Zane Harrison of Van Buren always loved reading stories. And although he loved to create stories himself, putting words to a page always felt awkward.
Instead, he found solace in creating stories in a different way: computer animation, a passion Harrison discovered and fostered through the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith’s Western Arkansas Technical Center, where he has completed coursework for an associate degree in computer graphics technology.
“I’m really happy I’m shaving two years off my education,” Harrison said. “I put the work in and I’m being rewarded for it. That’s how it’s going to be when I get a job, so it’s good to see it happening when I’m still in high school.”
Harrison began taking classes with WATC as a junior, enrolling in classes on hand drafting, Photoshop, 3D visualization and character design. In his courses, he created character animations and recreated a scene from “The Matrix” with an animated characters dodging bullets.
“By being on a computer, I could make my own stories,” he said, adding that he is currently working on an animated story called “A Son of Hades.”
He continued to take classes through his senior year, accruing more credits. When he talked to his WATC counselor about what he would need to do to earn an associate degree, he was surprised to find out he only needed a few more course credits.
“I was kind of blown away,” he said.
Harrison, who will graduate from Van Buren High School this spring, took the additional courses to earn his associate and now plans to continue his education at UAFS after learning more about the university.
“I enjoyed the freedom and trust I was given at the university. I loved the programs, but my favorite thing about WATC was the professors,” Harrison said. “All of them were helpful and friendly, and they’ve done a great job in teaching me about animation technology.”
He plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in animation technology to prepare him for a career as a video game designer, where he can continue to tell stories through animation.
“I hope to one day create an animated story for all to enjoy,” he said.
The Western Arkansas Technical Center is an area technical center at UAFS that offers concurrent credit classes to high school students. For more information on WATC and the programs it offers, call 479-788-7720 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.