Making Things Right in His World

He was working a dead end job as a bartender and he knew he wanted more. For many at this cross road, education is the answer, and it was for LaForrest Roxbury. He didn’t want to commit to four years of education, and that is why he jumped at the opportunity to visit ECPI Moorefield when a friend suggested LaForrest could receive his degree in two and a half years.

LaForrest immediately enrolled in pursuit of an associate’s degree in IT Network Security. “The first year was hard,” said LaForrest. “I had been out of school for 10 years, but ECPI was there providing tutors and an open campus for me to practice on the computers or work in the library.”

He was able to keep his night job while attending school, but after six months, he obtained an externship which would allow him to apply the skills he learned. With that experience, LaForrest went in search of more. His motto was to shoot for the stars, “you can’t expect someone to give you a job, you have to work towards it and career services at ECPI was there to help.” He took advantage of the one-on-one interview training to prepare him for his job search. He earned a paid externship with MeadWestvaco, where he is today as full-time employee in the IT Field Service Department assisting over 900 users daily with computer, network and smartphone issues. MeadWestvaco Corporation (MWV) provides packaging solutions to many of the world’s most-admired brands like Coca-Cola and Starbucks. With 17,500 employees worldwide, MWV operates in 30 countries and serves customers in more than 100 nations. The building where LaForrest works in Richmond, Virginia, is a “green” building, and he is proud of that stating “everything is recycled.”

ECPI graduate, LaForrest Roxbury loving his job at MeadWestvaco.

With a job in his career field working for a good company, LaForrest decided to continue his education and obtain his bachelor’s. He graduated June 17, 2011. “It was the proudest day I can remember,” exclaimed LaForrest. “The school became a university and it was great to be one of the first students to graduate from ECPI University.”

LaForrest was a stand-out student who made the Hall of Fame list for his campus. He was in the National Honor Society and on the dean’s list, served as the President of the IT club, and received the Ambassador Award for his tutoring services. His grade point average with his associate’s was a 3.95 and for his bachelor’s a 3.72.

He is assisting other ECPI students. He set up an externship program partnership between MWV and ECPI bringing students to spend 140 hours earning college credit and invaluable work experience. To date two students have been hired from the program.

His aspirations are to continue his education and earn a Master’s in IT, and he hopes to be able to do that at ECPI.

Her Education Helped Keeya Snag-a-Job She Loves

A lot of people choose to go to college because they are looking for a life changing event. For many, this happens right after high school graduation. For Keeya Easley, this happened after pondering her future from an un-inspirational cubicle, processing “mundane work” in a company where she was just another number.

Keeya enrolled in ECPI’s Innsbrook campus in Richmond, Virginia in the fall of 2008. She graduated with honors with a Bachelor’s in Web Development in June 2011 and is now employed with Snagajob, a service provider to help hourly employers find the best candidates, as a web development intern. She now enjoys working for a company that is innovative and has an exciting, fun culture where people know her by name. As an intern in the engineering department, she has the opportunity to learn new technologies and produce valuable work.

Keeya agrees - dreams do begin with the right job – and education.

Of her studies with ECPI, Keeya says, “the program challenged me to face my fears, and just do it. I had to overcome my issues with public speaking right away because presentations are part of almost every class and common in my line of work. I also had to become prepared to exhibit leadership skills with group projects which was new territory for me.”

While Keeya was taking night classes at ECPI, she worked part-time and managed home life as a single parent. She admits it was challenging, and she had to make sacrifices in her life; however, she exclaims “having my daughter proud of me far outweighs it all.”

High School Students Learn to Develop Web Application through STEM Camp

The Youth Center of Hampton Roads hosted a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) camp at ECPI for 20 enthusiastic Hampton Roads teens. The five-day program in July introduced students to mobile technology and included an opportunity to learn and develop a web application (APP).

There is a national movement to encourage more students to pursue education and careers in STEM fields. The “Change the Equations” national initiative pledges to create literacy in science, technology, engineering and math as an investment in the nation. One of the goals of the initiative is to inspire student appreciation and excitement for STEM programs and careers to increase success and achievement in school and opportunities for a collegiate education.

ECPI Academic Technology Associate Dean, Gerry White, works with the kids to teach them APP development.

