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Women in Public Service and Government Honored during Annual WHM Program at PCC

Paula Dance, Sara Beth Fulford Rhodes and Wendy Hazelton, left to right, were the featured speakers at this year's Women's History Month program at PCC.


WINTERVILLE—A trio of public servants shared their personal and professional stories and offered advice for success Wednesday as part of Pitt Community College’s annual Women’s History Month celebration.

The program, titled “Working to Form a More Perfect Union,” honored women in public service and government. As such, it featured Major Paula Dance with the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office, Pitt County Clerk of Superior Court Sara Beth Fulford Rhodes, and Assistant Public Defender Wendy Hazelton.

A Martin County native, Dance has risen through the ranks of law enforcement to become third-in-command with the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office. Many times, she’s been the first black female to achieve various feats during her career.

“I’m Paula Dance, and I break glass ceilings,” she said in reference to her ability to surpass workplace barriers.

Dance said the key to her success has been integrity, which she described as doing the right thing when it appears no one is watching.

For Rhodes, it was someone watching her work as an attorney that ultimately led to her current position. She explained that in 2007, Superior Court Judge Russell Duke Jr. selected her to fill the unexpired term of former clerk Eleanor Farr, after he had taken notice of her professionalism in the courtroom.

Rhodes, who said she knew she wanted to pursue a career as an attorney at age 11, says serving as Clerk of Superior Court is “the best job I never knew I wanted.” As clerk, the Pitt County native says she is responsible for making decisions every day that affect people’s lives and adds that her years of public service have been “very rewarding.”

Rhodes’ advice for success included finding a passion, following gut instincts, embracing change, doing the best job possible, and balancing life with regard to work, family and faith.

Originally from Bertie County, Hazelton said she knew early on that career options in her hometown were limited but that she wanted more for herself. As the thirteenth of 15 children, she said she wanted to inspire her younger siblings by earning a law degree and demonstrating to them that they, too, can control their destinies.

Hazelton credits the mysterious death of her older brother as inspiring her to pursue a law career. She explained that his death was never investigated and that she and her family were never given any answers to whether or not he committed suicide or was killed, leaving her feeling “violated.”

As a public defender in Pitt County, Hazelton says she fights for her clients and works to help them resolve their legal issues with the best possible outcome. She says it is rewarding to make a positive difference in people’s lives and to give back to the community.

Following the panel discussion, PCC administrators presented Sidette Boyce-Brown, director of Health Care Programs for PCC's Continuing Education Division, with the 2016 Woman of Substance Award for outstanding campus and community involvement, attitude of service, commitment and caring, and willingness to 'go the extra mile.'

Those who nominated Boyce-Brown for the award described her as trustworthy, reliable and hardworking and said she has “never met a stranger.” They said she reaches across campus and the community to find support for her students and provides stability and innovation to the programs she manages.

One nominator wrote, “I have seen (Sidette) go out of her way to deposit seeds of hope and mentor students. Having a servant’s heart by nature is something I believe is the foundation of Sidette’s perpetual success as a professional.”

PCC has held a program each March since 2001 to celebrate the achievements of women. The event is sponsored by the college’s Multicultural Activities Committee.