High schoolers learn about careers, college opportunities at ATC
At a career expo for Aiken County high school seniors and hosted by Aiken Technical College last Friday, perhaps no student was more enthused than Midland Valley High senior Krisha Smith.She joined 250 students from all seven county high schools in visiting ATC to learn about the college and what it offers in terms of coursework opportunities and financial savings.Smith wants to become a nurse and after an overview by ATC administrators, she met with faculty and current students in the health sciences cluster.•This is exciting for me,• Smith said, •and I'd really like to come here. I would be the first person in my family to go to college and that's very important. It makes me feel good and confident in myself. My grandparents told me they had to quit high school to go work in the mills. They told me they really wanted me to go to college.•Leslie Davis and Gary Reynolds - career specialists at Midland Valley and Aiken High, respectively - said the seniors tend to fall into two categories. Some have not made any decisions about post-secondary education.•We've got other students who have been accepted to four-year colleges,• said Reynolds, •but wanted to see if it might be cheaper to come here (to ATC) for a year or two.•The financial aspects are especially critical, said ATC President Dr. Susan Winsor.•Student loans have become a real issue in this country,• she said. •The next financial crisis could be default on college loans. Starting at a two-year college is certainly an option. There are many good ways to reduce or eliminate college debt.•Lottery tuition assistance money is available and makes college quite affordable for students, Winsor said. As families look at financial planning, two-year colleges are a route they should consider, she said.ATC also offers full university transfer programs, as well as career-oriented programs, Winsor said.•It's a good opportunity for students to broaden their career horizons, gathering more information about their further pathway,• she said.The career expo has value for many of the students, Leslie Davis said. Several didn't know that Aiken Technical College has an agreement with USC Aiken to transfer an early childhood degree from ATC to USCA's School of Education.•Our students got a chance to talk to actual professors and students and see the classrooms and facilities,• Davis said. •It puts a face to the program, and they can see themselves in those seats.•Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.