Published Sunday, June 03, 2012
By REBECCA LEFTWICH
Lauren Autry is ready to start her new job as a dental assistant at an orthodontic office.
Autry, who graduated from Northgate High School last week, says she’s “not a school person” and has no interest in pursuing higher education for now. However, she is well-qualified for dental assisting after being awarded two certificates in the field from West Georgia Technical College in tandem with her high school diploma.
Dual-enrolled at Northgate and WGTC, Autry spent half-days at Central Educational Center becoming certified in basic dental assisting and advanced dental assisting. Although she says she considered pursuing dental hygiene, an internship component of her certification allowed her to spend time in an orthodontist’s office, where she “fell in love” with the atmosphere, work and patients.
“I knew this was my career,” Autry said.
She is one of a large class of dual enrollees honored by CEC during a special ceremony at the Centre for the Performing and Visual Arts last week. Dual enrollment allows students from Coweta County’s three base high schools – East Coweta, Newnan and Northgate – to spend part or all of their school days at CEC exploring career paths while concurrently earning high school diplomas and college credit.
(To view photos from this ceremony, visit http://photos.times-herald.com/mycapture and click on Honors Programs and Graduations and click on the Central Education Center Commencement Program photo gallery.)
Like Autry, Northgate graduate Lindsie Piper already knew the career she wanted to pursue. Piper, who wants to own a salon, says she has benefited greatly from practical work in cosmetology and plans to continue her studies at WGTC in the fall. While earning shampoo technician certification, Piper also completed nearly half of the 1,500 hours required in the salon while still in high school.
“I’m learning every aspect of cosmetology,” Piper said. “I think (dual enrollment) has made me more prepared for college. I’ve never been the type to want to go live in a dorm, and I have practically no commute so I can live at home, and I can be finished with the cosmetology program in about one and a half years.”
In fact, Piper has benefited so much from the program that she spoke at the dual-enrollment graduation ceremony along with fellow dual-enrollee, East Coweta High School graduate Christopher Elsey. Elsey has had a less traditional school experience than some of his CEC classmates, having been home-schooled and privately schooled as well as attending public middle and high schools. Elsey spent three years in the CEC program exploring “everything,” he said.
Elsey studied video and broadcasting, Java programming, pre-engineering, biotechnology and robotics before deciding he wanted to explore becoming a gunsmith.
“I was playing a lot of “Call of Duty,” and I got really interested in guns,” Elsey said.
He earned a basic welding certificate with a near-perfect test score and plans to continue his studies at Southern Polytechnic University this fall, where he will pursue a degree in mechanical engineering and technology. However, he also wants to minor in chemistry.
“Biotechnology was one of my favorite classes by far” at CEC, said Elsey, who will be joined at Southern Polytech by Northgate graduate Kyle Freund.
Freund came into the program later than Elsey, spending one year taking a programming-heavy course before earning his game design specialist certificate. He will continue in game design next year, but Freund says he would not have understood all the aspects of game design without his dual enrollment course.
“Programming is not for everybody, and this was a good way to try it,” said Freund, who learned about art and marketing as part of the course as well. “A lot of kids think they want to design games, but they don’t know what’s involved. I still like it and know I want to earn my degree.”
Learning strengths and weaknesses, pursuing fields as possible careers and saving time, money and frustration is a major aspect of dual enrollment.
“It teaches responsibility,” said Leigh Cunningham, the program’s admissions counselor/ high school coordinator. “It makes the students more mature in a real-world way. It encourages them to have a goal, something to work toward, and they receive gradual freedom that prepares them for work or college.”
Coweta County Superintendent of Schools Steve Barker echoed that sentiment, praising the students during their recognition ceremony.
“You have elected not to take the easy route,” Barker told the graduates. “You represent a workforce that is ready now to take a role in our economy and lead us toward economic recovery.”
For information on dual enrollment, contact Cunningham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 770-755-7409.