Barbe/Sowela student earns high school, college degrees simultaneously

Bethany Thibodeaux showcases her cooking skills in the culinary arts kitchen at Sowela Technical Community College. Thibodeaux will be Sowela’s first student to graduate just days before her high school graduation from Alfred M. Barbe High School.

MarlisaHardingEducation Reporter
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{{tncms-inline alignment=”left” content=”<p><span>SOWELA Technical Community College will host a STAIRS (Senior Transfer Academy Increasing Readiness for Seniors), STEPS (Senior Technical Education Program at SOWELA), and Dual Enrollment Informational Seminar on Thursday, May 24, at 6 p.m. in the Sycamore Student Center at SOWELA’s main campus in Lake Charles, La. The event is free and open to all public, private, charter, or homeschool high school students entering their senior year in the fall and their parents.</span></p> <p><strong>To register for the seminar, visit www.sowela.edu/senior or call (337) 421-6550 for more information.</strong></p>” id=”0e250469-23fe-406f-98d9-c3aaab4bb5b8″ style-type=”info” title=”More Information” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

Bethany Thibodeaux, 18, will graduate from the Culinary Arts program at Sowela Technical Community College days before her high school graduation from Alfred M. Barbe High School.

Marianne White, Executive Director of Institutional Advancement, said Thibodeaux will be Sowela’s first graduate of this kind, having taken full advantage of the recent changes to public high school diploma paths.

Thibodeaux began learning to cook at age 8 and by 15, she was cooking dinner nightly for her family.

“I always knew I wanted to be a chef. There was no doubt in my mind,” she explained.

{{tncms-inline content=”<p><strong>‘I always knew I wanted to be a chef. There was no doubt in my mind.’</strong></p> <p><strong>Bethany Thibodeaux</strong></p> <p>Dual-enrollment student at Barbe High School and Sowela Technical Community College</p>” id=”4dc32301-95bc-4d90-82bd-36afaa51116a” style-type=”quote” title=”Pull Quote” type=”relcontent”}}

When she learned of the new program offerings through the Louisiana Department of Education and local colleges like Sowela, she jumped at the chance to participate.

Through the Jumpstart program, in her junior year, Thibodeaux began taking dual-enrollment culinary courses through Calcasieu Parish School Board’s College Street Vocational Center. Wayne Bebee, College and Career Transitions Coordinator, said CPSB’s instructors are required to meet the same educational standards as the instructors at Sowela. Last August, when Thibodeaux arrived at the college for its Senior Technical Education Program, she had already earned enough course credits to require only one more year to complete her degree program.

In her final semester at Sowela, Thibodeaux completed a full-encompassing externship at the Golden Nugget where her skill, attitude and work ethic quickly caught the attention of her superiors. Upon graduation, Thibodeaux will accept a full-time position cooking at Landry’s Seafood Restaurant, a commendation few recent high school graduates share.

Michael Elliot, Executive Chef of Golden Nugget, said, “Bethany stands out because for her age level, she has accomplished a lot … She has absorbed a vast amount of knowledge that most people don’t acquire until later in life.” He praised her educational preparedness for the job saying, “She’s great! She’s got 100 percent work ethic — working 40 hours, plus full-time school. She’s not just looking to absorb the verbal communication …. She’s definitely a very hands on intern.”

While applauding her accomplishment, Bebee explained that an important key to Thibodeaux’s success was her complete understanding of how the Jumpstart program worked. “It’s something nearly any student can accomplish as long as they’re as committed and complete the paperwork.” He urged families and students to start career conversations early and to include school counselors and potential post-secondary schools in on the conversation.

Students who take advantage of programs like dual-enrolment and Jumpstart get to enjoy “benefit after benefit” such as earlier financial independence and the extended use of TOPS money, said Bebee. TOPS provides eight semesters of funding that can be applied to undergraduate or graduate programs; therefore, if students complete their undergraduate in less than eight semesters they can choose to offset the cost of graduate school with the remaining TOPS funds.

 
 

‘I always knew I wanted to be a chef. There was no doubt in my mind.’

Bethany Thibodeaux

Dual-enrollment student at Barbe High School and Sowela Technical Community College

SOWELA Technical Community College will host a STAIRS (Senior Transfer Academy Increasing Readiness for Seniors), STEPS (Senior Technical Education Program at SOWELA), and Dual Enrollment Informational Seminar on Thursday, May 24, at 6 p.m. in the Sycamore Student Center at SOWELA’s main campus in Lake Charles, La. The event is free and open to all public, private, charter, or homeschool high school students entering their senior year in the fall and their parents.

To register for the seminar, visit www.sowela.edu/senior or call (337) 421-6550 for more information.

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