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  • Writer's pictureRKPROST

Michelle Barnes starts her path toward stability

Electrician Program Graduate

For Michelle Barnes '22, attending Summit Academy OIC was a path toward stability. Not only was she making a career change, but she was also shifting industries after spending nearly 20 years nurturing young people in the arts, community programming, and special education.


After researching what committing to a career in the trades looked like and conversations with Summit staff, Barnes decided to enroll in Summit's 20-week Electrician program.

"I wanted to invest in something that would be investing in myself. I wanted to build retirement. I wanted to go into a more stable field,” said Barnes. "Once I started thinking more about the trades, I realized that electrical was something I could connect some of my previous experience with recording and live music and theater."


It can be taxing for students if they have to finance their higher education journey out of pocket. To address the financial barrier to education, Summit students have no additional tuition payments or student loans to pay back.


"I think the no out-of-pocket cost model here at Summit takes away the financial barrier that keeps a lot of people from moving forward in life. So, not having to worry about the financial burden allows us to be really present and have low stress to retain all the information and walk out of here feeling proud."


Barnes said many of her classmates were antsy to start installing lights, smoke detectors, doorbells, and pipe bending. However, the instructors emphasized the importance of electrical safety, the behavior of electricity, and diagramming circuits so that students know how each concept fits together and can feel confident developing more advanced skills.


"My instructors are really funny. They know a lot they have tons of experience. They're always teaching us the hands-on technical things of electrical, but also telling us all about their experience in the field and giving us advice about how to approach this career," said Barnes.

With support from the career services team and the professional development instructor, Shameika Marshall, Barnes created a resume, which connects her past work experience to the electrical field. After graduating from the electrician training, Barnes began her new career in assembly at Greenheck Group. As she progresses in her career, Barnes strives to help others build their pathway toward prosperity.


"I'm a firm believer in anything that we can do to make sure that people have a level footing for a quality life. I'm really excited about being able to give back and help other folks of color, the queer folks, or the trans folks in the trades and helping them have a solid and fulfilled career."

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