Calhoun graduates its first female lineworker

Decatur

DECATUR, Ala. – A woman is blazing trails at Calhoun Community College.

Through a grant from the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, Massie Calvin is the first of what Calhoun officials hope to be many more women graduating from the College’s lineworker program under the new initiative.

Photo courtesy Calhoun Community College

Calvin, a mother of a two- and five-year-old, was honored in a ceremony Friday morning at the pole yard across from the Calhoun Decatur campus.

Photo courtesy Calhoun Community College

While Calvin is the first graduate under the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham Initiative, Calhoun officials discovered Jessica Massey graduated from the lineworker program in 2013.

Calvin said the program alone is tough; it’s even tougher breaking into an industry traditionally dominated by men.

“When I joined the program, I was told one of the toughest weeks of training is known as ‘Hell Week,’ and boy did I quickly understand how it received that name,” she said.

Photo courtesy Calhoun Community College

Hell Week consists of climbing 40-foot poles and performing basketball drills at the top, at least 10 climbs to the top of an 80-foot pole, and rescuing a 150-lb hurt person at the top of a 20-foot pole in under three minutes.

Instructor Mike Lowery said Calvin shocked all the instructors early during her time in the lineworker program.

“Typically in the first week of climbing, students climb two 40-foot poles to get comfortable with not only the height of the poles, but also learning to maneuver up and down them while wearing their lineworker gear. Massie, with no fear at all, boldly asked her instructor to climb the 80-foot pole instead. He looked at her in shock as that is not a typical request for students who have never worked in this field before, but he allowed her to do so. Not only did she successfully climb the pole, but she was the first one in the program to climb it. At that moment the instructors knew, she would go all the way,”

Calhoun Pre-Apprentice Lineworker Instructor Mike Lowery

Part of Friday’s 8 a.m. ceremony included a lineman rodeo. Representatives from TVA, the City of Decatur, and the Tennessee Valley Authority were on hand as spectators watched the graduates cycle through multiple stations.

Photo courtesy Calhoun Community College

The graduates competed against each other and were judged on their skills, as well as a self-powered climb up a 75-foot pole using only spikes, ropes, and a safety harness.

For more information on the Calhoun Community College lineworker program, contact Houston Blackwood at (256) 306-2664 or email houston.blackwood@calhoun.edu.

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