Local News

Wake Tech graduates start new careers

Posted May 17, 2009 7:55 p.m. EDT
Updated May 18, 2009 6:48 a.m. EDT

— Hundreds of students turned their tassels Sunday at Wake Tech’s graduation ceremony at the Raleigh Convention Center. It was the college's first commencement exercises at the facility.

More than 1,100 graduates received degrees and diplomas. Graduates ranged in age from 18 to 67.

Many of the graduates said they never imagined that they would be back in school after years in the workforce. However, the down economy forced them to learn a new trade.

Jeffery Pepper, 40, went back to school after being laid off.

"It was very liberating, and something I have always wanted to accomplish,” he said.

The former factory worker decided to get a degree in heating and air conditioning.

"It can't be outsourced, (and) it needs to be done right here, domestically,” Pepper said.

Wake Tech President Stephen Scott said degrees in technical programs and health care are the most popular for that reason.

"Many of our students are with us as a result of being laid off and are looking to get a job as soon as they can,” he said.

Anthony Mennella, 67, is the oldest member of the class of 2009. The retired IBM engineer went back to school to learn heating and air conditioning after his 401(k) dropped by 30 percent.

"I plan on starting a small business to make a few dollars to help out,” Mennella said.

According to studies, most of Sunday’s graduates will remain in the Triangle area, becoming a part of the local workforce and contributing to the region’s economy.