by Jennifer Rose Bryant
“My best memories of my life in America are from Rappahannock Community College,” says Nina Thompson. Born and raised in Santiago, Chile, Thompson took compulsory English and French language classes and later, Italian and Portuguese. By the time she entered the University of Chile, where she earned a BA in Political Science and Business Administration, she was fluent in five languages. While still a student she began work at the Embassy of Venezuela as an executive secretary to the Ambassador and then for the Consul at the Embassy of Yugoslavia. This led her to America’s east coast with a position as a multilingual interpreter/assistant to the president of an embassy affiliated overseas shipping company. Here she met her husband, and in 1983 moved to the Northern Neck area of Virginia.
Nahazla Elena Chandia Zapata de Thompson
In 1984, Thompson began teaching conversational Spanish, Secretarial Science and organized the Spanish-American Club at Rappahannock Community College. After one year, she was working for RCC’s continuing education department and the college’s president, Dr. John Upton. Thompson fondly recalls Upton making a point of using her full name, Nahazla Elena Chandia Zapata de Thompson.
Other RCC administrators and professors made an impression on Thompson, including Dr. Patricia Nicholas (assistant to the vice president at the time), Ron Carter, Walter “Petey” Norris and Sissy Crowther — who were all very encouraging of Thompson’s desire to be a life-long learner. In addition to working at RCC, she began taking classes, and with the help of History professor, Phil Semsch, prepared for her citizenship exam.
A Model Student
Throughout her years at RCC as a student and employee, Rappahannock Community College has been a bright light of opportunity, friendship and growth for Thompson. She taught several modeling classes geared toward self-improvement, such as: Modeling and Self-Confidence and Modeling and High-Fashion. Thompson continues to be approached by former students who thank her for the experience.
In 1992, Thompson’s own academic pursuits at RCC earned her the honor of Phi Theta Kappa member. She earned a career studies certificate in Microcomputer Applications in 2003, and earned a Legal Assistant Certificate in 2013.
As someone experienced in spreading her own wings, Thompson’s advice to any young person considering Rappahannock Community College is, “Moving away can be a traumatic transition. It is easier if you start here at home where, with RCC’s help, you can become better prepared to spread your own wings.”