ACTC celebrating 80 years
In 1937, the city of Ashland levied a tax to support a junior college that would be administered by the Ashland School Board. The 1938 Ashland Junior College class had 194 students who met in a former church building on Carter Avenue. In that same year, the Ashland Independent School System established a vocational school to offer occupational training. The 1938 Ashland Vocational School class had 17 students who met in a building at 27th Street and Carter Avenue.
The result of those initiatives, built on the promise that quality education is essential for community progress, has been 80 years of programs that have helped thousands of area residents build better futures.
In 1997, the state legislature enacted House Bill 1 during a special session to create the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). The new system would combine the community colleges, under the governance of the University of Kentucky, with the technical schools that were governed by Kentucky Workforce Development Cabinet, to form Ashland Community and Technical College.
As ACTC celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, the college will invite the community to join in a number of events to commemorate the occasion, such as a 5K run in April at the Technology Drive Campus, a car show in May at our College Drive Campus and a celebration of alumni throughout the decades at graduation. We will also share monthly alumni spotlight stories, as well as vintage photos of college life through social media.
SPOTLIGHT: Alumni speak to students annually
Although they graduated from different high schools in different years and have gone on to be successful in different fields, Melissa Hutchinson and Emily Watson have a couple things in common: They both graduated from ACTC and they both return annually to speak to students about their chosen careers. They also both said starting at ACTC set them up for success.
Melissa Hutchinson is a 1995 graduate of Greenup County High School. She began her path to higher education at ACTC, then called Ashland Community College, that fall with the goal of majoring in pharmacy. She was the first in her family to attend college.
“Going away to school has its perks, however, staying around home also has it perks,” Hutchinson said. “I got used to college course work, and didn’t have the full culture shock of being on my own on a huge campus. For me it was just the normal path to take.”
After earning her Associate of Science degree, she went on to the University of Kentucky, applied and was accepted to the UK College of Pharmacy. She graduated with a Pharm D. degree in 2002.
“I was a Greenup County kid, went to ACTC and I got into pharmacy school on my first attempt,” Hutchinson said. “I was well prepared. And I owe a lot of that to ACTC. It’s all what you put into it. If you want to succeed, you will.”
She also said the professors made her feel like more than a number.
“They knew you by name instead of a number,” she said. “I felt I was very well-prepared to go on. It’s a wonderful place. The people are friendly and they are willing to help you. You make life-long friendships.”
Hutchinson is now a clinical pharmacist at Three Rivers Medical Center and continues to come back to ACTC each year to speak to students in Dr. Mary Kat Flath’s Introduction to Health Sciences class, a class she took herself while at ACTC.
Also returning to speak to Flath’s students year after year is ACTC alum Emily Watson.
Watson graduated from Paul G. Blazer High School in 1996. She is also the granddaughter of Bob Goodpastor, a former president of the college.
She took some college courses at the community college while in high school and ultimately decided to go to UK following her senior year.
“I went away to UK for a year and I came back,” Watson said. “I just felt like the classes were really huge and I was just a number. I decided to come back and attend ACC, at the time, my second full year of college.”
Watson earned her Associate of Arts degree in 1998, taking the prerequisites needed on her path to becoming a physician’s assistant. She entered the University of Kentucky Physician Assistant Studies Program at Morehead and completed her didactical work, followed by clinical rotations all over the state and in England.
She completed the PA program in 2000 and also earned a bachelor’s degree in health science.
Watson said her time at ACTC helped prepare her for her time at UK and working in her field.
“If there was something I didn’t understand, the professors always made themselves available and would work with me until I did understand,” she said. “I was able to do a number of hours shadowing physicians’ assistants in the area and doing volunteer work.”
She also said she was impressed with the labs and hands-on learning exercises her classes as ACTC offered.
Now working at Regional Endocrine Diabetes Associates in Ashland and Bellefonte, Watson said she would recommend ACTC to anyone, whether they are just starting out in higher education or looking for additional training.
“I think it offers so much,” she said of the college. “I think in terms of my grandmother, who just turned 95. She took a computer class on how to use social media and be computer savvy. I feel like those sort of offerings for all age groups open doors for people, whether it is changing careers, deciding on a first career or just trying to continue your education by learning new skills, or something to keep your mind active. I am just super appreciative of the education I received here. It makes me want to come back and take classes and do it all over again. It was a great experience for me.”