March 11, 2014


Jessie Gamez, Community College Graduate, in the Spotlight: Attributes Much of His Success to Attending NACC

Success is something that is very familiar to community college graduate, Jessie Gamez, but his success was not achieved without a few obstacles and a lot of help along the way.

After high school, Gamez chose to enroll at Northeast Alabama Community College because his friends spoke so very highly of the school.

“It helped my decision when I was awarded an academic scholarship for one quarter and was told if I made good grades it would continue,” said Gamez.

His high school counselor Pam Gann also influenced him to attend Northeast and helped him complete scholarship and admission applications.

“At one time I didn't think I was going to go to college after high school,” explained Gamez. “My plans were to graduate and continue to work at Storey Farms. But many other people played a big role in my decision to attend college.”

Jessie Gamez

When he walked onto the campus of Northeast, he knew his future was about to change.

Gamez found Northeast to be an easy transition from high school.

“I met so many people who helped me get around school and who helped me tremendously,” he explained. “Mrs. Debra Barrentine, at the time Assistant to the President, was very helpful with the many questions I had. She introduced me to the College President (then Dr. Charles Pendley). He and I carried a great relationship until I graduated in the spring.”

Gamez was awarded a Presidential Transfer Scholarship to Jacksonville State University following his graduation from NACC.

“Jessie was one of those students who came to our office and immediately we knew he was going to be successful,” said Barrentine. “He was one of the most motivated individuals I had met during my years at Northeast. Helping Jessie was easy because we knew that he was going to succeed at whatever he decided to do in life. He was and continues to be an inspiration to us all. We are so proud of him and his accomplishments.”

Gamez stays in touch with friends he made while at Northeast. He credits so many of his instructors who helped him and showed him how to develop good studying habits.

After Northeast, Gamez transferred on to Jacksonville State University. While a student at JSU, he worked in the print shop for almost two years and graduated in the spring of 2000.

“My time at JSU was spent studying and working at the farm back in Henagar. I pretty much didn't spend time going to football, basketball or other type of activities because I had to work. If I didn't work, I would not get money. But I was always interested in coaching sports at some point.”

He graduated with a physical education degree with a minor in Spanish. Since then, he has gone back to JSU and obtained a master’s in administration degree in education. He has also obtained an educational specialist degree in administration from Lincoln Memorial University in Knoxville, Tennessee. “I guess I am well educated but still eager to learn something new. I believe no matter who you are you can learn something new every day.”

His first job was with the DeKalb County School System. He worked at Geraldine High School and Plainview High School splitting time between both schools. “I still remember my first day in the classroom at Geraldine,” said Gamez. “The students were so nice and excited to learn but I remember how nervous I was. I stay in contact with several of them.”

The next year Gamez got a job with the Fort Payne City School System where he remains. He said, “When I first came to Fort Payne I taught English as a Second Language (ESL) at both the middle school and high school for four years. It was a challenge because I was teaching students who didn't speak any English. Three sisters come to mind who I taught because they were so eager to learn. They didn't speak any English and they were lost. Today these three sisters have a high school diploma, have graduated from Northeast, and are registered nurses. I am very proud of them as well as many of my students.”

Gamez has taught Spanish at Fort Payne for almost nine years. He finds it to be a challenge but feels blessed to have taught and been part of so many kids’ lives in Fort Payne, Rainsville and Geraldine. “Some of these students when I see them, they thank me for what I taught them and instilled in their lives. I am also grateful and proud when they greet me with a hug. I could name them but the list would be too long.”

Gamez also coaches at Fort Payne and has been a coach since his first job in DeKalb County. He helped Coach Dale Pruitt at Plainview and then later at Fort Payne. He has helped coach the Junior High teams since the fall of 2001 and has also been the School Sponsor for the Fort Payne Varsity and JV soccer teams since 2003. “I enjoy being around kids and sports; it was my lifelong dream to coach,” he said. “I call it my hobby because that is something I have loved ever since I can remember.”

He also loves Alabama football and usually attends a few games in the fall. “I also love working high school camps at the University during the summer,” he added. “I am blessed to have had the opportunity to do that during the past 8 summers.”

To have graduated from college means a lot to Gamez. He comes from a family of ten with mom and dad. “In my family there are six boys and two girls. I am the fourth in the family.” He was the second child to graduate from high school and first to go to college and graduate. He has one sister who also graduated from college. “It was hard going to school,” he stated. “I received lots of help and much prayers were answered. I struggled a lot because of my English. I believe with my college degree I am better off than some of my family members. If I had never gone to college, I would still be working on the farm. I probably would have not experienced many things or done things I have done. I would probably not have the opportunity of making relationships with the people I know now. I would not be able to help my parents out like I am doing now. There are lots of things I can say why college was important to me.”

“I don't have children of my own but I feel that I do,” he said. “Every August I look forward to school starting because I know I am going to have a set of kids that I can call mine for a time.”

Gamez offered the following advice to anyone who is considering college: “You can only get to wherever you want to be. There will be obstacles to climb and to jump at school but you’re the only one who can control that.”

“I just want to thank the many people who made a difference in my life,” Gamez added. “I want to thank Northeast and all the people who helped me get to where I am right now in my life--people who believed in me and never gave up. I want to thank students, past, present and hopefully future. Through this journey I have gained, lost, and made wonderful friends.”

Dr. David Campbell, current NACC President stated, "Jessie is an outstanding representative of Northeast. As always, we are very pleased to see one of our former students having such a positive impact in our community."

Gamez resides in Fort Payne. He attends Rainsville First Baptist Church and enjoys being a member and attending mission trips. He has been going on mission trips since 2002 and has been to New York City, New Orleans, and Mobile. “Without God I would not be where I am right now. I try my best to live for The Lord,” he said. “I am not perfect but I try to be an example for others.”

For more information about Northeast and its many programs and offerings, go to or download the college’s free App at the Apple App Store or by going to

Article written by Debra A. Barrentine, Director of Promotions and Marketing at NACC. Photo submitted by Jessie Gamez.