Darlington native has engineered her success


By Bobby Bryant, Editor


One day when Joy A.F. Champion was in 6th or 7th grade at B.A. Gary Junior High in Darlington, the school held a career fair. Different people from different fields visited the students and spun visions of different careers. One presenter told her class, “If you’re good at math and science and want to make a lot of money, become an engineer.” Math? Check. Science? Check. Money? Check. From then on, Champion was going to be an engineer. “The light went on,” recalls Champion, 44. “When he made that statement, I was sold.” Today, the Darlington native is a civilian engineer for the military – specifically, she is an engineering competency manager at Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va. She is also Science and Engineering Community of Interest manager for the Marine Corps. What that means, in day-to-day terms, is that Champion is involved with the recruitment, training and retention of about 500 personnel across the country. She is a point of contact for new people coming into the Marines’ Systems Command. She is also responsible for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) outreach. “I always enjoyed numbers,” says Champion, a 1995 graduate of Mayo High School (before it became Mayo High School for Math, Science & Technology). “I always was good at science. … I always knew that I was destined to be doing something where I would be … doing something great.” The daughter of Joyce Franklin and the late George Franklin of Darlington, Champion says what she remembers best about Darlington is family. She also recalls getting ice cream at Carolina Drug Store on the Public Square and shopping at Belk’s and B.C. Moore. (Champion was unhappy to learn that Carolina Drug Store has closed.) “A small town, but home,” Champion says of Darlington. “That’s where my friends and family were. It had the essentials for what you needed. It was home.” Champion’s father for many years was a bus driver for Greyhound, with a route up and down the East Coast for the most part. Later he drove tractor-trailers. Her mother was a Clemson Extension agent for Darlington County, teaching home economics, health, nutrition. Joyce Franklin worked for Clemson Extension for at least 20 years and still lives in Darlington, where she is active in the community, Champion says. Champion recalls that one of her aunts wanted her to be a doctor, “but I didn’t think I would want the lifestyle of always having to be on call.” While still a Mayo High student, Champion did an internship with NASA and met Mae Jemison, NASA’s first black female astronaut. After graduating from Mayo, Champion earned a degree in chemical engineering from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. She began working for the Marine Corps Systems Command in 2004. Champion’s roots remain in Darlington, she says: “I am extremely thankful to my good friends and my family and my community. I’m a very grounded person.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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