Always Maintaining his Cool

Keith Simpson and Cam Stone

Careers in trades are rapidly becoming some of the best opportunities for the future. As baby boomers reach retirement age in those occupations, companies need to find replacements of highly-skilled, talented employees.

Based on research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for other occupations. Commercial and residential building construction is expected to drive employment growth, therefore creating good job opportunities for HVACR technicians.

Companies are confident they will find qualified graduates at Forsyth Technical Community College because some of those baby boomers trained here. Keith Simpson, Service Manager at Professional Air Systems in Rural Hall, N.C. said, “When I graduated from Forsyth Tech in 1980, HVAC jobs were scarce. Now I’m recruiting at the college because we need more skilled technicians and I know the level of instruction they receive.”

One of the students Simpson recruited, Cam Stone, received his diploma in HVAC in 2018. A graduate of North Davidson High School, Stone knew he wanted a career in a field where he could have “hands-on” experience. He applied to the HVAC program at Forsyth Tech and eighteen months later he had a certificate. He was hired as an HVAC technician before he graduated.

“When Cam started the class, he had the ‘it’ factor,” said Dwight Cornelison, program coordinator for Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration. “I wish I had 20 more students like him; he listened and put forth the effort.”

Simpson agreed. When he gave out applications in Cornelison’s class, he only selected one, Stone. He looks for talent and specifically students who are willing to learn from other technicians the way the company wants the job completed.

“One of my favorite parts of the job is working with the team,” Stone said. “With this job, we have each other’s backs. Sometimes the situation can be dangerous as we are working with high voltage. It’s not only HVAC, it’s plumbing and electrical controls. You have to respect each other and the equipment.”

“I like learning something new every day and I want to go as far as I can in this field,” Stone said.

Recognizing His Digital Skills Beyond the Classroom

Asa Gordon

Winning a national award at SkillsUSA last year in video game design gave Asa Gordon the confidence to compete again this year in digital animation and 3D modeling. As he and his teammate, Alondra Chavez, won first place in the state competition in April, they are on track again this year to compete in the national competition in June, in Louisville, Kentucky. In fact, SkillsUSA was more than a competition as Gordon learned from another team about a game engine which he will soon share with architecture students.

It didn’t take long for Gordon to learn that studying in college can be more challenging than in high school. When he didn’t get into the digital effects program right away, he began taking general education classes. “I brought my high school work ethic to college of waiting until the last minute and realized that wasn’t working…I only passed one class that semester!”

He quickly turned things around and would spend hours in the classroom, outside of class, doing research and tutorials to expand his technical skills. That is most likely what landed Gordon a job as a laboratory technician for the digital effects and animation lab.

Gordon shared, “I had my application for Wendy’s with me at school to apply for a job after class. Then Mr. Burns (former department chair of Digital Effects and Animation) called me and offered me the job as a lab tech. I was so excited I didn’t even ask if it was a paid position!”

Getting noticed outside the department, Gordon’s skills preceded him. When a local entrepreneur, Bianca Woodberry, was interested in working on a product development project with Forsyth Tech, she contacted David Dinkins, department chair of Advanced Manufacturing. Dinkins contacted John Kelly, program coordinator of Digital Effects, who said Gordon was the one for the project. Gordon took ownership for designing a prototype and went from concept to development, working with Woodberry. Her product will launch this fall.

Gordon’s family is originally from Guyana, South America, and moved to New York before Asa was born. They moved to Winston-Salem when he was eight. Asa’s goal for his future was to work in video gaming and move back to New York. However, he’s made so many connections here, he feels he will stay in N.C. for a while.

With the variety of skills he has developed at Forsyth Tech, he is re-thinking his future options. “I’m going where the wind takes me,” he laughed.

Following graduation in the spring, he won’t travel far as he will be teaching a game engine called “Unreal Engine” to architecture students at Forsyth Tech during summer school. They will use the game engine to learn more about 3D modeling and rendering architectural plans. Asa says he continues to learn different ways to digitally represent his designs.

How High a Stokes Falcon Can Fly

Tori Hicks

Having attended Stokes Early College since the 9th grade, Tori Hicks seems wiser than her years. One of her instructors, Elizabeth Guiles, English teacher, Senior Class Sponsor and proclaimed “Graduation Guru,” described Hicks as never letting her situation or environment control her attitude. Despite difficult circumstances, and sometimes working two jobs, Hicks managed to be in the top percentage of her graduating class.

Tori demonstrated incredible determination and diligence, showing other students just how high a Stokes Falcon can fly when she is willing to put in the work and take advantage of Stokes’ programs. In addition to her strong work ethic, Tori embodies kindness and compassion towards her fellow classmates and teachers. She is a young woman of strong character and great heart, which will carry her far in her nursing career goals.

“As the oldest of five children, I wanted to set an example for my brothers and sisters and do well in school,” said Hicks. “In the future, I would like to come back to Stokes County and give back to the community that helped raise me.”

