Reporter: James Gherardi l Videographer: R.J. Burnette
Danville, VA - Friday was a record breaking day for Danville Community College. More than 600 students graduated the biggest number in the school's history. Ever since the economy turned sour, the workforce here has had to start over. And for many, DCC was the first place they looked.
"Having a degree now, the opportunities seem to just be coming out of the woodworks," said DCC graduate, Tony Thompson. Thompson can't remember the last time he had so many job offers. After an injury laid him off from work five years ago, he said he had to reinvent himself. "A lot of the places that I'd worked before didn't want to hire somebody with an injury. So for me to be able to come back to school, was really just a dream," he said. Dwayne Lea spent ten years at Danville's Corning Glass plant, before he was laid off. Lea went from having just a high school diploma, to now, two college degrees. "It's just a must now, that you go back to school to at least get some further education to make yourself marketable," said Lea.
"A few years ago, maybe we put a little more emphasis on getting them here, it's now, completing the credential," said Carlyle Ramsey, DCC President. Gone are the days when community college was just a place to complete a few college credits. With a focus now on training an entire community for the future, DCC says they're Danville's response to a suffering economy, one degree at a time. "We want to make sure that we're trying to invest in program areas where there are promising not just jobs, but careers," said Ramsey.
"Coming across the stage just a few years later, it's amazing. It's not something I thought I would ever do," said Thompson. Thompson graduated with a diploma in computer aided drafting and design. He says he's waiting to get a bachelor's degree before he heads back to work. But for the past decade, DCC says they've had more than 90% of their grads find a job in their field of study.