High school graduation is a time when many students begin to think about jobs and careers, but 19 students at Pittsburg High School graduated with technical career certificates that allow them to be ready to walk into the workforce. Better yet, they did it with no out-of-pocket costs and their school district received $1,000 per student for its dedication to preparing them for careers after high school.
High school graduation is a time when many students begin to think about jobs and careers, but 19 students at Pittsburg High School graduated with technical career certificates that allow them to be ready to walk into the workforce.
Better yet, they did it with no out-of-pocket costs and their school district received $1,000 per student for its dedication to preparing them for careers after high school.
More than $50,000 in money from the State of Kansas was given to three Southeast Kansas school districts for their efforts to help students complete career-readiness programs.
USD 250 Pittsburg received $19,000, USD 508 Baxter Springs received $11,000 and USD 413 Chanute received $21,000, with amounts proportionate to the number of students earning industry-recognized certifications in these programs.
"Things are really happening in Southeast Kansas and one of those things is technical education," said Gov. Sam Brownback during the ceremony in which he presented checks to each of the districts.
He said the state legislature happily opted to pay for high school students anywhere in the state to take technical training.
Brownback said through the program, the state pays 100 percent of their tuition and a $1,000 bounty per student to their districts, and the students often are able to walk into a career or to have a way of financing future education opportunities.
Brownback said the program has correlated with a 50 percent increase in head counts in career-readiness programs in the past year and a half.
"Things are happening," Brownback said. "They're moving and people are going to get more jobs and make more money."
He said the accomplishment directly corresponds to the goal of high school graduates being ready to go to college or get jobs, which is one of his top five goals, and the program addresses at least three other goals, including increasing Kansans' personal incomes, creating more private jobs and decreasing child poverty.
"I'm ecstatic about it," Brownback said of the achievement of goals.
He added that he isn't seeking a culture in which students pick technical or higher education tracks, but rather would like to see technical education’s be a starting point.
"What I want to see is people get that CNA in high school and go on to be a doctor," he said, adding that he could also see a welding certificate lead to a choice to become a mechanical engineer or owner of a company.
Brownback awarded checks to district officials and then asked students to share what the opportunity had allowed for them.
Brianna Maxwell graduated from PHS in May and received her certification from Fort Scott Community College in carpentry and masonry, which then allowed her to secure a summer internship at Crossland Construction.
“It’s a great experience to get,” she said, adding that she is continuing on to PIttsburg State University in the fall to pursue a degree in project management.
Page 2 of 2 - “It was a lot of help,” she said of the certification. “Without my carpentry instructor and masonry instructor, I wouldn’t have gotten on with Crossland.”
She added that it helps to have a head start on knowledge.
“I think when I get in college I’ll know a bunch of stuff,” Maxwell said.
Her mom, Marenda Ortiz, said the opportunity was great.
“I think it’s just so fantastic she’s been offered the opportunity to move forward,” Ortiz said. “She’s really enjoyed working for Crossland this summer.”
Julie Menghini works for USD 250 and also represents the third district in the Kansas House of Representatives, and said this is an important moment for both organizations.
“I’m thrilled,” she said. “Any time you can invest in students’ educational future it’s a good day.”
Menghini noted that student loans are the largest growing area of debt, and that helping students graduate with certifications is one way to help with that.
“(It also provides) a way to pay your way to college,” Menghini said. “It can provide you with some livelihood.”
Destry Brown, USD 250 superintendent, said the day was a great way to celebrate the program.
“It’s really a beginning,” he said. “It’s great to see the kids here and to hear what they had to say.”
Brown said the funds given to the districts will help develop the programs and help sustain the programs, and he said there are some fees associated with the programs, which the district then picks up on behalf of the students.
“The district helps pay everything so the students can do the programs,” Brown said. “It should keep going on and on.
He added that he hopes numbers will continue to grow and that next year the district will celebrate 40 students receiving certification.
That goal is shared by others.
“The reality is that technical education is our future, it really is,” said Clayton Tatro, president of Fort Scott Community College.
Nacoma Oehme, director of construction trades at Fort Scott Community College, said the technical education opportunities have been important to him.
“We’re helping everyone find a career path,” he said of the students.
Dennis Burke, superintendent at Baxter Springs, said his district’s program has been going for 10 years and includes building trades, entrepreneurship and more.
“It’s been a great thing for our community,” he said.
Burke said the students build homes, which bring in new families, which also help enrollment.
One point of pride in the Baxter program is the relatively balanced male/female participation.
Another is that some of the students have gone on to get scholarships from Crossland Construction as they further their educations.