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Collins Career Center honors adult students

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Ironton resident Nathan Simpkins always wanted to do

something exciting. Now, he will get his chance.

Simpkins said he felt, "a little excited and a little nervous" before graduating Friday with a degree in law enforcement.

Many fellow graduates shared Simpkins' excitement on at Collins Career Center's adult education department's annual commencement exercise.

More than 200 students in the fields of law enforcement, trade and industry, computer technology and healthcare received their certificates in front of a crowd of family and friends.

The thunderous cheers began as the graduates marched into the arena.

Chuck Wheeler, a police academy graduate from Coal Grove, worked a full-time job as a production manager while attending the center. He is starting his career in law enforcement as a part-time employee with the Coal Grove Police Department.

"I'm glad it is over with," Wheeler said before the graduation ceremony began.

Wheeler's family, his wife, Beth, and his 14-month-old son, Bradley, were excited about his graduation.

"It's exciting, but I'm nervous about what's to come," Beth Wheeler said. "We're very proud of him and we're looking forward to him serving our community."

Superintendent Steve Dodgion said that this is the largest class of practical nurses to ever graduate from the center. The class had 105 graduates.

"It's our continuing effort to fill the nursing shortage in the area," he said.

Marlise Tyler of South Point is a mother of two and a grandmother of one. Tyler was one of the top graduates from the patient care technician program - now she will be taking care of others as her new career begins.

"This is great," she said. "I think everybody should try this first instead of a two-year program. And the teachers are wonderful," she said.

Another top graduate of the program, Greg Thomas of Huntington, also has a family. He is a husband with three children, and a soon to be grandfather. Thomas said that he worked in the manufacturing business for 13 years.

When corporate cutbacks occurred, he decided to return to school.

"As far as job security, the health field is the profession to go into now," he said.

Kathy Ross is the instructor for the program, and she was once a student herself. Ross said she was very pleased with the class, and said that they all worked very hard.

"They were a really great group," she said. "Most of them had straight As."

No matter what their reason for attending Collins Career Center, all the graduates at the ceremony had one thing in common - a reason to celebrate.