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ROCKINGHAM — Over 700 students in Richmond County Schools this week will have a chance to exit the classroom and enter into virtual reality. The Be Pro Be Proud bus delivers a mobile experience full of tools and resources to help students explore and plan career in technical roles. Students have the opportunity to check out career fields that interest them, and operate heavy machinery, drive an 18-wheeler, learn basic plumbing skills and more via virtual reality. “I have two degrees because that’s what every one told me to do,” said tour manager Lydia Phillips, adding that she made good money in her marketing job, but is still paying off student loans to this day. “There’s a lot of great technical colleges you can go to for two years and earn a really good wage. There are jobs you can get that will train you and pay you. It doesn’t have to be just a four year college.” On interactive screens, students were able to find career paths and jobs that they might be interested in, and then find training sites and schools that accommodate the programs they’re interested in. They could also see the expected median wage for each job. According to their website, the median salary for an electrician is $65,000 while the median wage for a welder is $73,531. The top ten percent salary in each profession was also highlighted. “They can see that there are opportunities to go out and get a job and make a good living and support themselves,” said the other tour manager, Keith Tucker. “Maybe a four year school is not for everybody. I think some of them, it’s the first time they’re seeing that.” The Be Pro Be Proud bus in North Carolina has reached just under 30,000 students. Over 3,300 students have joined the movement and shared that they’re interested in a technical trade career across 197 tour stops. Both tour managers said the interactive bus is great for students who maybe aren’t sure exactly what they want to do after high school. Ninth grader Jalen Covington had an opportunity to virtually drive an 18-wheeler, something that he said was pretty easy. Classmates Karma Little and Aveon Robinson, both seniors, had a chance to try virtual plumbing and air filter replacement respectively. Junior Serenity Wall operated one of the virtual cranes in front of a crowd of students. Career Development Coordinator Jason Perakis said he learned about this program through other CTE teachers in the state. He applied for this in October of last year, and was able to bring it to RCS this week. About 120 students from the Ninth Grade Academy will get some time on the bus, along with 63o RSHS students. There will be five sessions each day this week. The original plan includes getting some middle schoolers involved, although there was a medical career fair as well this week that conflicted. According to the Be Pro Be Proud website, there are other tours ongoing in Arkansas, New Mexico, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Just under 300,000 students have had an opportunity to visit one of their buses, and over 79,000 students have said they’re interested in a technical career. For more information, visit Reach Matthew Sasser at 910-817-2671 or to suggest a correction.