Patrick Henry Community College’s Workforce, Economic and Community Development division graduated 44 students from its workforce programs on June 30. Those pictured include (front row, from left) Robert Sink, Deborah Kverndal, Fred Akers, Katelia Beal, Shania Phillips, Nicole Stanley, Abbey Martin, Savannah Nester, Brian Roop, (back row) Shelia Dillon, Zayd Muhammad, Michael Ledbetter, Dannie Davis, Kenneth May, Harold Foley and Tyriese Hairston.
Workforce instructor Van Drewery opened the graduation with an invocation and PHCC President Angeline Godwin brought greetings from the college.
Godwin told each graduate that they have “become a very viable part of the growth and prosperity of our economy for our community. That’s what workforce, economic and community development is all about. It’s about leveraging our resources and using our wonderful talents to do good things for our communities, good things for our families and good things for ourselves.”
Rhonda Hodges, vice president of PHCC’s Workforce, Economic and Community Development division, thanked the local business and industry leadership teams, community partners and her faculty and staff for their work in helping students gain a job and a career.
Graduate Fred Akers represented the student class and spoke about his journey to the program. He said it wasn’t easy.
“I’d like to thank everyone who told me that I couldn’t have a job … because it got me fired up and more determined to prepare myself with the classes here (at PHCC),” he said.
Akers is a veteran who found himself on hard times after finishing his service. He said after coming back from a deployment, he and his family quickly went through three months of savings because he couldn’t find immediate employment.
“We were drawing food stamps, eating out of food banks, and as of two months ago, I was about to go into a veteran’s homeless shelter – what do you do in a situation like that?” he asked the crowd during the ceremony. “You pray. I got down to my community and my church. Along with my family, they backed me up.”
Akers thanked his wife, family, staff and faculty at PHCC for helping him though his transition.
Ken Darrah, a maintenance manager at McAirlaid’s, gave remarks on behalf of the business and industry leadership team. He congratulated graduates on their accomplishments and praised the recently established mechatronics program.
“I’ve researched the mechatronics program, and I haven’t been able to take it yet, but I’m coming,” he said. “This is a very rare combination in the technical industry. By going the extra step and tying electrical training with the mechanical aspect of the technician, it creates a very well-rounded technician.”
Kathy Whittle-Davis, TARE (Training, Assessment, Retention and Employment) coordinator, introduced Faye Palmer, manager of workforce development at the Virginia Department of Social Services, who gave the graduation address.
Palmer told graduates that they’ve “taken a big step toward the goal of meaningful employment… Martinsville, Henry County and the surrounding areas have weathered an economic downturn, but with the strength of its people, the area is primed to make a comeback. And you are the most important part of that comeback.”
This spring’s 44 graduates earned certificates in the electrical groundsman program, customer service and food service through HOPE (High-Demand Occupational Programs for Employment), mechatronics through Siemens, PluggedInVA CNA and veterinary assistant program. This was the fifth workforce programs graduation at PHCC.
Graduates in the electrical groundsman program include Akers, Martinsville; Speros Farris, Martinsville; Charles Fisher, Christiansburg; Kagen Fisher, Stuart; Harold Foley, Bassett; Tyriese Hairston, Martinsville; Danny Mize, Bassett; Carl Pollard, Bassett; James Simmons, Axton; Robert Sink, Collinsville and James Witt, Bassett.
HOPE customer service and food service graduates include Katelia Beal, Martinsville; Deborah Kverndal, Martinsville; Shelia Dillon, Spencer; Zayd Muhammad, Martinsville and Nicole Stanley, Martinsville.
Graduates with mechatronics certifications include Walter Cox, Patrick Springs; Dannie Davis, Martinsville; Timothy Helbert, Bassett; Michael Ledbetter, Bassett; Kenneth May, Martinsville; Zachary Mitchell, Collinsville; Steven Penn, Stuart; Bradley Roland, Ridgeway; Brian Roop, Collinsville; Jamie Wells, Martinsville; James Wheeler, Bassett and Gary Young, Collinsville.
PluggedInVA CNA graduates include Stacey Cline, Axton; Shania Phillips, Martinsville; Helen Philpott-Giles, Martinsville and Marva Thomas, Bassett.
Graduates in the veterinary assistant program include Windy Davidson, Martinsville; Jillian Filardi, Stuart; Carol Hatfield, Penhook; Ryan Knight, Stuart; Abbey Martin, Patrick Springs; Courtney Martin, Stuart; Rachel Murphy, Spencer; Savannah Nester, Critz; Anna Rorrer, Bassett; Jessica Salb, Penhook; Amanda Shelton, Collinsville and Taylor Weddle, Danville.