While most teenagers were lying by the pool or babysitting during their summer break, Lauren Freeman's summer was quite different. This high school senior from Irwin County High School in Ocilla spent her summer break interning at Ace Electric, Inc. in Valdosta.
Driving almost an hour away from home each day, Lauren used the training and skills she learned in her Mechatronics class through Wiregrass Georgia Technical College's Dual Enrollment program to land this opportunity. "Lauren is a wonderful student. Her intelligence and incredible work ethic make her a perfect candidate for companies. Lauren has a bright future ahead of her, and we are so thankful that we helped to play a small part in her success," shared Brooke Jaramillo Wiregrass Executive Director of High School Services.
Ace Electric is a commercial electrical contractor company based out of Valdosta with offices throughout the Southeast, including Macon, Statesboro, Atlanta, Jackson, Tennessee, and Siler City, North Carolina. The company does electrical installations for markets like retail, education, healthcare, institutional, industrial, commercial, and others. Lauren's job during the summer was helping with the design build and engineering group on projects, assisting with the design of electrical systems, and working using AutoCAD. Lauren learned AutoCAD in the Mechatronics class, which is a 2D and 3D computer-aided drafting software application used in architecture, construction, and manufacturing to help in the preparation of blueprints and other engineering plans.
Bobby Watford, Director, Preconstruction Services at Ace Electric, described Lauren as "gifted." Using AutoCAD, Lauren was able to design the electrical system of a building on a new storage facility. The gifted teenager also worked alongside a team at Ace Electric that developed an app for ordering electrical fabrication from the field to the main office. "Each project we would hand Lauren, whether she had seen how to do it before or not, she wasn't afraid to try it or research and learn how to do it the right way," shared Watford.
Lauren's young age didn't prohibit her from joining design meetings. In fact, she was even facilitating them at one point when her boss, Watford, was out of town. "Lauren asked me to hold on while she set up the conference call between myself and a client. Then she facilitated the meeting as if she had worked at Ace Electric for years," shared Watford. During her summer internship, Lauren was able to work on a project from conception on paper with ideas to a complete set of drawings, start to finish. "Her work ethic is second to none; this girl can do anything,’ shared Watford. "We even learned she can bake when she walked in one day with her famous butternut pound cake. Lauren has a teachable attitude that made her a good fit for this internship. Even though she is a teenager, she understands this field, and her skills just blew us away."
Lauren describes her summer internship by sharing how surprised she was at how much fun she had working there. "I had no idea I was capable of any of the stuff I did," stated Lauren. "I assisted with a digital building plan and contributed to the development of an app. The kind, nice people at Ace Electric surprised me. I would say, they were my favorite part." Her experience exceeded her expectations. She was worried she would feel pressured and was a little scared at first. Within a couple of days, she was completely comfortable. She learned that electrical engineering is a lot more than having a wire and putting it in the wall. She watched experts in the field take a previously built building that had not been wired completely logically, and watched as they created the best design to correct the issues. "I wasn't bored at any point. I had something to do that I was interested in at all times," shared Lauren.
Lauren will graduate in May of 2019 with many of her college core classes under her belt thanks to Wiregrass's Dual Enrollment program. Her plans are to attend college and pursue an Engineering degree and she's looking to return to work for Ace Electric while in college.
The Dual Enrollment program is a state funded program that allows students in grades 9- 12 to take college courses for free. Wiregrass provides the textbooks saving parents hundreds of thousands of dollars on college tuition, fees, and books. No hours taken through the Dual Enrollment program will count towards a student's HOPE Grant or Scholarship credit hour caps. Degree-level core classes will transfer to University System of Georgia or Technical College System of Georgia colleges or universities. There are even many colleges and universities outside of Georgia that also accept Wiregrass transfer credits. Transferability is dependent on many factors, including major.