“We were really excited about introducing and reinforcing the STEM initiatives to participating youth,” said Paul Dockery, Business Development Specialist for ECPI University. “It was a great partnership to share with the youth the cool aspects of the technology field. These same areas are those that will allow the Hampton Roads community and beyond to remain the technological leader in the marketplace of the 21st century.”

The course, taught by Gerry White, covered beginning Mobile Web APP development. Students learned to design icons and buttons and facilitate the coding to launch their own Mobile Web APP. At the end of the program students created an individual APP to showcase their resume and writing samples with links to their social networks.

The program was through the Youth Career Center of Hampton Road operated by Opportunity Inc., which provides career guidance and workplace readiness skills training to Hampton Roads youth aged 14-21. Area businesses that supported the workshop included ECPI University, STIHL and We Are Titans.

Two workshop participants show off their custom built APPs.

Cutting-Edge Manufacturing Camp for Students

ECPI knows a thing or two about manufacturing, and that is why the university decided to be a sponsor of the Manufacturing Technology Summer Camp hosted by STIHL Inc. The camp ran July 13 through 16 in which more than 30 high school students from schools in North Carolina, Southeastern Virginia and District of Columbia participated. Designed to promote careers in modern manufacturing, the camp activities included classes on cutting-edge manufacturing technologies such as computer-controlled machining and robotics.

“This four-day, hands-on camp is designed to introduce students to modern manufacturing through tours, presentations, small projects, and a competitive manufacturing activity,” said Simon Nance, the director of the camp as well as manager of training and development for STIHL Inc.

With federal funding for vocational training and education at risk of being cut by 20 percent, business and education partnership programs like this are becoming increasingly important. The camp culminated with a two-hour competition on Saturday, July 16. Students were organized into five teams and collaborated to manufacture clocks. The teams were evaluated based on production efficiency, inventory management, quality standards, and innovative thinking. Each school with a winning team member won a First Technical Challenge startup kit from FIRST Robotics, and each student earned a $1,000 Virginia Industry Foundation scholarship for his or her future education.

Winning team members of the Stihl competition.

The winning team members were:

Christopher Benedetto, Kellam High School, Virginia Beach, VA, Brad Holmes, Landstown High School, Virginia Beach, VA, Sinh Ly, Landstown High School, Virginia Beach, VA, Joseph Frandsen, Granby High School, Norfolk, VA, Sharissa Marshall, Grassfield High School, Chesapeake, VA

The competition was judged by academic, corporate and community leaders including Norfolk councilwoman Angelia Williams and Ron Villanueva, delegate of the 21st district of Virginia. Other judges included Dee Tomczak from Virginia FIRST Robotics and Paul Dockery from ECPI University. “It was great seeing the youth go from not knowing much about manufacturing to putting together an entire production plan for the competition,” said Paul. “It was a great example why ECPI likes to be involved in STEM (science, technology, electronics, and math) activities in the community that are building our future workforce.”

“I’ll build an app for that.”

After six years in the Air Force, Eric Richardson wanted to transition to civilian life by completing his education. Who better to ask for advice than his father who suggested ECPI University after graduating himself in the 1960s. Eric enrolled in the Web Development program at the Richmond Campus’s Moorefield location in Virginia using his VA benefits. Two years ago he began the process and he completed his last class to obtain his bachelor’s in September. He has already landed an exciting job with Willow Tree Apps.

“I liked the core programming classes that included Java and C# (pronounced C sharp for the less tech savvy),” said Eric. “After I got the hang of it, I knew that is what I wanted to do.” After Career Services assisted with an introduction to Willow Tree Apps, Eric earned employment over lunch with Michael Prichard, the founder and Chief Technology Officer.

Willow Tree Apps was founded in 2007 and is based in Charlottesville, Virginia. They were one of the first companies to launch an iPhone app, and its Spotasaurus app is often featured in Apple’s television and print advertising. “I’ve been attending weekly meetings while I’m still in school prior to making the move,” said Eric. “They have a west-coast start-up feel with an open, friendly atmosphere. It is going to make a great environment.”

Eric admits that the year-round schedule at ECPI was challenging but really appreciated the small class sizes. “I was able to ask questions and actually get a response,” explained Eric. “There was more interaction that the typical school environment.”