can create things that make life better.”