2016 Laurel Ridge graduate Amy Foltz has gone from a high school student taking a summer art class at her local community college to writing for engineers and rocket scientists.
The Stephens City native is now living in Washington, D.C., working as a technical writer for an engineering firm that does project planning for DC Metro’s capital improvement program, and doing contract work writing features for NASA.
It was her aunt, Amber Foltz – Laurel Ridge’s dean of students – who encouraged her to take classes at Laurel Ridge in 2013 while still in high school. The summer before her junior year, she took an elective drawing class with now-retired Art Professor Marion Mercer.
“I really enjoyed drawing and art history classes with Professor Mercer,” said Foltz. “She was fantastic. I took as many classes with her as I could. By the time I graduated high school, I had half my associate degree already finished, so it was a pretty easy choice to finish up the degree and take some time to figure out what I wanted to do next.”
She earned her associate degree in liberal arts in 2016, just one year after graduating from a private high school.
As someone interested in English, literature and writing, Foltz’s college composition class at Laurel Ridge was pivotal.
“It introduced me to the idea that writing is an art, it’s a craft, it’s kind of a science really unto itself,” she said.
Prior to coming to Laurel Ridge, Foltz wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.
“That’s one of the benefits going to community college gave me,” she said. “It gave me the opportunity to sort of try out different subjects that I might be interested in without going into a ton of student loan debt.
“It was a great opportunity to get my feet wet, so to speak, in the college environment. The classes were very high caliber. I was able to get guaranteed admission into Virginia Tech.”
Foltz said the transition to Virginia Tech was smooth, and the transfer support program there saw her placed in classes with other students who transferred in.
Foltz earned her bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, and is currently working on her master’s degree in science writing at Johns Hopkins University.
Her passion for writing has led to a meaningful career.
“I like to say that my job is translating for engineers,” Foltz said.
Additionally, she is writing features for NASA about their scientists working at Ames Research Center, with her first article due to be published soon. Foltz enjoys communicating complex subject matter to a variety of audiences.
“I want to keep talking about things that are complicated,” she said. “That’s what drew me to technical writing in the first place. I’ve always been interested in how we talk about things that are incredibly complex. My goal is to continue to write about things that I find interesting, which is something that technical writing and science writing give me a lot of freedom to do.
“There are so many different fields where communications are vitally important. Being able to communicate technical and complicated information is a very valuable skill.”
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.