CVCC’s Champion Scholars program focused on education, on-job experience

Applications are currently being accepted for the Champion Scholars Summer Program through Catawba Valley Community College’s Workforce Development Innovation Center.


Casey Knighton - Champion Scholars

This program provides high school juniors, seniors and recent graduates with the knowledge and skills to develop an exciting new career in furniture, manufacturing, or construction. 

"The Catawba Valley Community College's Champion Scholars program not only provides the student with related instruction, but it also provides them with a summer pre-apprenticeship,” said Kimberley Propst, CVCC Apprenticeship Coordinator. “The pre-apprenticeship was designed to offer students hands on exposure to industry pathways that could lead to a career. We have had several students register in the pre-apprenticeship program and then decide to pursue the full registered apprenticeship. As a parent of a student that went through the pre-apprenticeship, I can speak firsthand as to the success of the program. It is with the dedication from our Industry partners, local area high schools, employees of CVCC and the community that we can offer this opportunity every summer." 

The Champion Scholars Summer Program will not only introduce students to new career opportunities, but will provide a paid summer position as a pre-apprentice with a local furniture, manufacturing, or construction company. 

Additionally, students will be registered as a continuing education student with CVCC and can earn additional high school credits.  

The Champion Scholars SOFA (Students of Furniture Apprenticeship) program is a seven-week summer pre-apprenticeship program that can lead to a full Apprenticeship program, and it provides an opportunity to learn skills in our Furniture Fundamentals class and receive 192 hours of paid hands-on training with one of our furniture partners. 

Students earn money, high school credit, college certificates, a state certificate and explore different careers in the furniture industry. 

Rosemary Eilerman, who recently completed her SOFA Pre-Apprenticeship, appreciated her time in the Champion Scholars program. 

“I did enjoy the experience of learning many different skills that could be brought into a multitude of occupations,” Ellerman said. “While the summer pre-apprenticeship is over, I have been offered the chance to go into a full-time apprenticeship with the same furniture company. I do think that this is a great program, and I am happy that I joined, I would recommend this program to any who has similar thoughts as me." 

The Champion Scholars SOFA Program was formed through the collaboration of CVCC's Catawba Valley Furniture Academy, NC Community College System/Apprenticeship NC, Western Piedmont Community College, Catawba County Schools, Hickory Public Schools, Newton-Conover City Schools, Century Furniture, CR Laine Furniture, Geiger, HBF, Hickory Chair, Lexington Home Brands, Restoration Hardware, Sherrill Furniture and Vanguard Furniture.  

“HBF is grateful to participate in the SOFA program,” said Mindy Solano with HBF. “It gives young talent, the chance to experience first-hand, the craft of making beautiful furniture. Our student, Rosie, impressed us with her work ethic and enthusiasm at learning a new skill every week. This allowed her the ability to visualize her career growth opportunities. We are excited to have Rosie joining the cutting team at HBF as she continues her apprenticeship with CVCC.”  

Luke Parsons, who is a 2021 Champion Scholars Construction Careers Academy graduate, worked with Hickory Construction while in the Champion Scholars program, and he recommends it to new or current high school students. 

“Going through the construction academy gave me the basics of what it takes to be successful in this industry,” Parsons said. “Coming into this I didn’t know what it took to work in the plumbing and mechanical industry. Now that I have gone through the program, I think every kid coming out of high school than doesn’t know what they want to do for a career should take this class and have the opportunity to learn a trade of some kind.” 

Career opportunities and preparation for employment in the construction field are emphasized in this program, which includes training in core concepts such as manufacturing processes and equipment, manufacturing economics, measurements and math, teamwork and communications, safety, lean and problem solving. 

In the Champion Scholars Manufacturing program, students will explore a career in manufacturing, earn continuing education credits at CVCC, while employed as a pre-apprentice with a local manufacturing company.  

Student tuition, books and fees are covered by the Academy and the State Manufacturing Fundamentals – this course offers students an overview of manufacturing industries in modern society. Basic and technical skills are presented to prepare students for the manufacturing environment, as well as, hands-on instruction in one or more of the manufacturing trades under the close direction and supervision of your employer. 

Upon graduation, students are well prepared to continue a career in manufacturing should they decide to do so. Students can elect to continue full or part-time employment with their summer employer. 

“The Champion Scholars Manufacturing Program gave me work experience and taught me things that will be useful such as OSHA, and safety requirements in the workplace,” said Casey Knighton, who participated in the program this past summer. “These things I will remember and use for the rest of my life. I developed skills that will help me with any job I come across, such as working with others, responsibility and accountability skills, and also gained knowledge on specific duties and how to solve certain situations.” 

For more information on the Champions Scholars program at Catawba Valley Community College or to register, please call Jennifer Eversole at 828-327-7000, ext. 4294 or email


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