By Wolf D. Kutter   

Lake Lure Classical Academy (LLCA) is teaming up with Isothermal Community College (ICC) to bring college classes to Hickory Nut Gorge this fall.  LLCA is becoming a satellite location for the community college to ensure local access to educational opportunities for LLCA students and HNG residents wanting to learn new skills. “We are striving for consistency and higher academic expectations that will result in learning outcomes that allow our students and the community to have more choices and better results,” says LLCA Executive Director Tom Keever. ICC will offer three separate programs at the LLCA campus: a dual enrollment college-level program, continuing education/occupational extension courses, and adult education skills classes.

The Career and College Promise (CCP) offers high school students the option to take ICC classes at their own school, earning credits that will transfer to any of the 16 North Carolina public universities. Keever is enthusiastic about adding the ICC curriculum to Lake Lure’s existing high school curriculum. “It will dramatically expand learning opportunities for our high school students,” he explains. “Imagine having access to a community college course catalogue while still in high school!”  

With careful planning LLCA students can graduate high school having completed a free two-year college degree. The more CCP courses they take through LLCA, says an ICC advisor, the more they will save.  Qualified students may also take classes toward a technical certificate, diploma, or degree. Classes will be conducted by ICC faculty on location at the high school or using video conferencing. The first of these classes—ACA 155 “College Readiness”– will be taught at LLCA in the spring semester beginning January 23, 2017. LLCA is planning to offer virtually all ICC freshman college courses during the 2017-2018 school year.

The LLCA/ICC partnership will also offer a variety of Continuing Education and Occupational Extension classes during after school hours, with a focus on providing training to increase job opportunities and improve job performance, starting with a 52-hour certification program on Hospitality and Tourism. The first Hospitality course began on 19 October with eleven LLCA students.  Another Hospitality Course will start in January 2017 open to both LLCA students and the greater Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge communities. Successful completion earns a Guest Service Gold Certification issued by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute, a valuable asset when applying for jobs in area restaurants and lodging establishments. 

A graduate of Isothermal’s Hospitality and Tourism Institute recently took her experience in the class to the next level.  Kayley Hargett completed the ICC Hospitality program.  

“As I went through the Hospitality and Tourism Institute, I found the instructors were so incredibly helpful and knowledgeable about the material and also had past experiences that they were able to look back on and share with the class, which gave us more of an understanding of what really can and more than likely will happen in the Hospitality and Tourism industry.”  “If I was asked about the Institute from a person considering going through it, I would most definitely say go for it. Not only do you learn about the tourism in and around Rutherford County, you learn valuable and helpful information that will help you further your career no matter what pathway you choose to take.”

Hargett parlayed the experience she gained during the Institute into a job with the Rutherford County Tourism Development Authority.

Hickory Nut Gorge Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Cooley anticipates that local business owners will also take advantage of the availability of professional development for their staff. “Having an education center right here in our community where workers can acquire and enhance their knowledge and skills for targeted job opportunities,” Cooley goes on, “will also help draw potential workers to our community and help employers retain them in our seasonal economy.”  Many of the lessons learned in hospitality are life skills and people skills, and will continue to serve students throughout their lives.

Other Continuing Education classes to be offered include a selection of 3-hour seminars from the ICC Small Business Center on topics of interest to our residents.  The long list of seminars itemized on the ICC website include topics such as How to Write a Business Plan, QuickBooks Training, Small Business Taxes, Processing Payroll, Financing Your Small Business, and the Basics of Bookkeeping.

The LLCA/ICC partnership will also offer an array of Adult Education classes based on a community-wide survey to assess local interest, including Adult High School Diploma (AHSD) and High School Equivalency (HSE) programs, Adult Basic Education (ABE), and English Language Acquisition (ELA). In short our area residents can prepare for better employment opportunities by improving their reading, writing, and math skills, or earning a high school equivalency.


Finally,  LLCA will sponsor several one hour Educational Awareness Forums in November, December,  and January to create awareness for students, parent, and residents of the these educational opportunities at the LLCA-CFA campus. Flyers and Social Media Announcements will be made – advertising these forums that include featuring video conferencing technology,  including Chromebooks,  providing a 21St century learning environment for those who may not have technology and/or internet connectivity at home.

For further information please contact Lake Lure Classical Academy – at 828-625-9292 or 828-348-5370. Please ask for Mr. Tom Keever, the LLCA Executive Director, or Dr. Tanya Watson.


Wolf D. Kutter is treasurer of Lake Lure Classical Academy.