The rural town of Vancleave sits in the heart of Jackson County, all the way down in the toe of Mississippi that touches the Gulf Coast. That’s where 17-year-old high school senior Kendra Cole is using certification to lay a foundation for her future. A student at Jackson County Technology Center, Kendra has big dreams, and is taking the necessary steps to make them a reality.
Before attending an information technology class at school, Kendra knew almost nothing about computers. “I had no idea what a computer looked like on the inside,” she said. “The only thing I knew how to do was get on the internet and watch YouTube videos.” As Kendra helped her dad in his auto mechanic shop, however, she found that she loved working on cars. That led her to realize that “fixing computers is like fixing cars, only on a smaller scale and much, much cleaner — most of the time.” Kendra’s knack for figuring things out was a natural fit for IT, and she soon found great satisfaction in tackling tech problems.
Her interest in solving IT puzzles got her started on certification, and she quickly earned six certs: PC Pro and Network Pro, offered by TestOut; CompTIA’s Strata IT Fundamentals, A+ and Network+; and Microsoft’s MTA: Networking Fundamentals. Now she’s moved up to a particularly IT hot specialization. Kendra’s next certs will be Security Pro (TestOut), Security+ (CompTIA) and (ISC)2’s Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP). After finishing high school, Kendra plans to attend the University of Southern Mississippi and dive into their Information Technology — Networking program. Eventually, Kendra said, she hopes to become “a network administrator for a big company or hospital.” Or maybe she’ll veer into her “dream job,” a position as “an archaeologist or a photographer for National Geographic. As long as I get to travel.”
Among Kendra’s other accomplishments, she holds the first chair for percussion in the school wind ensemble and has been her school’s marching band drum captain for three years. Kendra has also participated in the nationwide SkillsUSA competition, and is a state champion in Computer Maintenance. It kind of makes you think of the line sung by Alicia Keys: “This girl is on fire!”
A dreamer at heart, Kendra enjoys the outdoors. She makes the most of her time, even on road trips, by searching for geocaches. If you were to ask Kendra’s friends what her favorite hobby is though, you might get a different answer. “They would probably say going to Taco Bell, which is my favorite place to eat,” she said. Food, music, and geocaches aren’t the only thing Kendra loves: She recently read <em>The Lord of the Rings</em> by J. R. R. Tolkien and is now immersed in stories by Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.
For those seeking to become IT certified, Kendra advises them to work hard, study and ask lots of questions. “The certifications won't just happen; you have to earn them,” she said. “Don't procrastinate and don't cut yourself short. Everyone has the ability to overcome any obstacles.”
Where are you headed on your certification journey? As Kendra Cole knows, vision and commitment can make anyone’s certification goals a reality.