A member of the Student Government Association during her junior and senior years, Hicks was also on the prom committee. She graduated summa cum laude and was the graduation speaker for her senior class. Hick’s future plans include enrolling in the Associate Degree in Nursing program at Forsyth Technical Community College to become a Registered Nurse (RN).

Keep your Head Held High

On June 13, 2019, a dream finally came true for many adults who had not completed their high school education. Friends and families gathered in Wait Chapel on the campus of Wake Forest University to honor graduates in the Adult High School and High School Equivalency from the College and Career Readiness program at Forsyth Tech.

Dr. Sydney Richardson, dean of the College and Career Readiness, welcomed the audience and congratulated the graduates on arriving at this moment. Shannon Taylor-Stanley, instructional coordinator of Adult High School/High School Equivalency, sang, “The Climb,” by Miley Cyrus. Lyrics include ‘my faith is shaking, but I gotta keep trying, gotta keep my head held high…it’s not what’s on the other side of the mountain, it’s the climb.’

Dr. Janet Spriggs, president of Forsyth Tech, was the keynote speaker who shared her own climb from a community college graduate to community college President. She encouraged the graduates to “Work hard. Stay humble. Be kind. And make a difference.” Her story inspired graduates to pursue their own dreams and never think it cannot be done.

Two Graduates Who Successfully Made the Climb

Two of the graduates, Christy Cobbler and Robert Ward, knew they could do it. They pursued their goal to earn their high school diploma after being out of school for several years.

Cobbler dropped out of high school, raised two daughters (one who is now in the nursing program at Forsyth Tech) and started her own cleaning business. She completed her high school equivalency at the Stokes Center in less than a year (which is not the norm for a student who has been out of school over 15 years). She dedicated herself to completing the HSE in time to register for Nurse Aide I classes with Forsyth Tech for Fall 2019.

“In some ways, school was a stress reliever to me because when I was in class I could only concentrate on the work in front of me and not what was going on around me,” Cobbler said. “I really appreciated Ms. Mary Jo Whitley who helped me so much. I want to continue encouraging my daughters to continue their education.”

Christy was a member of Forsyth Tech’s inaugural class of National Adult Education Honor Society students. Her ultimate goal is to move into a curriculum degree program in order to ultimately apply for the Associate Degree in Nursing.

Another graduate, Robert Ward, experienced his own winding journey. Originally from Fayetteville, N.C., Ward moved to Winston-Salem last year, describing he was in a hopeless state. He moved into the Winston-Salem Rescue Mission, seeking new opportunities to make changes in his life.

“I had an amazing support group and they helped me believe I could do this,” Ward said. “I had a better outlook on life and applied myself. If I can give someone hope that they can do this, I would tell them to go check it out, it’s never too late.”

Dropping out of high school two months before graduation in 2006, Ward is now 32 years old. He said the feeling of graduating is indescribable. He said he was willing to take eleven months to complete his diploma because he knew it was worth it.

As a fitness consultant, Ward wants to continue his education in Business Management or Accounting. He looks forward to giving back to the community, perhaps working with other support groups, to share his experience and help others.

Recognizing His Digital Skills Beyond the Classroom

Asa Gordon

Winning a national award at SkillsUSA last year in video game design gave Asa Gordon the confidence to compete again this year in digital animation and 3D modeling. As he and his teammate, Alondra Chavez, won first place in the state competition in April, they are on track again this year to compete in the national competition in June, in Louisville, Kentucky. In fact, SkillsUSA was more than a competition as Gordon learned from another team about a game engine which he will soon share with architecture students.
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Make the Best of Your Opportunities

Avionna Burns

Setting goals can be a challenge at any age, particularly when you are a high school student. With many demands and distractions, it’s not the easiest challenge to complete classwork while thinking about a college and a career. Yet, many students who realize setting goals is the road map to achieve your aspirations take on the challenge early.
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Taking the Oath to Protect and Serve

Fifteen cadets graduated from the Robert F. Joyce School of Justice Basic Law Enforcement Program (BLET) at Forsyth Tech, on Friday, May 24, 2019. Several members of law enforcement were present at the ceremony, including representatives from the Davie County Sheriff’s Office, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, the Kernersville Police Department, the King Police Department and the Lexington Police Department.
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Forsyth Technical Community College Announces Faculty, Staff and Student Award Winners 2018 – 2019

Staff of the Year Award – Sharon Anderson, dean, Community & Economic Development

For more than 20 years, Anderson’s service to Forsyth Tech exemplifies her support of the local community college and the North Carolina Community College System, simultaneously. Her commitment to workforce training for un- and underemployed in Winston-Salem is unwavering. She has built on the Economic and Workforce Development Division steadily each year through strong community partnerships, grant funding and new opportunities for students. One of Anderson’s most successful programs is the Electrical Lineman program offered five times annually. Throughout the program’s ten-year existence, the program has graduated close to 700 graduates. Anderson began at Forsyth Tech as a part-time GED instructor at the Forsyth County Detention Center. She became a full-time employee in 2002, serving as the director of Evening and Weekend Programs. In 2005, she was named the dean of Community & Economic Development, the position she currently holds. Continue reading