KOKOMO, Ind. — Clayton Yocom, a member of the Kokomo High School Class of 2013, is heading to Kettering University … courtesy, in some ways, of Ivy Tech Community College. Clayton will start classes at the prestigious engineering school in Flint, Mich., in January, after spending a semester proving his academic mettle at Ivy Tech’s Kokomo campus.
“Ivy Tech opened the door to Kettering for me,” Clayton says. “When I wasn’t accepted by Kettering for the fall semester, I immediately called the admissions advisor to find out what might make it possible on a second try. They wanted to see evidence that I could succeed in college classes. Without the classes I took at Ivy Tech, I wouldn’t be in the position I am now.”
Clayton had taken five dual-credit Ivy Tech classes through Project Lead the Way, a program aimed at advancing science, technology, engineering and math education while still in high school, so he was familiar with some aspects of the College. He jumped in with both feet for the fall 2013 semester, taking Introductory Chemistry, public speaking, music appreciation, a first-year seminar, Introduction to Philosophy and Introduction to American Government. Along with the 16-credit-hour load at Ivy Tech, he completed a five-credit-hour calculus class at Indiana University Kokomo and held a part-time job at the Subway in downtown Kokomo.
“I knew this semester I’d have to work my butt off and I made sure I did,” Clayton said with a laugh. “I did all this and maintained a strong GPA. I had to show Kettering I have the dedication I need to succeed there.” His effort also earned him a spot at Ball State University on his second application attempt.
Clayton credits his Ivy Tech instructors for the information, guidance and assistance they provided through the semester. “They always made themselves available to help when needed, like offering some flexibility when I volunteered with the cleanup after the tornado devastation in Kokomo in November,” Clayton said. “They were willing to do all the paperwork requested by Kettering and Ball State to report my progress – and that progress report showed I met the requirements both universities had set.”
Susan Maxson, director of Student Support and Development at Ivy Tech Kokomo, said, “I’m so happy that Ivy Tech helped Clayton realize his goal of attaining admission to Kettering University. Clayton is a wonderful young man who came to Ivy Tech with a vision, made use of the college’s many resources and is now going on to pursue his dreams.” She continued, “Ivy Tech may be losing a good student, but losing a student to Kettering University is something to celebrate.”
Kettering University, known for years as General Motors Institute and a premier engineering school, was Clayton’s first choice for continuing his education. “Kettering offers the best value for the time I will spend in college,” Clayton said. “I’ll come out with a degree as well as 2½ years in the workforce. That’s invaluable to employers and really attracted me.”
As a three-year participant in Kokomo High School’s Technokats robotics program, Clayton also was impressed by Kettering’s long-time commitment to high school robotics competitions in the Flint area. Joining the Technokats his sophomore year, he immediately took over the job as software lead, building on an interest in computers and gaming he’d been developing since a child.
“I learned an entirely new language of programming,” Clayton said, “and with the help of volunteer mentors, I was able to write software that enabled us to win a round against a team that eventually won the world championship.”
“My dad’s a computer scientist and ever since I was 5, basically all my life, I’ve been interested in computers,” Clayton said. At 14, he gained valuable insight in what he calls “the very competitive computer sector” by writing web applications as an intern at Dealerflow Corporation, a high-tech Kokomo company that developed employee-based software for auto dealers.
At Kettering, Clayton plans to major in computer science with a focus on data security. His dream job? Working in computational fluid dynamics or integrated systems in the areas of aeronautics and avionics or the automotive sector. It’s a journey that has been kick-started at Ivy Tech Community College.
“With the financial aid I received, all my classes at Ivy Tech were more affordable than that one class at IUK,” Clayton said. “Coming to Ivy Tech allowed me to not break the bank and to still market myself to these bigger universities. Ivy Tech offered an affordable way for me to get the classes I needed to be able to move toward my educational goals.”
Ken Ferries, associate professor of political science and chair of Ivy Tech Kokomo’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, was one of Clayton’s instructors. “With the emphasis on students entering Ivy Tech through the front door, and graduating through the back door, we often fail to give Ivy Tech the credit it deserves for providing multiple ‘side doors’ that enable students to take classes here, and leave the college with those credits contributing to their success elsewhere,” Ferries said. “After all, in terms of educational value, the bottom line is student success—wherever that success occurs.”
Clayton is the son and stepson of Tonya and Bob Stephenson and son of Charles Yocom.