Parkway West director Copeland has had a diverse career

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Darby L. Copeland has been a police officer, a paramedic and for five years a STAT MedEvac flight nurse -- a job he describes as exciting and rewarding.

Since May, he has been working on his newest job as executive director of Parkway West Career and Technology Center in North Fayette, where he had been assistant director since 2004.

Although he didn't become a college student until he was 26 years old, in eight years he earned four degrees from four universities, including the University of Pittsburgh degree he earned in 2008 that entitles him to put "Dr." in front of his name.

"I always say I have the most diverse career path, but I would not change a thing," Mr. Copeland said. "It's been a fun ride."

He lives in Martin's Ferry, Ohio, where he still volunteers as a paramedic when his schedule permits.

If you do the math when looking at his diverse resume, you see he was working full time at Parkway West while earning his doctor of education degree at the University of Pittsburgh from 2004 to 2008. While flying high and saving lives as a nurse from 2000 to 2004, he was earning a master of education degree from California University of Pennsylvania (from 2002 to 2004) and a bachelor of science in education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (from 2000 to 2005).

His first degree was granted in 2000 -- a bachelor of science in nursing from West Liberty University.

He paid for his education with what he calls a combination of luck, financial aid from the universities and wages and salaries from jobs worked while attending universities. Along the way, he enjoyed teaching four years at Western Area Career and Technology Center in Washington County and teaching as an associate professor at Belmont College in St. Clairsville, Ohio.

Mr. Copeland, who will be 40 next month, uses all of this experience at Parkway West, telling high school students, "Whatever you want, it is out there."

Parkway West enrollment has increased 11 percent since last year with 618 students from Carlynton, Chartiers Valley, Cornell, Keystone Oaks, Montour, Moon Area, Mt. Lebanon, Quaker Valley, South Fayette, Sto-Rox, Upper St. Clair and West Allegheny.

Students spend half a day in their home school and half a day at the career and technology center on Old Steubenville Pike.

Among the career majors are auto body repair, automotive technology, cosmetology, culinary arts, digital multimedia technology, health assistant, HVAC/R (includes repairing heating and air conditioning units), information technology, masonry, public safety technology and welding technology. This year new programs have been added in veterinary technology and electrical systems technology.

Mr. Copeland is excited about another program that started last month.

Two days per week, 17 students travel about a mile to the West Hills Center of Community College of Allegheny County on McKee Road in North Fayette.

There they take college courses for public safety and health and medical majors, at no cost to them or their home school districts. While Mr. Copeland and his staff developed the partnership with Alicia Booker, vice president of workforce development at the college, CCAC worked with foundations that will cover the costs.

In January, more students will be taking more courses at CCAC.

Students that complete programs at Parkway West are equipped to land jobs in their field, he said, though further study at two- and four-year colleges or technical schools would qualify them for better jobs and higher pay.

Linda Wilson Fuoco:

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