While it’s true that more than 100,000 students choose Alabama’s community colleges each year to train for some of the most high-demand, high-earning job opportunities in the state, it’s also true that our students can be the ones who create some of those jobs.

The entrepreneurial spirit is strong across the state by community college alumni who got their best start by taking classes in career fields they enjoyed. Successful instructors who many times have worked in the field in which they teach are there to help guide our students through the “business side” of their trades.

For students who have business ownership goals, like Donny Dunn and Kennedy Kirkland, it’s a win-win in both education and time.

Dunn is a Gadsden State alum who owns Dunn’s Heating, Cooling and Plumbing in Anniston and employs 23 others. Kirkland, a Northeast Alabama Community College alum, owns Glam Bar Alabama in Guntersville.

Dunn said the 2008 recession forced him to work side jobs in order to make ends meet for his wife and two children.

He decided at age 33 to study an HVAC program at Gadsden State. It wasn’t easy.

“I’d work all day, go to school at night,” he said. “(But) what I got in the HVAC program was the tools to be able to do the trade.”

-Donny Dunn, Gadsden State Grad, Business Owner

Dunn started his own business and within a year was able to bring on his wife as an employee. They have been in business for five years and now employ 22 others.

“We were a family who lived from paycheck to paycheck. It feels good now to be able to go to bed at night and not worry about how you’re going to pay for youth cheerleading or flag football. The degree has really helped me set a trade in stone that I know that I can provide for my family.”

Kirkland said she chose NACC’s Salon Institute when she was encouraged by her family to take her pageant makeup skills to the next level. The training she received at NACC not only gave her an understanding of the science of esthetics, but also prepared her for business ownership.

“At the very end of my training at NACC there’s a salon management class where she taught us how to do taxes, talk to clients on the phone, how to break even. Right after I took the class I graduated in May, and opened my day spa in February after I obtained my (esthetician) license.”

-Kennedy Kirkland, Northeast Alabama Community College grad, Business Owner

Small businesses made up 99% of Alabama’s businesses and employed nearly half of all Alabama’s workers in the latest data reported by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Alabama’s community colleges are honored our graduates are among those numbers as both employees and owners. It’s #ACCSuccess at #WorkInAlabama.