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COA College to Career Success Stories

Read some of College of The Albemarle’s (COA) college to career success stories about graduates in our Career and Technical Education programs.

College to Career

Kelly Whidbee

Cosmetology ’02

WhidbeeShortly after earning her High School Equivalency Diploma at COA in 1999, Kelly Whidbee knew she wanted to continue her education, but what she was less certain of was what she wanted to do.

At the time, two of her cousins were enrolled at COA in the school’s cosmetology program and were enjoying it. She thought it might be a good program for her as well. In 2002, she graduated with her Cosmetology Certificate and has put that credential to good use ever since. She is now co-owner of Sheik Salon in Elizabeth City.

Although she wasn’t certain what she wanted to study initially, Whidbee said cosmetology was certainly the right path for her. And, she added, it was a professional path she likely wouldn’t have discovered without COA.

David Twine

Computer-Aided Drafting Technology ’17

TwineDavid Twine began using the skills he developed as a Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) Technology student at COA even before graduating when he started at E.T. Hyman Surveying as a part-time, computer-assisted drafting technician.

Twine has learned to create two- and three-dimensional models and manage the hardware and software required for his job. He says when he started working, he was ready, having been well-prepared at COA.

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot from the classes,” said Twine. “I knew how to use the programs, but I’m still learning so much on the job.”

After graduation, Twine began working full time for Hyman, surveying sites for new homes and drawing up site plans using the skills he learned in COA’s CAD program.

Shamika Johnson

Medical Office Administration ’06

JohnsonWhen Shamika Johnson graduated from Gates County High School in 2002, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.

But a few months before earning her Associate in Applied Science in Medical Office Administration from COA in 2006, her future came into focus. That’s when she accepted a job as a certified ophthalmologist assistant at Coastal Eye Center in Elizabeth City.

Johnson said COA was a great place to continue her education — the community college was close to her home in Gates County and allowed her to raise her daughter and still pursue her degree.

“COA went above and beyond to make sure I succeeded,” Johnson said, adding that the community college even helped her find her dream job at Coastal Eye Center even before she graduated.

Rena Jackson

Information Technology and Computer Programming ’10

JacksonRena Jackson was working at a manufacturing plant in Edenton when the company laid off its entire workforce after deciding to move the operation overseas.

Her former employer offered to provide job training to its employees or pay for two years of school. Jackson had always promised herself after her high school graduation that she would continue her education as soon as she could find a way financially. For her, the decision was easy. Jackson became a student at COA and eventually earned two associate degrees — one in information technology (IT) and one in computer programming.

Jackson began working in IT and continued her education, eventually earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In 2017, she returned to her alma mater, but as an employee — she is now a computer support technician at COA.

Tyler Kight

Aviation Systems Technology ’14

KightAfter earning his Associate in Applied Science in Aviation Systems Technology from COA in August 2014, Tyler Kight is working to keep Coast Guard airplanes in the air.

Kight enrolled at COA in 2012, straight out of high school. “For the first year, I went without knowing what I wanted to do,” Kight said.

When COA opened its fourth campus, the Regional Aviation & Technical Training Center (now named COA – Currituck), Kight enrolled in the program.

He is now working with his father at DRS Technologies Inc., which contracts with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Kight, an entry-level mechanic, performs heavy maintenance on the Coast Guard’s C-130 aircraft, inspecting planes and replacing parts. Kight’s experience at COA, including the industrial-like setting at RATTC, eased his transition from school to work.