Overcoming Obstacles on the Road to Success
When Jason Solomon imagined what he would be when he grew up, "homeless" was never part of his vision. But that's what he faced after clinical depression robbed him of his ability to work and culminated in eviction from his home. The world as he knew it was ending, and he had no clue as to how he might begin picking up the pieces. His only immediate option was to find a local shelter, but, miraculously, the kindness of a stranger intervened. En route to the shelter, he passed a gentleman on the street and they greeted one another. In no hurry to reach his destination, Jason was happy to chat. This providential conversation led to the kind stranger offering Jason lodging in one of his properties and, ultimately, a job.
While things were looking up for Jason, he knew a college degree was essential for career mobility. Unfortunately, Jason grew up in what he describes as an underrepresented and underprivileged neighborhood, and he was concerned about his college preparedness. Thanks, however, to daily and persistent encouragement from a well-meaning coworker, Jason eventually applied to UNC Charlotte and was accepted.
Jason thrived at UNC Charlotte and was working toward a BS in mechanical engineering, when his mother died. He had desperately wanted to show her that her hard work as a single parent was finally going to pay off. Overwhelmed with grief, he continued attending class but stopped studying, merely going through the motions.
At age 35, Jason was older than most college students, but his classmates treated him like any other student. They cared about him, believed in him, and pushed him to grow. Thanks in large part to the encouragement and friendship of his UNC Charlotte family, Jason persisted. Even though his mom wasn't there to share in his success, he realized that she would still be proud of her baby boy.
Jason graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in December of 2019 and began his journey in UNC Charlotte's Mechanical Engineering Master's Program in 2020. He studies molecular hydrodynamics and hypersonic fluid mechanics. Recently, he led a five-person senior design team to build a compact hypersonic wind tunnel, which will be the focus of his master's thesis. Jason serves as the president of the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering and is a member of the National Society for Black Engineers and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Jason's education has been made possible thanks to the James William Kirk Scholarship for nontraditional students, awarded through the Office of Adult Students and Evening Services (OASES). The scholarship was established by Kim Kirk Steffan, Esq. in honor of her late father, a nontraditional student who earned his degree from UNC Charlotte at age 56.
At a scholarship luncheon celebrating OASES' 25th year, Jason shared the following advice with fellow OASES students:
Jason's presentation included heartfelt thanks to the Kirk family: "The scholarship in Mr. Kirk's memory…helps motivate me to continue to sharpen the core of my character and keep fighting for success." Jason says he hopes to one day give back with a Jason Miguel Solomon scholarship.
*Thank you note from Jason
"Thank you for providing the outstanding opportunity to be associated with your legacy. Without support from donors like you, many of us could not reach the academic success that we know we are capable of. I hope to continue to be a great representative of UNC Charlotte for years to come. Thank you."