Getting Schooled

Stepping Out of Comfort Zone Leads to Opportunities for Prilliyah Rinnix

By: Lisa Garrett

Prilliyah Rinnix hadn’t thought about establishing big or small career goals when she approached her senior year at Crescent High School.  She didn’t intend to go to college; instead she would graduate, go straight into the workforce, and earn a paycheck.

Things began to change when she decided to step out of her comfort zone and at her guidance counselor’s suggestion, enrolled in dual enrollment Mechatronics classes at Tri-County Technical College’s (TCTC) Anderson Campus.

Suddenly her personal and career goals began to expand exponentially.

So did her self-confidence. Getting out of her comfort zone and opening herself up to possibilities led to opportunities.   

“I learned how to take opportunities when they arise and not take them for granted,” said Rinnix.

She also sharpened her time management skills.

She began her senior year at the Anderson Institute of Technology taking dual enrollment Mechatronics classes, earning 36 college credit hours from TCTC and receiving a technical operator certificate two weeks before she became a high school graduate in 2022. She also had enrolled in Manufacturing Works, a new registered apprenticeship program for high school seniors in Anderson County who don’t have an identified path after graduation. It is custom-designed to align with skills sought by local employers and high-quality apprenticeship programs in the region. 

Students enrolled in Manufacturing Works attend weekly classes at Tri-County’s Anderson Campus. As part of the program, they have the opportunity to earn one or more industry-recognized credentials, such as an OSHA-10 completion card and Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt. They also have the opportunity to develop both technical and employability skills through hands-on activities with simulated lab experiences and/or through employer partner opportunities. By demonstrating employability skills in a simulated workplace environment, students can earn a stipend of up to $600. The stipend is made possible by funding provided by the Development Corporation of Anderson County. Upon completion of the program, students are eligible for registered apprenticeship programs at companies like Arthrex and First Quality. 

Rinnix of Iva was one of the three students in the inaugural class 

“It was a great opportunity and I didn’t hesitate,” said Rinnix, who also maintained a part-time job at a fast food restaurant. 

“Manufacturing Works is a great way for students like Prilliyah to confirm their desired career path and for others to explore the various manufacturing educational and career pathways available in the Anderson County area,” said Jennifer Hulehan, dean of Academic and Career Foundations Division and the Arts and Sciences Division at Tri-County. 

Rinnix will graduate with a Mechatronics degree, making her the first in her family to achieve that distinction.

She did it all debt free because of a LIFE scholarship and a workforce scholarship from Arthex. 

Some days it was overwhelming, she said, as she simultaneously juggled college and high school courses, in addition to Manufacturing Works classes on Fridays After getting home from her part time job at 10 p.m. she would tackle her homework. 

Her long-term goals continued to grow.  She said, “If I save money now, I can buy a house sooner rather than later.”

Earlier this year, she was asked to speak at the second Manufacturing Works ceremony.  Again, she stepped out of her comfort zone and stood before a large group and told manufacturing representatives, future employers and students how Manufacturing Works prepared students like her for the next step –  an apprenticeship, a job or more education at TCTC. 

For Rinnix, it was a paid internship at First Quality.

“It takes drive and determination to do what Prilliyah has done,” said Leanne Cobb, work-based learning coordinator in the Career and Employability Resources office at TCTC. Cobb said Rinnix was the first person she thought of when Gil Reed, human resources manager at First Quality, called about an internship at the Anderson facility. “Prilliyah had come to the office regularly asking for guidance in career planning and resume writing.  I knew she was among the few female Mechatronics students and was actively looking for a job.  She is so consistent and serious.  She is articulate, and intelligent.  She takes herself seriously and has a remarkable work ethic.  She takes pride in a job well done. I was proud to put her name forward.” 

Rinnix interviewed for the job over spring break and was offered the internship on the spot. This summer she was in class until noon and she headed to First Quality for a full shift as an intern in the maintenance department.

Rinnix says Cobb was the first person she called to tell her the good news and then called her mother followed by her brother. After graduating and gaining some work experience, Rinnix is eyeing another opportunity – a four-year degree which will enable her to advance in her career.