Pierre sitting on a bench in the Prestonsburg Campus lawn.

From the island nation of Haiti to the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

Culture shock? Perhaps.

For Hantz Jerry Pierre, the mountains of eastern Kentucky and the warmth of a caring community wrapped its arms around him and helped guide him to a college degree.

Pierre, 25, graduated from Big Sandy Community and Technical College in 2011 with an Associate in Arts degree. He transferred to UVA-Wise and completed a bachelors degree in Business Administration in 2013.

It was and still is a remarkable journey, said Pierre

His path to BSCTC started in 2009 when a group of missionaries from the Allen and Fitzpatrick Baptist churches were working in Pierres hometown of Ouanaminthe in northern Haiti. The church worked out an agreement to bring Pierre and Emmanuel Joseph back to the United States to pursue a college education.

The goal was to provide an opportunity for Jerry and Emmanuel to get a college education and to go back home and use their education as a tool to work and inspire others, said Clayton Case, director of Fine Arts at BSCTC.

Pierre and Case, who is also a local minister and missionary, lived together for a while. Clayton was fine, but he didnt like when you drank his Pepsi, Pierre said with a laugh.

BSCTC felt like home to Pierre. He remembers instructors like David Profitt who nurtured him through the transition of going to college and being immersed into a new culture.

I was able to take a deep breath and let the people here help me take each step forward, said Pierre. The encouragement and support made all the difference.

Pierre now makes a difference in the lives of students at his former school in Haiti. I can tell them that the dream of a college education is within reach, he said. I was fortunate to benefit from the generosity of so many people that wanted me to become successful.

On the day Pierre visited campus, Dr. George D. Edwards, president emeritus of BSCTC and the interim chancellor of BSCTC, was visiting campus.

Do you remember me? Pierre asked.

I sure do, said Dr. Edwards.

Pierre participated in the Honors Program, allowing him to attend BSCTC tuition free. He volunteered with the colleges Big Sandy Idol program.

I remember seeing the excitement in the schools about Big Sandy Idol and education in general, he said. I hope to bring that level of excitement to the students I work with.

What does the future hold?

Im not sure, but I have an education to build upon, said Pierre.