Program Director, BirminghamJohn

“I am originally from North Carolina. I joined the military when I finished high school and traveled all my life. When I retired, my wife had been with me going everywhere. Well, we have family in North Carolina, Alabama, South Carolina, so we decided to pick one of those places to retire and since she’s gone everywhere with me, I gave her the choice.


HVAC-R is what I’ve done all my life. I was in the Air Force. I was stationed everywhere. Overseas most of the time, Korea, Germany, Hawaii twice, Japan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and then stateside, North Carolina, Delaware and Florida.

I actually looked into teaching and started as an adjunct. I came on board at the end of July 2015. I met with the program director, started teaching part time and after a couple of weeks, we started talking and because of my extensive background, all my degrees, he said, ‘You’d make a good program director.’ At the end of that term, he decided to get another job and I got the job. The way I looked at it was, and this is the way that I’ve looked at it since I retired, was that the American people paid for me to learn this, so I’m going to give back by going out there and teaching somebody else. It’s all I wanted to do.

“The American people paid for me to learn this, so I’m going to give back by going out there and teaching somebody else.”

I wanted to make sure that I was giving back with a company that has the right mission and vision. Every job I’ve ever looked for after the military, one thing that I always ask and look for is the vision statement and the mission statement, no matter where I go. That’s what I look forward to. It’s more than a full-time job. I’m not out of here sometimes until 10:30 at night. Because we teach day and night classes, I feel it’s only right to give to the daytime students the same amount of time as the nighttime students.

I can be intimidating. The way I come across. I’m straight-forward, I tell it like it is. That’s the only way it should be. No one is going to hire you in this business, and pay you good money, until you prove yourself. It’s all about integrity and professionalism. You need to come here every day as if someone was going to give you a job, you never know.

No matter what, students have to retain the information, pass the test, etc. But they have jobs, family, lives, drama. They need to balance it out and it’s hard, so we’re here for that.

“It’s all about integrity and professionalism.”

A couple of the students, especially when they go out and get a good job and they’re successful, they come back after they graduate, while they’re working. They call, they stop by, they say, ‘Hey, this is what I’m doing now. Thank you!’ I remember one student, she came in and said ‘This was the first college test I’ve ever passed,’ huge grin on her face. I wanted to take it and put it on MY refrigerator. It’s things like that. They want to be successful. And that’s what we’re doing here. We’re setting them up for success.

This is a hard business. You crawl under houses, you open attics, especially in Alabama. If it’s 100 degrees outside, it’s 150 in that attic. And you’re expected to go out there and work in that. It’s hard work. A lot of the students, when they come in here, they don’t realize it. This is a nice lab. This is not what you’re gonna be working in, this is not it. That’s why we integrate a lot of field trips. We take them on actual jobs. We offer the community, if they call us, ‘My AC is not working, and I can’t afford, you know, to go downtown and pay somebody a lot of money.’ We’ll send our students and our instructors out there. Which all of our instructors, myself, are all licensed and certified.

We touch every aspect of life — think about it, the food that sits in the store, it’s kept at a certain temperature to keep bacteria and disease out of it so you can eat it. Well, if it weren’t for the HVAC person, you wouldn’t be able to do that.”

We’re in this togetherRead More of Our Stories

Kennedy, Huntsville“Cosmetology is always something I’ve liked since I was little.”

Read Her Story

Sharon, Chattanooga“I was in a movie with Jamie Foxx. It came up just by accident. I played a chef.”

Read Her Story

Shannon & Tiffany, Huntsville“We used to talk about opening up a natural healing center.”

Read Their Story

Are you a Virginia College student, graduate or staff member?We’d love to hear your story!

“The proudest moment in my life is that after I had my son, I returned to finish my schooling.”

Ryan, Charleston Student

“Before enrolling in school, I never really felt like I was doing what I should be doing.”

Bonnie, Florence Student

“Being in the military and seeing a lot of people sick, it gave me the motivation to do something challenging and be better.”

Jamar, Savannah Graduate

“I chose my area of study because my brother has PTSD, TBI, and anxiety. He was in the military and went overseas five times. His medical condition made me really want to help and work with other veterans like him.”

Abbe, Greenville Student

“I am motivated by the students. I am constantly reminded that everyone is reaching for something.”

Kelly, Pensacola Instructor

“I love everything about cosmetology — hair, makeup, nails, everything!”

Camell, Columbia Student

“My family motivates me, especially my 15-year-old son. I try to set a good example for him!”

Christy, Richmond Student

“I want my son to know that you are never too old to accomplish any of your dreams and you can do anything you set your mind to.”

Jessica, Knoxville Student

“I have completed eight years with two deployments in service to my country.”

Eric, Jackson Student

“I am a divorced mom with a special needs son who is now 21 years old. Just me and my son, we struggled to make it. It seems that all my life people were telling me no, you can't do that. At 52, I decided that I needed something to help our lives get better.”

Mary, Savannah Graduate

“I have been a chef for almost 30 years. Seeing the satisfaction on the faces of the students motivates me. Knowing that they have shared their passion for food and have made people's days a little brighter through their talents in the kitchen makes me happy.”

Mark, Greenville Program Director

“I get motivation from my two-year-old grandson that I am raising alone. Every time I look at him, I know that he deserves the best life. I want him to have the best. I want him to be able to say he is proud of me.”

Felisha, Florence Graduate

“It’s never too late to go back and finish your degree!”

Almarina, Shreveport Graduate

“I have been told by some family members that I do not have what it takes to become a nurse; they have motivated me to prove them wrong.”

Caitlin, Montgomery Student

“I kept telling myself I was going to do this but never did it. Last year, I put my foot down and told myself that I am going to finish school.”

