Paralegal Tech Grad a Testament to the Power of Higher Education

Rob Goldberg | January 31st, 2024

During PCC's 2024 Convocation, the college's Alumni Association presented a Distinguished Alumni Award to 2004 Pitt graduate Shannon Jarvis (center). On hand to congratulate her were PCC Paralegal Technology faculty members Christopher Young and Vicki Coleman.

In an age where motor vehicles, airplanes, bicycles and even roller skates are easily accessible, it’s hard to imagine anyone actually choosing to run a 100-mile race, but that’s precisely what Shannon Jarvis is planning to do later this year.

An assistant district attorney with North Carolina’s Judicial District 2 District Attorneys’ Office, Jarvis is also an avid runner. She logs dozens of early morning miles each week with her friends and often supports her favorite charities by participating in their races.

“Running is a stress relief for me and definitely doubles as hanging out with my friends,” she says. “I always love a challenge, and I love to exercise, so running is a great way to burn off steam and achieve my other goal, which is to eat a lot.”

Within the past couple of years, Jarvis has reached several running milestones. In September 2022, she finished a solo 100K race within a 24-hour period, and last spring, she completed the Blackbeard’s Revenge 100-mile relay with a pair of her running friends, personally logging 41 of those miles.

And even though 100 miles is an extreme distance for any runner to complete alone, it makes sense Jarvis has set out to accomplish the feat, considering the hurdles she’s overcome already.

Born and raised in the historic Beaufort County town of Bath, Jarvis now lives in Washington with her with her husband, Barrett, and their three children.

For Jarvis, the journey from Blackbeard’s former stomping grounds to the place Cecil B. DeMille once called home was routed through Winterville, Greenville and Jacksonville, Fla. It was a long road with plenty of potential pitfalls, and it began with what she says is the best advice she’s ever been given – “always pursue higher education.”

“Education is one thing no one can take away from you …,” she says. “This advice was monumental for me, as I grew up relatively poor. I felt that becoming an attorney was out of reach for me in many ways, most importantly, financially. But I started at Pitt Community College and kept going, and I have achieved all my educational goals. And, most importantly, I am also student loan-free.”

Jarvis recognized the life-changing power of education at 16 years old, when it offered her way out of a life plagued by domestic violence created by parents who abused substances. A few years later, when she set out to become a lawyer, education helped her overcome the odds.

“From someone who grew up relatively poor and under not ideal circumstances, higher education provided me a path of deliverance from the life I grew up in,” Jarvis says. “I was the first person in my family to go to college, and I have now changed the entire trajectory of my children’s lives and their future families as well.”

Jarvis graduated from PCC’s Paralegal Technology program with honors in 2004. She went on to earn a bachelor’s in sociology with a concentration in law and society from East Carolina University and a juris doctor with pro bono honors from Florida Coastal School of Law.

“I came to Pitt originally because I wanted to be a lawyer, and the paralegal program felt more in my reach, since I came from a family that had meager means,” Jarvis said. “In the paralegal program, I fell more in love with the law and decided I would continue my education.”

Jarvis would go one to pass the North Carolina Bar and became licensed to practice law in 2009. She’s been prosecuting criminal cases in district and superior court as an assistant district attorney since 2018 and, in 2023, became a Board-Certified Specialist in State Criminal Law.

“… I think I was built for being a lawyer,” Jarvis says. “I’ve never been shy of confrontation, standing for what is right, or doing the best job I can do.”

In addition to her job as assistant district attorney, Jarvis has taught at several colleges, including PCC, and served more than a decade on Pitt’s Paralegal Technology Advisory Board. She regularly promotes PCC’s paralegal program, participates in its activities, and enjoys talking with young people about how the legal system works while encouraging them to pursue legal careers.

“As a graduate of (PCC’s) program, an advisory board member and an attorney, I think I am highly qualified to vouch for the program,” she says. “… I encourage (students) to look into the paralegal program for (their) educational journey, as not only are paralegals in high demand, but the pay for such jobs is higher as well.”

During Convocation in August, the PCC Alumni Association presented Jarvis with a Distinguished Alumni Award – the college’s most prestigious honor – in recognition of outstanding and uncommon achievement in her profession and service to the community and PCC. She says she was surprised to have been nominated for the award and “even more surprised” to receive it.

“Most of us do not look at our achievements as laudable or worthy of praise in this regard,” she says. “But looking back at it, I think this was a great way for me to realize that I have accomplished some great things in my life and have set a great example for others similarly situated as myself to continue to progress to their goals.”

Jarvis says it’s important for people to have mentors and role models and that she enjoys being able to share her story with others as a means of encouragement.

“I definitely come from a very different place than most people in my profession,” Jarvis says. “I think that gives me a unique perspective on how students from different backgrounds struggle and face hardships. I’ve never tried to hide that side of me, as I think it is important in how I developed into who I am today.”

And if Shakespeare was right when he said, “what’s past is prologue,” then Jarvis only needs to look at how far she’s come personally and professionally to find all the motivation she needs to complete her first solo 100-mile run.

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