Rylie Hernandez, a senior at West Henderson High School, has become an advocate for Blue Ridge Community College’s Career and College Promise program after experiencing it firsthand through four different courses.
“I’ve taken American Sign Language 1 and 2, Intro to Sociology and Art Appreciation,” she said. “I wanted to take ASL 3, but my schedule was too busy to allow that.”
High school students are required to take two semesters of a foreign language, and rather than choose Spanish or French, she went with ASL through Blue Ridge.
Because of the program’s flexibility, Hernandez never had to leave her high school to take these courses, and because of its online offerings, was able to complete four general education credits before she officially starts college.
Hernandez cited Blue Ridge’s reputation for working closely with local high schools as a positive factor that made her return to the CCP program numerous times.
“I had a great experience taking these classes through Blue Ridge,” she added.
Her selection of ASL stems from her youth, when her mother taught all of her children ASL to help communicate in the years before they could speak. These included basic signs such as “work,” “I want more food” and “Thank you.”
Although she didn’t use ASL once she learned to speak, Hernandez said her interest in the language always remained.
Once she saw that Blue Ridge offered an ASL course, the decision was made.
Her Blue Ridge ASL instructor, Kyle Kiser, was also a source of Hernandez’s praise, as she described Kiser as a “great teacher” who genuinely tries to connect with his students and help them succeed.
“Mr. Kiser always puts a smile on everyone’s face. He’s definitely someone who’s impacted me, and he’s someone that I can go to if I need help or just someone to talk to,” Hernandez said.
Another aspect of the CCP program she praised is how it prepares students in high school for the demands of college courses. At the same time, however, these higher standards can be experienced at either Blue Ridge or within the comfort of the high school classroom.
“I think it really gives students who take these courses an advantage and a leg up on their entire college experience,” she added.
The 18-year-old currently works as an intern at Mills River Elementary, and said her experience in ASL has helped this role immensely.
After completing two courses, Hernandez said she doesn’t plan to stop using ASL any time soon. As she continues in her education, she plans to either minor in ASL or simply further it as a helpful life skill.
Having two brothers, one a high school freshman and the other in middle school, Hernandez serves as the advocate for the CCP program in her household, and is excited to see her brothers have the same opportunities she did.
She encourages all high schoolers to participate in the CCP program, as it not only gives students a taste of the college experience, but also helps students complete college courses before officially starting college.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re going straight to a four-year university or starting at a community college, this program really helps you get started. For me personally it’s really helped my transcripts!” she added.
Upon graduating from high school in June, Hernandez plans to attend Appalachian State University and major in education.
For more information about Blue Ridge’s Career and College Promise program, visit blueridge.edu/ccp.