Walters State Community College awarded it’s first Associate of Applied Science degree to a student of its Clean Energy Technology program at its Dec. 14 commencement ceremony.
Tommy Reynolds, the inaugural graduate, also received technical certificates in clean energy core and clean energy electronics/electricity.
“I know that our natural resources will eventually disappear. If we don’t do something to develop clean energy sources, I don’t know what kind of place we’ll be leaving our children and our grandchildren,” Reynolds said.
WSCC Division of Technology Dean Tom Sewell began developing the program about five years ago aided by an advisory board made up of representatives of various sectors.
The Clean Energy Technology associates degree began taking shape with a series of “green” workshops hosted by WSCC Center for Workforce Education Director Connie O’Vercum, and the Tennessee Board of Regents eventually approved the curriculum.
“Putting this program together was a very large group effort,” Sewell said. “We had faculty members who were willing to go beyond what was expected or required. Many community organizations and businesses believed in us.”
Reynolds enrolled in the WSCC program after losing a long-held job due to the recession.
“When I had the chance to go back to school, I wanted to take it. I’ll be honest. I had been out of school for a few years and I was a little nervous about being the older person on campus,” Reynolds said.
Once he was enrolled and settled in his classes, Reynolds said he realized he wasn’t the only non-traditional student in his classes and that the younger students were respectful and friendly.
Reynolds said he became more passionate about the environment as he progressed through his classes and saw that passion in others, too.
“When I started this program, I don’t think I had ever seen a solar panel. Now, I pass several places that have installed solar panels on my drive in everyday. This field is on the verge of being so big. It feels good to be here at the beginning,” Reynolds said.
The week of his graduation, the Blaine resident hadn’t yet landed a job, but was looking into several companies and considering an internship.
Reynolds expressed gratitude for the support of his wife, Katherine, and his son, Jordan. Jordan is now a freshman at Walters State.
Walters State officials say the next big milestone for the Clean Energy Technology Program will come in three semesters, when 16 graduates enrolled in the College Express cohort will receive degrees.
College Express allows students to complete the degree in two years by attending classes one night a week and taking one class at a time.