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Career Academy offers ‘head start in college’; students join new program at OCtech

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Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School tenth-grader Lamya Johnson’s career aspirations focus on helping others.

Her dream is to be a military psychiatrist with a specific focus on helping families and children.

“I feel like it is important to understand where they are coming from,” Johnson said Thursday. “Sometimes people don't talk about mental health like that. I want to be the person that starts the wave of talking about mental health for them.”

Johnson spoke prior to the start of Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College’s Career Academy signing ceremony.

Johnson said OCtech's Career Academy is just the program to help her accomplish her dreams.

“It will give me a head start to go to study a field I want to be in, which is psychiatry,” Johnson said.

Johnson joined about 20 other students for the signing day ceremony for the inaugural OCtech Career Academy class. The ceremony was held Thursday afternoon at the Roquemore Auditorium on campus.

The event honored Orangeburg and Calhoun county high school students who have made the commitment to earn college credits and complete a certificate, diploma or degree before they graduate from high school.

OCtech offers two Career Academy options through its Early College program: Health Sciences, and Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Technology.

The Health Sciences Career Academy provides students with two pathways.

One provides students an opportunity to earn an associate degree and then move directly into a health studies degree program at the Medical University of South Carolina, although the courses would also transfer to all other public and most private colleges and universities in the state.

The second health care pathway is designed to assist high school students in competitive admissions for OCtech programs such as nursing, physical therapist assistant, radiologic technology or medical assisting while earning workforce certifications.

Three advanced manufacturing career pathways are available:

• One pathway is toward an associate degree in electronics instrumentation technology with a certificate in engineering technology.

• The second pathway is an associate degree in engineering design technology with a certificate in computer-aided design.

• The third pathway is an associate degree in mechatronics technology with an industrial maintenance secondary specialty.

“College signing day is a big deal,” OCtech Early College Advisor Marshay Proctor-Bates said, noting college signing day is typically done with athletes.

“Who actually celebrates students’ academics? Not a lot of institutions, but guess what? OCtech does because academics is so important. Yeah, you can get somewhere on a scholarship playing football, but why not go somewhere on an academic scholarship?” she said.

While the inaugural class has about 20 students, Proctor-Bates said the goal is to eventually grow the program to have 100 students per year.

“OCtech’s new Career Academy illustrates the strength of our partnerships with public and independent schools in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties,” OCtech President Dr. Walt Tobin said. “I am excited about the opportunity to provide another pathway to good jobs and great careers for our students.”

“The inaugural cohort will complete the first two years of college in either a health care or advanced manufacturing pathway – employment sectors that provide career opportunities and salary earnings that are among the highest in our region,” Tobin continued. “This new academy further enhances our commitment to create a highly qualified workforce.”

Speaking to the parents in attendance, Tobin said, “You are entering this journey along with your children and our students and I hope you find it to be as uplifting and beneficial as they do.”

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” he said. “We are really excited about what the future has to offer these young people.”

Early College Dean Dr. Melissa Price said, “Our new Career Academy models how partnerships between colleges and high schools are providing students with even more advanced academic opportunities.”

The students’ progress and attendance will monitored throughout their participation in the Career Academy to ensure the students are maintaining at least a 3.0 grade point average, said Dr. Celestial Davis, OCtech Early College interventionist.

Orangeburg Preparatory School ninth-grader Grayson Valentine says her goal is to become an obstetrician and gynecologist.

“I feel like this will give me the classes I need to give me a good head start as compared to everybody else,” Valentine said.

She is hoping the achievement will help her when she begins her career.

Edisto High School sophomore Destiny Brooks said, “This will take me down the right, good career path so in the future I will be ready.”

She wants to be an OB/GYN.

“I like helping others and I like hands-on things,” she said.

Tonya Brooks, Destiny's mom, said she sees the Career Academy program as a great opportunity for her daughter.

“I am thankful for the opportunity,” Tonya said. “This opportunity was not offered to us as we were coming up. She is eager and ready to get a good education and move on where she needs to further her education.”

“It will save money,” Tonya continued. “She could take that money and put it towards something else that she might need.”

Ti'Mya Mitchell, a tenth-grader at O-W, says the program will help her get closer to her career goals. She wants to be a pediatrician.

“I am most excited about learning new things that will move me toward my career,” Mitchell said.

Edisto tenth-grader Izabella Pritcher said, “This will help me with better opportunities and to get to higher places and to be more successful.”

She wants to be a livestock veterinarian.

“I like animals, but like bigger animals. They seem more interesting to me,” she said.

The Career Academy is a part of OCtech's Early College program.

Early College is an opportunity for students to earn college credits and complete a certificate, diploma or degree before graduating high school. Most schools pay the full cost of attendance, so Early College courses are free to students.

“College can be very expensive,” Proctor-Bates said. “Student debt is a barrier for students to purchase houses and buy cars. This is a good way to get a strong foundation and have the opportunity to figure out what they want to do before they get ready to move on.”

Through last year, about 706 students have taken OCtech's Early College program. Students have earned 10,003 total credit hours and have had $1.9 million in tuition savings, according to the college.


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