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MECC Governor's School provided new experiences and opportunities for local students

July 30th, 2014 3:00 pm by Amy Greear, Community Contributor

MECC Governor's School provided new experiences and opportunities for local students

Big Stone Gap, Va. - In just three weeks, students participating in the Mountain Empire Community College Governor's School developed a mobile application for an area hospital, created a business plan for an entrepreneurial venture, and learned how to play a few old-time tunes.

Accomplishing any of these achievements is impressive. However, even more remarkable is the students had little if any experience in these fields before attending the program.

More than 100 students participated in the 2014 MECC Governor's School held June 9-27 on MECC's campus. The students completed eight college credits, tuition-free, in one of seven strand areas -- forensic science, social networking, mobile application development, engineering and design, art illustration and animation, old-time string band and traditional music and musicians of Central Appalachia, and entrepreneurship and regional tourism. Their completed class projects were highlighted during a finale presentation Friday, June 26.

"The 2014 Mountain Empire Community College Governor's School was once again a tremendous success," said John Bledsoe, program director. "The program has roughly doubled in size over the last four years and has provided an increasingly diverse range of strand offerings from which students can choose."

Thomas Walker Junior Charles Dillon Cox said he has always had an interest in computers and technology, but doesn't actually own a computer. During his three weeks in the mobile application development class, Cox developed his own mobile app and helped assist with the class project -- the creation of a mobile application for staff and residents in the neonatal care unit at Johnson City Medical Center. Cox said he is now considering a career in the technology field because of his experience at MECC.

Mobile Applications Development Strand Instructor Nasser Maksoud said his students were challenged to think beyond the technology skills needed to code and implement an application. The most important aspect of the class is to learn how to solve problems utilizing technology.

"They were asked to analyze the problem, collect information from the customer, and create a solution based on the customer's needs," said Maksoud.

Dr. Ahmad Aboaziza, a physician at JCMC, said the mobile app MECC Governor's School students developed is already being used at the hospital for quick access to policies and procedures. The students were able to take a guide that was previously printed and bound and create an interactive, searchable database that works at the touch of a finger.

"I was really surprised and impressed with the students," Dr. Aboaziza noted. "Everyone is really excited about what they were able to accomplish."

In the Entrepreneurship and Regional Tourism strand, students Alexis Stapleton and Jonathan Hall were also asked to find a solution to a problem -- creating a business that met a need in the community. The two Union High School students created a tutoring business, complete with a detailed business plan and projected revenues and expenditures.

"We learned there is more to starting a business than what we thought," said Jonathan.

"We ended up having to adjust our prices because we were too expensive. We learned we could lower the prices and generate more customers, which would make more money," added Alexis.

Eastside student Burley Ball was also faced with a problem -- he had relatively no experience playing a stringed instrument but would have to play a few songs on stage for the final presentation in the old time string band strand.

"I didn't know anything about the banjo. But Tyler Hughes, our instructor, was a great teacher. I actually learned a few songs." Burley said he hopes to buy his own banjo and would like to take a dual enrollment banjo class at MECC during his senior year.

"I truly believe this program is a remarkable experience for students. The activities and hands on learning provide a rich environment where new ideas are formed and the opportunities of a college education and future career goals are discovered," Bledsoe added.

Share Your Story features stories written and contributed by our readers. Today's featured story and the accompany photos were submitted by Amy M. Greear. She is the community relations coordinator for Mountain Empire Community College. If you'd like to submit your story for consideration, email it to us at with Share Your Story in the subject line.

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