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High School Twins Take College Classes to Jumpstart Their Different Career Plans

Mar 26

March 26, 2021 - Richmond Senior High School student Evan Cooley has been taking welding classes at Richmond Community College since the start of his junior year. The 17-year-old is now in his senior year and working as an intern at Superior Cranes.Evan and Emy Cooley stand for a photo with the NY skyline in the background

"In class, we do a lot of the same stuff every day, perfecting our welding skills, but in the internship, I get to do a lot of different things and learn a variety of different skills," Evan said.

Evan is in class at RichmondCC two nights a week, and he works a few hours during the day at Superior Cranes five days a week.

Jason Perakis, Career Development Coordinator for Richmond Senior High, steered Cooley toward the internship opportunity at Superior Cranes. 

"I coordinate work-based learning opportunities for our students, which includes job shadowing, internships and pre-apprenticeships" Perakis said. "Evan is eager to learn. I knew this internship would challenge him and give him valuable real world experience in his career pathway."

In his role at the high school, Perakis coordinates career development services for students participating in career and technical courses, promote career and technical education and career development for all students.

"By the eighth grade, the students complete an interest inventory, personality test and a career assessment. Our counselors take that information and help them determine a pathway that they can build upon every year," Perakis said. "As Career Development Coordinator, I follow up with the students and discuss the different options and pathways they have, such as taking Career & Technical Education (CTE) classes at Richmond Senior High School and also dual enrolling with CTE classes at RichmondCC while in high school."

Evan decided to take the welding classes at RichmondCC because it would be a useful skill for him working on his father's farm. While he is not sure if he will pursue a career as a welder, he knows it is a skill he will have with him for life that he can fall back on if he needs it.

Evan's twin sister, Emy, is also taking advantage of classes at RichmondCC. Emy's career goal is to become a veterinarian like her parents, Dr. Meghan McNair and Dr. William Cooley. Since her junior year, she has been taking a full load of transferable college classes each semester at RichmondCC.

"I double up every year on classes," Emy said. "I want to go to vet school like my parents. That's a lot of school, so I was trying to get as many credits out of the way."

Emy said taking such a heavy load of college classes has been difficult, especially this semester because she's taking higher level classes. However, she's determined to take these university transferable courses in the smaller classroom setting that RichmondCC provides.

Emy has already been accepted by N.C. State University, where she hopes to eventually get into its veterinary program. In the meantime, she's learning plenty of veterinary skills on the job working with her parents.

"I'm a receptionist and a vet tech, so I do pretty much anything to assist the doctors and work up front answering phones and checking people in and out," Emy said. "I can run the blood work and run the anesthesia, and hold dogs and cats and all that."

Emy's counselors at Richmond Senior High School helped steer her toward the Dual Enrollment program at RichmondCC, which allows her to take these dual enrollment college classes. But she also had many friends also taking classes at RichmondCC.

"After this spring semester, Emy will only be three courses shy of obtaining her Associate in Arts degree, which shows how many courses she has taken over the past two years and has made nothing less than an A in every college course she has taken," said Director of K-12 Partnerships Kary Edmondson.

Edmondson said they tailored Emy's schedule to meet NC State's veterinary school requirements. She has taken as many math classes as possible that will transfer to NC State because the program requires a lot of math.

"Emy could have finished her degree by taking easy electives, but she chose to stick with the harder, more rigorous courses that she needs for vet school. This is a testament to her determination and her work ethic," Edmondson said.

Besides the college credits they have both earned, the Cooley twins have also saved their family a lot of money by taking advantage of the free college classes for dually enrolled high school students.

In the 2019-20 academic year, Richmond and Scotland County families saved $1,257,838 by taking 16,550 credit hours in high school for free as part of the Dual Enrollment program. 

Dual Enrollment for High School Students