Kerpernia, Mobile Student

“It was a hard decision to come back to school because I felt like I would not be able to make it through because I really don't like school. There have been some struggles, but with the help of my family and instructors I made it through. I will be starting my externship next term!”

Lakeisha, Greenville Student

“I worked as a hairstylist for over 30 years and a licensed cosmetology instructor for 23 years. I know that hard work pays off in the long run.”

Meshandra, Macon Instructor

“I wanted better for my children and to show them there’s always something to learn.”

Laura, Jacksonville Student

“My grandmother was and will always be my biggest inspiration in the kitchen. She used to put all her heart into making us the best tortitas with coffee and a big smile. It is not what you have on hand, it's about what you make with what you have.”

Margarita, Richmond Student

“I went to a lot of different schools and none of them were the right fit for me. My advice is if you are tired of being a number, and really want to be treated like a person, VC is the school for you.”

Carolyn, Florence Graduate

“Over the years I went to two different schools, and as I was there I knew they weren't for me. I walked into Virginia College and the first impression I got was, 'Wow, I finally found my school.'”

Elizabeth, Chattanooga Student

“My husband passed away in February 2017. I chose the medical assistant field because of taking care of him and my elderly parents.”

Janet, Knoxville Student

“I was 34, a single mother of three. I worked full-time and was a full-time student. My life was nonstop for two years. As time went on it became a lot easier and a lot more fun.”

LaTasha, Augusta Graduate

“I thought it was so hard getting into school but Virginia College made it so easy for me. It made me feel empowered being back in school. ”

Amber, Online Student

“One of my greatest dreams has been to make a difference in people's lives and to work with computers. I am currently working with computers in the best job I've had since entering the workforce 30 years ago.”

Gene, Biloxi Graduate

“I chose the field I am in because I have always wanted to help people who are sick feel better.”

Kennesha, Huntsville Graduate

“I am a cancer survivor. I never thought with my illness that I would be able to continue my education, but the great instructors made the impossible possible!”

Tammie, Macon Student

“I knew that working in fast food places for the rest of my life was not going to cut it. I wanted a career. I always loved to learn about health and the human body.”

Latonia, Florence Student

“I didn't choose cosmetology, it chose me!”

Kumesia, Jacksonville Graduate

“I’m not a person that gives up easily on myself or others.”

Christine, Savannah Student

“Never let anyone stop you from becoming a greater person in life. No matter what, keep going!”

Allison, Columbus Student

“There was a time in my life when I was sickly. One day, my husband took me to get a makeover. The transformation was phenomenal. I want to make people feel the way I felt that day.”

Sable, Columbus Graduate

“I am 53 and decided to start over in my career.”

Tammy, Augusta Student

“I am the oldest of five kids. At a young age my mother got sick, and I had to step up to the plate.”

Lauren, Austin Student

“As a mom of five, I didn't think going back to school was possible. I was working two and three jobs just to hold our family together. I decided in 2015 to enroll at Virginia College. Upon graduation, I was offered a full-time job by my externship site.”

Cynthia, Augusta Graduate/Instructor

“I have worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years and owned a fitness business for eight years. But the older I got, I knew I would have to let it go. I was 42 years old and thought it was too late to go back to school and probably impossible with two teenage boys.”

Heather, Greenville Graduate

“I chose the medical field because I love to learn new things. I also love helping people and doing everything I can to help their health or make them smile.”

Alisa, Fort Pierce Graduate

“I chose Business Administration because I wanted to fully understand owning and operating a business. I am very independent and very curious.”

Cronyn, Charleston Student

“My proudest moment was when I first started and I made the Dean's List. I was thrilled because I have never been on any list!”

Alicia, Greenville Student

“I wanted to do something with my life that would make both my children and my mother proud.”

Jasmine, Spartanburg Student

“When I was a little girl I knew that cosmetology was my passion. I would always style my hair before bed, or in the mornings before I went to school.”

Tonya, Birmingham Graduate

“My motivation is my six-year-old daughter. To know that this little person is depending on me for everything makes me want to work that much harder and strive that much more for success.”

Lakesha, Savannah Student

“I am scared to death to leave my classmates and teachers when I graduate because I love them and have become attached.”

Kelsey, Baton Rouge Student

“I’m a 37-year-old proud mother of three children and three stepchildren, a full-time student with a 4.0 GPA, and working full-time.”

Virginia, Lubbock Student

“I am a mother of four that wanted more in life than working in at a dead-end job not being able to take care of my family. I graduated in March 2016 and got offered a job with UNC Healthcare in April 2016.”

Tanishia, Greensboro Graduate

“I was a truck driver for 18 years and due to medical issues I had to give it up. I'm not ready to give up working so I decided to pursue another career.”

Diana, Shreveport Student

“My son is what motivates me to do my best every day. He is the reason I push myself to finish school and be successful. ”

Ashley, Greenville Student

“Despite any obstacles I face, if I truly want something I'm going to work my way there. I believe hard work pays off. I will achieve what I choose to accomplish in my life. I refuse to give up!”

Stephanie, Lubbock Student

“Being a chef is a dream of mine. I don’t want to think about what could have been. I had to take the chance.”

Fred, Richmond Student

“I gave up partying late at night to study late at night. And all the hard work paid off.”

Yesica, ChattanoogaGraduate

“As a single mother, I wanted to show my son it wasn’t too late to get my degree! I finished knowing I could start a career and provide for him and give him the life I never had.”

Chelsea, Birmingham Graduate

“Was my journey easy? No. It took a lot of prayer and hard work, working two jobs and attending school full-time. I didn't have a car so public transportation was how I got to school each and every day. It took dedication and never giving up even when I wanted to.”

Dianna, Columbia Graduate