BIG STONE GAP, Va. - Guidance counselors are tasked with the difficult responsibility of helping youth discover and develop their interests into potential career paths.
With that challenge in mind, Mountain Empire Community College offered local K-12 guidance counselors a chance to return to college for a week and learn more about programs and career paths available in the career and technical fields.
More than 20 counselors from Wise, Lee and Scott counties attended MECC’s Advanced Technology Summer Institute, held July 29-Aug. 1, on the college campus.
Tommy Clements, MECC’s dean of health science and industrial technology, said the idea to develop the one week “hands-on” institute came as a result of what he believes is a key component of human learning – doing.
“In the past, we have brought guidance counselors here and talked to them about what programs and careers are available at Mountain Empire Community College,” said Clements. “But I’m a tactical learner. I learn by doing. So we decided that instead of just telling about what we do, they need to actually do it. We wanted to provide our counselors with the same experiences that our students have when they enroll at MECC.”
Counselors experienced almost every facet of the college’s technical and career program offerings, from robotics and engineering to plant biology and water treatment. Participants learned how to utilize new and upcoming computer applications, received their certification in CPR with instruction from the health sciences department, and discovered how wind turbines operate in MECC’s energy technology program.
“It’s been an awesome experience,” said Lee High guidance counselor Sheilah Spivey. “What I have been most impressed with is the quality of the instructors here, their knowledge and their backgrounds. When we sit down and talk to students one-on-one, we can steer them toward the right career path. Now I know so much more about the options available to them.”
Coeburn Middle School guidance counselor Matt Meade echoed Spivey's sentiments.
“I thought I knew a lot about what the college did, but I have learned something about every program here that I didn’t know before. We can relate this back to our kids. This helps me to help them,” Meade said.
Gate City Middle School counselor Susan Wolfe said the Advanced Technology Summer Institute had also benefited her professionally.
Guidance counselors are required to complete three continuing education units (CEUs) to retain their certification. The MECC program was offered to counselors at no cost and provided an opportunity to earn the required credits during the summer. In addition, all participants received a Kindle Fire.
“They have been great to us. The program was well organized and informative. It has really opened my eyes to a number of career paths. It’s been amazing,” Wolfe said.