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This content was published: October 6, 2022. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.

Tyler Duncan’s true story of success: from college dropout to award-winning paraprofessional

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Tyler Duncan’s journey at Portland Community College began like many students – undecided on a career path and trying to overcome financial challenges to get by. Through a work study opportunity, Duncan’s path unexpectedly changed course, and just a few years later they have been nationally recognized for their extraordinary work as a technician in Library Services at PCC.

SE Library.
PCC Library

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After having to drop out of college several times to make ends meet, Duncan (who goes by the pronouns they/them) realized it would be easier to make enough money and have the time and resources to study if they could work on campus.

One day while doing homework at the computer center, Duncan saw a sign advertising a library work study position; this was the perfect opportunity to learn new skills and earn money in a job where their identity as a student was prioritized. They applied, and the rest is history.

Through flexible schedules, Duncan was able to continue their studies at PCC, while growing and developing professionally. They were promoted to work as a full-time Stacks Technician at the PCC Library on the Southeast Campus and quickly realized they had found a career path they loved.

“As a technician, I am constantly in touch with students and I get to help people from so many different intersecting identities get the support and resources they need to be successful – it’s amazing I get to do this for my job,” said Duncan.

Duncan’s passion for equity, justice, and belonging comes through in the way they show up to support the diverse needs of the students and community members who utilize PCC’s libraries.

“I feel like the work we do here ends up directly, positively affecting people’s lives,” said Duncan.

Duncan’s role, like many others rooted in onsite and in-person interactions, had to pivot significantly when COVID-19 forced college operations to go virtual. They switched from organizing books and resources and supporting students, to managing projects and event programming. They also took the lead on an initiative to support colleagues in the remote environment – a role that earned them national recognition this year.

Tyler Duncan holds up award medal in front of book stacks

Tyler Duncan.

Duncan was awarded the NISOD Excellence Award 2022 for stepping up to serve the needs of their division to cultivate connection during quarantine to help alleviate feelings of isolation and foster a sense of community.

“It’s an honor to win this award, but I had a lot of help and would love to share my medal with the rest of my team,” said Duncan. “It’s good to know that my efforts have been appreciated and that I’m on the right track – that community-based programming is important and that we as colleagues are important to each other.”

This fall term, there is a new energy on campus, and Duncan looks forward to getting to support students again in person to encourage their aptitudes and passions as they explore their educational and career paths.

“I was really encouraged as a work study student to pursue being a library paraprofessional because they saw that spark in me,” Duncan added. “If you see a spark in someone, help them run with it. Even if you are a low-income student like I was, community college can be a way to find what you really want to do.”