IGNITE DAVIE Student Highlight: Austin Cook

by | Sep 5, 2021

Austin Cook wants to be an anesthesiologist. 

It typically takes 12-14 years to become a licensed anesthesiologist: four years of undergraduate study, four years of medical school, and four years of residency, followed by one year in a fellowship program or two years in private practice.

Thanks to IGNITE DAVIE and taking NC Career and College Promise dual enrollment classes at Davie County High School, the 2020 graduate just earned his Associates of Science Degree at Davidson-Davie Community College in only one year — free of charge. 

“It’s going to be a long journey, so having those first two years shaved off of the equation both timewise and financially is very helpful,” said Cook, who will continue his education at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill this fall as a junior transfer majoring in biology. “I saved myself over $50,000 with dual enrollment and IGNITE DAVIE. I don’t have words to describe how helpful that is.” 

IGNITE DAVIE is a college promise program that pays tuition and fees with a stipend for books for graduates to attend Davidson-Davie Community College full time in a certificate, diploma, or associate/transfer program at either campus. IGNITE DAVIE is a place-based last-dollar scholarship which means students must live in and attend school in Davie County to take advantage of the program. The funds kick in after any other scholarships or federal student aid have been applied.

All eligible high school graduates, regardless of financial need or academic ability, can continue their education and training to open the door to better career opportunities and increased earning potential.

Cook says he became interested in anesthesiology through career exploration during middle school and then started to commit to it in high school. While at Davie he completed internships at Hillsdale Family Practice and Wake Forest Baptist Health – Davie Medical Center. During his last semester, he got his EMT certification through a joint program between Davie High and Davidson-Davie Community College. He is currently taking an online course to become certified in phlebotomy, IV technology, hazardous material handling, telemetry, and EKG activation.  In addition to providing valuable medical training, he hopes all of the certifications will look good on his medical school applications. 

“I kind of coasted along until about my sophomore year in high school. I had a lot of friends in my life who were doing the dual enrollment program so I asked about it. I was led to Janet Barnes who helped me enroll in the Career and College Promise (CCP) program which allowed me to finish my first year of college during high school for the cost of my textbook.  My second year was completely covered through the DDCC Advantage Scholarship Program and IGNITE DAVIE.” 

He still finds it hard to believe that every Davie County student who qualifies can get two years of community college free simply by applying for the program.

“IGNITE was my decision point for a lot of things. I probably would not already be on my anesthesiology path if IGNITE DAVIE didn’t exist simply because I probably would have just gone to a private college and had to restart my classes. Through IGNITE, I was able to go to community college for another year for free which was definitely the smarter decision.” 

Cook understands the value of a dollar better than many students. For the past three years, he has been working part time and putting aside 75% of his earnings to pay for medical school. He said that during his first job he quickly realized that he didn’t get paid much. “I feel like having a job was a very big factor in deciding what my next step would be.” 

He would encourage all students to take advantage of the CCP dual enrollment and IGNITE DAVIE programs. “Even if it doesn’t seem worth it right now, you will thank yourself later. Together they will save you both time and a ton of money.” 

“There are a lot of influences not to go to community college which are unfortunate. Students should certainly give it a second thought. It is relatively the same experience as a university, and through IGNITE DAVIE it is free.” 

“Even if you don’t think you need it, once you receive your financial paperwork for the cost of your first year at a university you are going to be like ‘why didn’t I sign up for IGNITE DAVIE?’” 

“IGNITE DAVIE is a wonderful opportunity that I don’t think many communities have. It is pretty insane what IGNITE can do for you.”  

“IGNITE DAVIE is an extraordinary promise and we invite you to join us,” said Carolyn McManamy, director of Davie CONNECT and one of the driving forces behind IGNITE DAVIE. “We currently have commitments for $2 million of the $3 million needed to endow the program for our students and our community, but we need YOUR help to make the promise a reality! Together, we can create a bright and prosperous future for everyone! Please join us and others with a vision for a vibrant Davie County by making a gift that will truly spark our community.” 

This article was published with the permission of the author and the original publisher, the Davie County Blog.