First Steps, Years Apart

First Steps, Years Apart

MOUNT OLIVE – University of Mount Olive is a long way from home for Natalie Luna Calderon. But even the west coast sunshine of her Rancho Cucamonga, California home, was not enough to keep Natalie from her dad’s alma mater.

Darryl Norman, a 1987 MOC grad, is a North Carolina native, originally from Maysville. He explains that University of Mount Olive truly transformed him into the man he is today.

“Being from a small town, that at the time had poor education standards, was very challenging.  I didn’t understand how different the world could be until I stepped foot on the MOC campus.”

It wasn’t just about education for Norman, but also about the realization that anything can be accomplished with the right amount of determination. One brush with this realization came in the shape of Coach Larry Dean, the then baseball coach who, despite laying heavy disappointment upon Norman, drove him to better things.

“I was not the most talented baseball player and I actually got cut from the team during my freshman year.  Coach Dean advised me to keep trying. I did keep trying, and with much better luck the following year.  This taught me early that you can’t quit, no matter how disappointing, because life will have its ups and downs.  Today, I maintain those same principles no matter the odds.  If you keep trying, you can accomplish your goals.”

It says a lot about a school when reminiscent stories and one visit can be enough to commit to an educational journey across the country, but that is exactly what happened for Calderon. She didn’t know anyone on her visitation day, but grew confident as the day progressed. And for her, that is what college is about; meeting new people and finding new experiences.

“At first I was nervous about making friends, but when I visited the campus all those fears faded away. I met many new people and I am very excited about the coming year at MOC!”

Calderon intends to major in the same degree as her father, business administration, which Norman has used in his 24 year career working with Nestle. As for advice, Norman says, “My hope is for Natalie to get involved.  She has helped me coach three years of soccer and three years of basketball and I’m sure she will be right there with the coaches at MOC volunteering her time.  She is really a sweet young lady who has a happy spirit.  She has always bonded well with her friends and I want her to do the same with the faculty and with her classmates.  There is no one tradition, nor one unique experience that I could expect to her gain. My hope is that she will take it all in, because it will be with her for a lifetime.”

University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The College, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Goldsboro, Research Triangle Park, Washington and Jacksonville. For more information, visit