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Students look to the future with programs, college visits
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PHCC Welding Instructor Randy Smith (right) helps (from left) Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School student Carlos Telles into a welding helmet while classmates Dylan Joyce and Chandler Mitchell look on. Beginning this academic year across Virginia, seventh-grade students are expected to have an academic and career plan in place by the fall of their eighth-grade year. (Contributed photo)
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Monday, November 25, 2013

By LATALA PAYNE - Special to the Bulletin

Area students are getting a jump-start on their futures by visiting Patrick Henry Community College and exploring career fields and available programs.

Beginning this academic year across Virginia, seventh-grade students are expected to have an academic and career plan in place by the fall of their eighth-grade year. These plans will include the student’s plan of study for high school and a postsecondary career path based on the student’s academic and career interests, according to a superintendent’s memo from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).

To help middle school students identify careers of interest, PHCC invited every seventh-grade student from Henry County and Martinsville schools to visit the campus and attend short sessions about medical and health careers, motorsports, the Fab Lab, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers and more.

Meghan Eggleston, accelerated learning coordinator for PHCC, said the idea to have seventh-graders participate in the pilot program came through collaboration with Jared Cotton, superintendent of Henry County Public Schools (HCPS).

“This gives us the opportunity to have kids introduced to our campus at an earlier age rather than waiting until high school and doing dual enrollment, or even waiting until after they graduate,” Eggleston said. “These kids can get on campus and get some hands-on experience to see what certain career fields are really like.”

Many students say they want to be nurses, welders or engineers, Eggleston said, but they don’t really know anything about those professions.

“They’re only in each session for about 25 minutes to keep their attention, but every little event has a hands-on activity,” she said. “They’re building little ‘brushbots’ with Matthew Wade from the Fab Lab, having mock interviews, and having a fun time while introducing them to various career pathways and the college.”

Cotton said as part of HCPS’ strategic plan enVISION2018, the school system is focused on preparing all students for colleges and careers.

“Having all HCPS seventh-graders visit the PHCC campus to explore postsecondary options and future careers has been a powerful strategy in helping students plan for their future,” he said. “I have received lots of positive feedback from students, teachers and parents. We are already looking for ways to expand this program for next year.”

Wade, coordinator of the Fab Lab, said students learned about different kinds of manufacturing and the types of machinery available at the lab.

“The students got to get out of their seats and talk about what they were doing,” he said. “These activities may not seem like much, but the basics are there for a future career. The ‘brushbots’ have a motor, a battery and ‘feet,’ which are the components of a very basic robot. And the small 3D printer is the key to opening up the possibilities for future advanced manufacturing.”

Colin Ferguson, accelerated career pathway coordinator, said this program is a great example of the partnership between PHCC and the local school districts.

“Most people aren’t aware of how closely we work together,” he said, “and this is a great example of just another way the whole system is working together. It happens all the time.”

Ferguson said the program also brings together PHCC faculty and staff to do something different.

“It’s great to see how much our faculty has enjoyed working with seventh-grade students,” he said. “They’ve been able to show off their programs, educate these students about the opportunities in their career field and talk about something they’re really passionate about.”

More than 650 seventh-graders visited the college during the program, which ended Friday. Eggleston said she has received excellent feedback and will look at continuing it next year in some capacity.


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