Free concert by country star to promote education

CMT network bringing event to RPCC

CMT is headed to River Parishes Community College.

The country music-themed network is part of a collaborative effort promoting a free concert on the Reserve campus March 14 starring New Orleans native and country artist Courtney Cole. It will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The concert, which is also backed by the Louisiana Community and Technical College System and Louisiana Calling, is part of a statewide tour called the CMT Empowering Education Tour of Louisiana and is aimed at raising awareness of the avenues for career success that can be opened through technical and community college education.

Cole has been branded one of CMT’s “Next Women of Country.” The former NOCCA (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts) student has opened for Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney and Thomas Rhett and she has been named “one-to-watch” by Spotify and the Huffington Post.

Her profile rose after she landed a spot on the television show “CMT: The Next Superstar,” in which she shared a house with other up and coming musicians who were chasing their dream of having a career in country music.

River Parishes Community College (RPCC) was chosen after Mike Palamone, River Region Chamber of Commerce workforce development chairman, and RPCC Reserve Campus Dean Penny Freeman-Shoemaker completed an application outlining workforce goals, demonstrated need and the positive impact the partnership could make in the community.

“This is all about empowering people to understand there are great careers out there,” Palamone said. “I don’t call them jobs, these are careers … We want to expand our current partnerships within the region, and (partnering with) CMT allows us to create awareness of these opportunities that are available.”

Along with the concert, there will also be an “Industry Showcase” held from 4 to 6 p.m., also on March 14 at RPCC. The showcase meeting will feature testimonials from people who have benefitted from the kinds of courses and job training offered at these schools and how they’ve been able to parlay the skills they’ve learned into a career.

“It’s not just in manufacturing along the river, but also in various levels of healthcare,” Palamone said. “The expansion of healthcare in the River Region has been strong the past few years. From the receptionist who logs you in, to handling billing and coding at hospitals, to CNAs and nursing assistants and so forth. Then you get into the facilities and talk about all the different skilled crafts, instrumentation and maintenance, industrial programs, p-techs and operators.”

Palamone said the idea is to show how beneficial these career paths can become.

“We have case history, testimonials of folks who have gone through it, productive citizens whose career path enables and empowers them to raise a family and live comfortably.”

As much as anything, Palamone said it’s about removing a stigma.

“The thought for young adults is you have to go to the four-year institution,” he said. “We want to create an awareness of what we’re calling a ‘new-collar careers’ … unless you have stackable credentials, it’s not going to work.”

Other schools selected for tour dates are Baton Rouge Community College, Bossier Parish Community College, Central Louisiana Technical Community College. Fletcher Technical Community College, Louisiana Delta Community College, Northshore Technical Community College and SOWELA Technical Community College.


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