The story of Charles Rose’s journey from his childhood home in the Bahamas to graduating as an engineer from UNC Charlotte is one of perseverance, faith and family. And it has a happy ending.
A civil engineering senior, Rose was encouraged by his mother to leave his small island and explore the rest of the world. “When I was young, my Mom put a map of the whole world on the table before me and my sister,” Rose said. “She said ‘Find the Bahamas.’ When we did, we saw how small it was and realized there is a whole world out there.”
With his mother’s inspiration to reach beyond the Bahamas, Rose set his sights on excelling academically, so he could one day attend college in the United States
“Growing up I always took my school assignments seriously, with the goal of going to college,” he said. “I loved math and science. I also like creating things, and was always designing and making models of buildings and even an entire shopping mall. At first I thought I would like to be an architect. A friend encouraged me to look into civil engineering. I was able to do some job shadowing with a professional engineer and I really liked it. So I decided that would be my major.”
Rose kept working hard, both in school to keep his grades up and at jobs to save money for college. He applied to a number of engineering programs in the U.S. The first acceptance letter he got was from UNC Charlotte, so that’s where he decided to go. Then came the challenge of raising all of the money he would need to make his dreams come true.
“I was valedictorian at my high school graduation in June 2010. At the ceremony I was awarded a $2,000 scholarship, which was great. But out-of-state tuition and fees were about $30,000, and I still had a long way to go.”
Rose kept applying for and waiting on numerous scholarships and grants. “I was still waiting in July and orientation was coming soon. I always had strong faith in God and I felt like this was a test of my faith. So, I bought a one-way ticket to Charlotte.”
His community in the Bahamas is a small, close-knit one, and Rose has a large extended family with many aunts, uncles and cousins. “The people at home care a lot for me, but most of them kept telling me I was crazy and a fool. I did have supporters too, and one was Carol Rolle, a Rotarian who told me I should try applying to area businesses for help. So I did, but still I waited and waited and didn’t hear anything.”
Rose understands and appreciates his culture’s laid-back philosophy of life. But at times like these in the Bahamas, where nothing happens fast, it can be very frustrating.
“You have to remember, in the Bahamas everyone always waits until the last moment. The day I left, I was at the airport and Mrs. Rolle gave me a book about having faith in the Lord and then things will work out. As I was getting ready to board the flight, I was called back to the ticket counter. They had an envelope for me and I could see it had a check in it. I thought ‘at last this is it.’ The check was for $1,000, and I appreciated it, but I was still short a lot of money.”
Rose did have enough money to pay his minimum university fees and was admitted to UNC Charlotte. He still hadn’t paid tuition, though, which would be due in two weeks. He started classes, not knowing if he would ever get the chance to finish them.
“People at home were still telling me to come back, but I had faith. On the final day that tuition was due, there was a note under my door saying I had to pay that day or be out of my dorm room by midnight. I was distraught. How would I explain to my family that I had lost my dream? I still went to class that day, and when I got out I had a voicemail from my Mom saying I had gotten a $7,500 grant from the Bahamas government. I didn’t have the money yet, but my Mom sent an email with a copy of the grant letter. I printed that out and took it to student accounts and they said ‘okay, you’re in’.”
Rose laminated the note that had been under is door telling him he had to leave, and now carries it in his pocket every day as a reminder of the power of his faith.
Through is college career, Rose has continually relied on his perseverance and faith. When he was home for his first Christmas break, Mrs. Rolle arranged for him to do a television interview with her daughter, who was a local news anchor. The interview aired on New Year’s Eve, and Rose talked about his dreams and struggles, and encouraged others to never give up on their dreams. Many people who saw the show called the station and asked how they could help. Their contributions were enough to pay Rose’s tuition and fees for the upcoming spring semester.
Rose now has a group of more than 30 people who consistently help him financially. He keeps a spreadsheet with all their names, writes them all letters about his academic progress, and visits them during his college breaks.
“It’s amazing how it all happened,” Rose said. “I’m here today through a true grassroots effort. A lot of people now have many high expectations of me. Failure is not an option.”
UNC Charlotte has been a great experience for Rose. In addition to his academic work, he has been a member of the university’s International Club, and has found a local church he is active in.
“There have been some really tough classes,” he said, “but the professors’ doors have always been open to help. When I have stumbled, there has always been a solution.”
At his graduation on Saturday May 10, Rose will be one of the student commencement speakers. And he will have a large personal group of his own cheering him on. His family has bought its airline tickets and a total of about 40 people, including some of his financial supporters, have told him they are planning to attend.
After graduation, Rose said he plans to work in the United States for a few years. He would then like to get his professional engineer’s license and perhaps go abroad.
“I’d like to be able use engineering to help others,” he said. “I want people to benefit from what I have learned and the skills I have. Engineering is a tool, and I want to use it along with my faith and my dreams to make this a better world.”