Sowela history campus

SOWELA Technical Community College has been producing highly-skilled, work-ready individuals since 1938. The College is committed to launching the careers of men and women in Southwest Louisiana through its world-class workforce development curriculums, state-of-the art training facilities and relevant, knowledgeable instructors who provide a personal touch in each student’s education.

Leslie Harless, a retired accounting and marketing professional, began her studies at SOWELA in 1975. SOWELA was not yet a full-fledged college, but had an overwhelmingly positive reputation in the community as a training facility for fulfilling careers, she said.

Growing up in a large family, she was ready to begin her independent, adult life and knew SOWELA would be the best avenue to reach that goal. She took a bookkeeping course her senior year at LaGrange High School which inspired her to study accounting. 

“The program wasn’t a very long program and I thought, ‘You know, that would help me get some secondary schooling but then be able to get into the workforce a little sooner.’” Her short-term studies in accounting, however, proved to set her up for a successful, long-term career in various applications of banking.

She added that not only did the accounting-specific courses prove valuable but also the secondary courses designed to support students once they were in the field. “A brief class on computer codes, large machines, how to dress and how to feel comfortable in the interview phases … basically what they were doing is getting you ready to go into the workforce,” she explained. “It gives you a step up. It was just a really good overall experience.”


Starting her career as a bank teller, she gradually moved up into supervisory roles within accounting and marketing departments. After a 40-year career in Southwest Louisiana she retired as marketing director at First Federal Bank, all the while never losing the fundamentals she acquired at SOWELA. 

“I still used a lot of that knowledge to understand where all the expenses were going and what categories to put them all. SOWELA really did give me a good background to do all of my jobs.”

Miranda Whiteard, a 2015 associates of applied science instrumentation graduate, said her SOWELA studies prepared her for a successful career. When she initially graduated, she noticed many local industries required three to five years of experience. However, she didn’t let that reality deter her but instead expanded her search to surrounding states, knowing she was well-qualified to work. 


SOWELA Technical Community College boasts state-of-the-art training facilities to help build the foundation a student needs to successfully enter the career field.

“I put in what felt like 100 resumes a day. I just wanted a job and career in the path I graduated in,” she said. “This was my opportunity and there was nothing holding me back.”

Her pursuits paid off as she landed a job in Texas at a water treatment plant. Next to graduating college, she said the job was the “next biggest accomplishment” of her life.

“I’ve got my ‘adult job’ everybody dreams of!” she gushed.

She entered SOWELA knowing she had no desire to sit behind a desk all day, so she chose the hands-on field of instrumentation. Whiteard attributed the hands-on nature of the coursework as a key to her ultimate success.


With hands-on training and knowledgeable instructors, students can develop the right skills needed to enter the workforce.

“Actually getting your hands on the equipment that you’re going to use in your career, that’s what gets you to the point that you need to be in the career that you want to be.”

With no previous background in instrumentation, she said her teachers’ willingness to work with her “blank slate” was another key to finding her dream job.

“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have gotten the knowledge about instrumentation or the industrial process. They teach on a level where students can understand the process and succeed in our future career.”

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