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Career focus: Ashe students explore community college's offerings

Eighth-graders listen attentively to the programs and courses of study offered at the Ashe
Campus of WCC during a field trip Friday afternoon.

Originally published: Feb. 21, 2013
Last modified: Feb. 21, 2013

Jesse Campbell

By some projections, today’s generation of workers may experience up to seven career changes in their lifetime, said Steve Clayton, a business professor at Wilkes Community College. 

To help Ashe County’s rising workforce prepare for the right career, and potentially many more, the Ashe Campus of WCC opened its door to Ashe County Middle School students Friday afternoon.

The purpose of the day-long field trip was to give students a broad stroke of programs available in their hometown. WCC’s Ashe Campus provides training and classes for a variety of career and educational paths, according to the school’s website. 

“We are always pleased to partner with Ashe County Schools in providing students exposure to college and reinforcing the importance of post-secondary education in today's ever-changing economic environment,” said WCC-Ashe Associate Vice President Chris Robinson. “For eighth graders, this is particularly important as they begin planning their high school courses for the next four years. Our goal during the ACMS visit was to let students know about the educational opportunities available right here in our community and to also let them know that college at WCC or at any other institution is doable.”

Broken down into 20-minute segments, students were ushered from classroom to classroom as they learned about careers in the fields of business, health care, engineering and cosmetology. 

Clayton’s classes focused on what students could do with a business degree; what types of courses they could expect to enroll in; and how the changing nature of the global economy will require versatility and perhaps even more education after college. 

“I’m on my third career,” said Clayton. “Every job I’ve had required at least two years of school. All of my life, I’ve thought about what my next job will be.”

Friday’s sessions were also comprehensive, as well as informative in what to expect in the real world. 

Clayton said decisions students make today would have an impact on them as adults. 

“When you get to be my age, you will be the result of the cumulative decisions you’ve made,” said Clayton. 

Clayton also talked about how competitive college acceptance can be at regional and state universities. 

“How many of you plan on going to college?” asked Clayton.

More than half of the students present raised their hands.

“My, we have an ambitious group,” he said. “What do you think the average grade point of average is for acceptance at Appalachian State?”

“A 4.0,” said one student.


“Actually around a 3.5,” said Clayton. 

Miriam Little, cosmetology coordinator for WCC, spoke of a different career path that required a more hands-on approach. 

Instead of earning traditional semester hours, students enrolled in the college’s cosmetology school had to complete 1,500 actual on floor hours, said Little. 

“Cosmetology is not for everyone, but it is a great field,” said Little. “We are on the largest growing industries in the world. The beauty industry is big. For a lot of women, that’s the biggest pampering thing they do.”

The cosmetic arts include hair styling and coloring, manicures and pedicures, and other beauty enhancement services. 

“We are an artistic business and that’s the fun part about it,” said Little. 

Little also demystified myths surrounding cosmetology. 

She said cosmetology was not just for girls, and noted the skill styling of one of her male students. 

Little also said cosmetic arts were not age specific and told the story of a 65-year-old whose lifetime dream was to work in the field. 

Celia Robinson, Director of Continuing Education at WCC, provided highlights of the college health and science department. 

WCC offers training for the fields of nursing, phlebotomy, dental assistance, respiratory therapy and emergency medical services. 

The school also hopes to add radiology to that list by Fall 2013, said Ceila Robinson. 

Chris Robinson said Friday’s visit might just be the beginning for local students. 

“Whether they are looking to attend a four-year university or to learn a trade, we are here to assist them and help make their dreams come true,” said Chris Robinson. “These young people have a wealth of potential and we look forward to working with them as students in the coming years.”

For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.