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Family Ties

By Shawnda Schelinder | Photo by Marie Ketring

Not only did Lana Burns graduate at the same time as her son Bryant, she can also proudly celebrate the fact that her son had a promising career before he’s even graduated from college or high school.

This May [2011] when proud parents beam and brag at their child’s college graduation ceremony, one mom will have a front row seat at WITC-Ashland. Plus, she’ll have plenty of good news to brag about. Not only will Lana Burns graduate at the same time as her son Bryant, she can also proudly celebrate the fact that her son has a promising career before he’s even graduated from college or high school.

Although some teenage boys would shudder at the thought of attending college with their mothers, Bryant, a youth options student from Ashland High School, wasn’t bothered a bit. As a machine tool operation student, he wasn’t likely to have any classes with Lana, a medical administrative specialist student.

Bryant had known since the eighth grade that he wanted to enroll in the high school’s youth options program and attend WITC his senior year. At that time, he wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do, but he knew he had the support of his parents and counselor. During his junior year, Bryant’s career path became clear.

“I took the high school machine tool class last year as a junior,” Bryant says. Ashland High School’s machine tool class is taught at WITC by Paul Kalin, who also teaches the one-year technical diploma. “I knew I liked machine tool and I like the instructor. So it’s almost like a two-year program because I’ve been here since last year.”

And the experience shows. Despite his youth, Bryant was described as a class leader by Kalin. Those kudos came in the form of a recommendation letter which helped Bryant land a career at C. G. Bretting Manufacturing Co., Inc., an international manufacturing company located in Ashland.

“So I’ll be working full time before I even graduate high school and before anybody else in my class graduates,” Bryant says.

That makes Lana very proud, and gives the single mom one less thing to worry about. When Lana was laid off from Columbia Forest Products three years ago, she really wasn’t sure if college was the right decision for her family.

“I thought about trying to find a different job,” Lana says. “But I was a displaced worker and working with Concentrated Employment Program. So I figured, ‘What do I have to lose?’”

She had completed her first semester when Lana found herself going through some life-altering and difficult times. At that point, her decision to go to school full time didn’t seem like it would fit into her life. She didn’t think she’d be able to return for her next semester.

“I didn’t come to class the first two weeks,” Lana says. The personal concern shown by counselor Dede Maki and instructor Cathy Pocernich helped sway Lana. “Dede and Cathy called to see if I was all right and why I wasn’t coming to school. They knew I was going through a hard time. They told me to take just one or two classes. Turns out to be the best thing I ever did.”

Easing back into the program with the overwhelming support of WITC’s staff and instructors was exactly what Lana needed to complete the entire program. “It may have taken me a little longer – two and a half years – but it was definitely worth it,” Lana says.

Those same WITC employees who cared enough to call her and counsel her have never wavered from that same level of support throughout Lana’s journey at WITC. “I can honestly say that I’ve never been in a school where the instructors go so far out of their way to help,” Lana says. “I’ve probably had people stay after their hours just to help me.”

Although Lana doesn’t have a job lined up like her son, she’s still optimistic about her career outlook. “I think you’re better off with a one-year or two-year degree,” Lana says. “It seems like that’s where all the jobs are these days. And I feel this is more hands on here. I would recommend WITC to anyone.”

For more information about the machine tool operation program, click here.

For more information about the medical administrative specialist program, click here.

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