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BCC and WIA join forces to help family reach goals

Source Date: February 8, 2012

When Jerry Campbell, Jr., and his sister Trista received their degrees together at Bladen Community College's graduation ceremony last May, they continued a family tradition that began with their parents 15 years earlier. Moreover, both found employment almost immediately in the fields for which they trained. They will readily tell anyone who will listen that they owe a debt of gratitude to both the College and the WIA program for their current success.

Trista and Jerry were young children when their parents completed their degrees at BCC. Their father, Jerry Sr., a paraplegic on disability who had been out of school for many years at the time he incurred a life-altering injury, struggled through his degree program with determination and perseverance. This experience had a profound effect on the two children.

Both Trista and Jerry had decided long before they graduated from high school that they would continue their education. However, the journey took them through some detours along the way before they returned to BCC and earned their degrees.

Jerry says he first became interested in welding while taking agricultural production courses in high school. However, he was a college prep student in high school and decided to enroll in the business program at Fayetteville State University after graduating from East Bladen High School in 2007.

He soon became disillusioned with the business program and realized that he would be much happier in a field where he could work with his hands. He left Fayetteville State after one semester.

"That's when I came out to BCC to check out the welding program," he said. "I liked what I saw and was impressed with the numerous awards the program had earned over the years. I enrolled in the program in the spring of 2008."

Finances were an issue at the time and Jerry says he learned of the WIA (Workforce Investment Act) program from some other students who were receiving WIA financial assistance. He applied and soon was accepted into the program.

"WIA helped defray the expenses of attending school," he said. "It provided the assistance that enabled me to purchase the welding equipment I needed to go through the program. It also paid mileage to and from school and some other expenses.

"I would recommend the BCC welding program to anyone. I believe it is the best welding program in the state. I have persuaded six people to enroll in welding at BCC this fall, three of them from other counties," he added.

Jerry is currently employed as a welder with a contractor on the DuPont Fayetteville Works site. Trista, who had been interested in nursing since childhood, graduated from East Bladen High School in 2002 and went off to Western Carolina to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. However, when her father's health deteriorated for a time, she decided to leave college to be closer to home. Soon she enrolled at Southeastern Community College taking prerequisites she needed to enter the nursing program. She was admitted into the associate degree nursing program in 2004, but was unable to complete it. She entered the workforce, first as a certified nursing assistant and later as an employee at Smithfield Foods, but she never gave up on her dream of someday becoming a nurse.

She enrolled at BCC in 2009, again taking prerequisites she would need to enter the nursing program. She was accepted in the Practical Nursing Education program in the fall of 2010. As a single parent her finances were stretched to the limit, which made paying the additional costs of attending nursing school a real concern.

That's where she says the help she received from WIA helped make it possible for her to stay in school and graduate. Her brother was already receiving WIA assistance when she enrolled at BCC. However, she could not apply for assistance until she was accepted in the nursing program. WIA not only paid for her school supplies and graduation fees, it paid mileage to and from school. After graduation, it also paid the fee for her to take the State Board Exam. "The nursing instructors at BCC made me what I am as a nurse," she said, smiling. "Had it not been for their guidance and instruction, I would not be a nurse today. I am also indebted to the counselor at WIA who helped steer me through the process of qualifying for assistance." Trista plans to pursue an associate degree in nursing in the near future. She is currently employed as the third shift nurse at Poplar Heights Care and Rehabilitation Center in Elizabethtown.

Jerry's fiancèe, Adriene Oxendine, also graduated from BCC in 2011, and she too is working in her degree field.

WIA provides training for workers who have been laid off, are unemployed, and others who are seeking to upgrade their skills for better job placement. It is divided into youth and adult programs. In this region, the program is administered by the Lumber River Workforce Development Board and operated in Bladen County by Bladen Community College's Continuing Education Division. It is operated as an extension of the Employment Security Commission JobLink and is located with the agency in Elizabethtown.

For information on the nursing and welding programs at BCC, call a counselor at 910.879.5500. For information on the WIA program, call 910.862.3255 and ask to speak to a WIA counselor.