'A great opportunity for Crowley'
Dr. Barbara Benson works at South Louisiana Community College/Acadian Campus teaching a program on the cutting edge of technology, where demand for jobs is high. All she needs now are students.
“I would like to see more students next semester,” she said. “People need to understand that this is a major opportunity for Crowley. It gives people the chance to educate their children here without leaving town. If we can get this program viable and this school looking strong it will lead to businesses and industry moving in.”
On Wednesday, Dr. Benson took a break from working with one of her students, Hunter Kelly of Crowley, to speak with The Post-Signal about drumming up community support for the school and the bright future of alternative energy and industry growth in Louisiana.
“Right now we have thousands of alternative energy jobs opening up in the state and few people with the background and experience to fill them,” she said. “The baby boomers are moving through and are ready to retire. The problem is they’re not sure where to get the people to replace them. Students who graduate from this program can start off making $40,000 and within five years can be making twice that. It’s scary to think of what will happen if we don’t have enough people to fill these positions.”
Alternative energy is derived from biofuels created from several items, including algae, rice haul and waste water.
“People used to get most of their experience hands on,” she said. “This gives them an understanding of alternative energy that they can bring into the work place.”
Of the four students that Benson has in her program this semester, only one is from Crowley. The other three travel from Sunset, Rayne and Church Point twice a week.
“These students understand the value of the program and are willing to commute for it,” she said. “It is important for the city of Crowley to support this college,” she said. “If students go off to other schools, this won’t get off the ground. The way the state funds education these days, if you don’t show progress they simply cut the entire program.”
According to Kelly, the lone Crowley student, he is learning quite a bit in his first semester.
“Classes are going good,” he said. “I’m gaining a lot of knowledge and the tests can be hard but I’m doing good.”
Dr. Benson mentioned two scholarships that are available at South Louisiana Community College/Acadian Campus. One is given out by the school; the other is given to students who wish to enroll in her program. It is handed out by the company Marathon Petroleum.
She said that the type of people who are usually interested in her program are “the hands-on type, people who are interested in taking things apart and seeing how they tick.”
“This is very futuristic,” she said. “If the students don’t come, regardless of how good the opportunity is, that will be a problem.”
Dr. Benson said that she will continue to send information to the Post-Signal to keep up community awareness for the school and her program.