Northeast Technology Center’s full-time programs serve both high school and adult students, and sometimes both generations of one family at the same time. That’s evidenced by Kristen Hopkins, a mother currently enrolled in NTC’s Practical Nursing program and her son Nathaniel Shire, an Afton High School student who is also a first-year student in the Culinary Arts program at NTC Afton.
The mother and son duo, who carpool to school together every morning – can’t beat free lunch on mom – are both excited about the opportunity to chase their dreams and think it’s even more fun that they get to do it together.
“I think it’s cool,” said Hopkins.
“I think it’s weird,” Shire jokingly added, with an ornery smile across his face.
The two obviously have a great relationship. In addition to their drives to campus, they spend a lot of time in the kitchen together. Hopkins reports that Shire dices tomatoes very well. She has certainly helped nurture Shire’s love of food. In addition to cooking with his mom and the influence of many cooking shows they watched together over the years, Shire’s father is an executive chef in Oregon, so you might say it’s also in his blood.
“This is just something I have always wanted to do,” said Shire. “I love to cook. I especially love to cook for other people. I have a classmate who is interested in opening his own business after graduating and I would love to be able to work with him.”
The family only recently moved to Oklahoma from Georgia after Hopkins’ husband, Tommy, who is originally from Miami, retired from a 20-year career with the Air Force. That career also took the family to Florida and Alaska, the latter of which being where Shire was born and primarily identifies as home.
“There were more than 660 kids in my junior class alone in Georgia,” said Shire. “So moving to Afton has been a little bit of a culture shock to me. But having moved a few times with the military and the experience of going to a really large school make any transition easier.”
Shire was lucky enough to move here just in time to be one of the first students to use the newly-remodeled and expanded Culinary Arts classroom.
“When I came for my tour, the Culinary class was in a temporary location that was nothing special,” said Shire. “So when I got here in August, I was really excited to see the new facility. It’s great to be in there with lots of space, all the new equipment and the advanced technology available. I am really enjoying it and feel like I’m learning so much.”
Hopkins has also learned a lot at NTC. She started by taking her CNA and all the required courses to be accepted into nursing school through the short-term adult education classes at NTC Afton.
"After my husband’s retirement, I decided it was time for me to follow my dream of being a nurse,” said Hopkins. “My family has been very supportive. Tommy said ‘you supported me through my Air Force career; it’s time to let me support you through following your dreams.’ The kids have been great, too.”
For Hopkins, the dream of becoming a nurse is something she has been holding onto since she was eight years old.
“I was diagnosed with Melanoma when I was a little girl,” said Hopkins. “At that time the nurses still wore the white uniforms with the caps and shoes and tights. They were people who I really looked up to and they just really stood out to me as being special. They took such good care of me and were so compassionate. I just wanted to be like them.”
Following her personal dreams is only part of the equation for why the mother of three chose NTC.
“I really wanted to be a role model for my children,” said Shire. “I didn't continue my education when I was younger, but they have always known I wanted to be a nurse. So I wanted to prove to them that you no matter how old you are or where you have been, it’s never too late to follow your dreams.”
That attitude of influence is what makes NTC’s Practical Nursing program a perfect fit for Hopkins. She reports that even being an older adult in a classroom of primarily 19 and 20 year olds, the transition has been very smooth. She is even seen by many of her classmates as the “mothering one” – a role with which she is obviously okay.
“I absolutely love it here,” said Hopkins. “I would highly recommend it to anyone who was even slightly interested in pursuing nursing.”