Collaborating in Laramie

Near the end of a long corridor in the new high school in Laramie—past the posters celebrating the Plainsmen, past bustling classrooms, past a cabinet filled with student artwork—is a lab that looks unassuming enough from the outside. In here, a number of Laramie High School students are studying automotive technology. And getting college credit for doing so.

According to Talisha Mottinger, the director of operations at LCCC's Albany County Campus, or the ACC team, a partnership like this between the college and the high school (working with Albany County School District) created a perfect opportunity.

"With the high school being built close to ACC, it made sense for a partnership to develop. The new building provided state-of-the-art spaces, but staffing was difficult, and that's where ACC was able to help." she said.

Two of the students, Hailey Hysong and Jessica Predmore, each earned a credit diploma from LCCC in automotive technology and engine management/drivability in May.

"Working so hard for that was a great incentive," Hysong said. "Even if you aren't going into an automotive field, you have the work ethic to get it done." She talks about the sense of accomplishment this built for her future—whether applying for college or applying for a job.

Predmore likes working with vehicles, but after high school, she's heading to North Carolina to study baking and pastry arts.

"When I started the program, it was more of my mom wanting me to explore the basics. It was just something that I really enjoyed learning," Predmore said. 

Students Jessica Predmore and Hailey Hysong
Students Jessica Predmore and Hailey Hysong
Student Orlando Badillo and Instructor Seth Robbins
Student Orlando Badillo and Instructor Seth Robbins

That initial interest lead to something much greater. In no small part, that's due to Seth Robbins, the LCCC automotive/diesel technology instructor who also teaches this class at LHS.

Robbins, who estimates that more than 300 LHS students have been through these classes, has a sincere love of teaching this subject—and it shows in the success of his students.

"Since the dual enrollment agreement was signed, we're just now seeing our first class of graduating seniors apply for the credit diploma, many of whom are moving on to college careers," he added.

The planning process took several years, Mottinger shared. With the nationwide push to improve technical training options for students, the ACC team was happy to help.

"Research showed a high need for auto diesel technicians. Add in the desire of businesses to donate equipment, and we found ourselves with a unique opportunity where a full program emerged," Mottinger said.

This program is definitely a hands-on experience. Students bring in their own vehicles—or those of friends and families—to practice their skills. Robbins guides the students through the process, giving them the independence to learn with gentle support steeped in expertise.

Plus, there are practical applications to all of this. The students talked about the extensive work they've done on vehicles, and the tremendous cost savings it had for them: from oil changes to changing leaf springs, and still a lot more that we can learn.

"We can do pretty much anything in the shop and learn from it, which is really cool because I like how I know what I can do and I can't do," Predmore said. "And there's still a lot more that we can learn."

This experience also gave them insight into college.

"It was more than just an auto class. It was a door opening to LCCC," Hysong said. "Now I'm more familiar with the college scene and how much LCCC has to offer."

Being a high school student created this rare opportunity for them.

"It's cool that it counts as credits at my high school and my college. Because I did all these programs and I'm getting the credit diploma, it's like I'm graduating from LCCC. I feel that I'm part of the college."

Ultimately, the Laramie community gains a lot from this collaboration.

"We have LHS students that are graduating with work-ready skills and industry credentials. They're leveraged to either start careers in Laramie, or be ahead of the game when furthering their education," Mottinger said.

"We sincerely hope to expand programming to support even more Albany County students."