When Dustin Dishon speaks, his accent betrays him. You quickly realize that the New River valley is his home; the rolling hills that help distinguish this rural landscape from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Cumberland Mountains to the west are his backyard.
“I grew up on a farm (in Pulaski County) – I’ve worked on it all my life,” Dishon says. “It’s been a good experience.”
Dishon is a first-year student at NRCC and is enrolled in the college’s Instrumentation Program. It’s a demanding curriculum that provides “hands-on” training and education in the skills necessary to operate today’s hi-tech manufacturing facilities. NRCC is one of only two schools this side of the Mississippi River that offers the program.
“It’s programming machines in the factories. It’s pretty much just the gauges and keeping them all aligned and everything working proper so the factory can keep running.”
The 18-year old Dishon says he’s really enjoying the community college experience, which, by his own admission, is a lot different from high school.
“I know in high school, you could pretty much goof off and still get an A in the class. But now, you gotta really work hard and pay attention to hone in on everything.”
The small class sizes at NRCC enable him to forge meaningful relationships with his instructors. And the enthusiasm exhibited by his fellow students, Dishon says, is infectious.
“All the students are in class because they want to be – not because they have to be.”
Dishon says he’d gladly share his observations with state lawmakers in the hope they would look favorably on community colleges and NRCC in particular when budget negotiations get underway in earnest.
“Virginia’s community colleges are the best in the world and they really help a lot of people. I know that everybody in my classes really enjoys coming to school. Let’s keep that going!”
If all goes as planned, Dishon will graduate next year and begin a promising career in manufacturing. As for farming, well, that’s still very much in the picture, too.
“Hopefully, I’ll run the one at home and keep it going. I don’t want anything to happen to it.”
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