As part of National Career Technical Education Month, the school hosted a college and career fair that allowed students to inquire about their plans and learn about career tech opportunities right on the high school’s campus.
Senior Samone Thompson has always wanted to be a lawyer and thinks her time in the law and public safety program at Anniston High will help her get ahead of other students who want to pursue law school. In the course of her program, she said, she has learned about individuals’ rights, protocol for court hearings, criminal policing and crime deterrents.
Jasmine Montgomery has managed to fit both criminal justice and Junior ROTC into her schedule. Her work in these programs has helped her focus on a very specific career path, military law enforcement. She plans to enlist in the military straight out of high school.
“It’s a great opportunity many students have at this school,” Thompson said of the criminal justice program. “It’s a great program.”
Edward Sturkie, head of career tech at Anniston High, said the school offers 10 such programs:
• Family and consumer sciences
• Health science
• Electrical technology
• Welding technology
• Law and criminal justice
• Network systems
• Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.
Career tech education is a huge part of the AHS curriculum, with about 75 percent of students taking these courses, Sturkie said. Of those career tech students, he added, nearly all of them become “completers,” meaning they take an entry-level course in the program followed by two upper-level classes.
And the programs will only get stronger, he said, as parts of the state’s Plan 2020 program go into effect.
The state’s new college- and career-readiness initiative will require more credentialing and nationally recognized testing for career tech students.
“It’s huge and it’s becoming more popular nationwide,” he said.
Kimberly Green, executive director for the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education, said career tech programs are especially strong in the Southeast, where states tend to integrate career technical education and economic development.
Southeastern and Midwestern states tend to have the heaviest enrollment in career tech and most support from the state governments, she said. According to statistics provided by her organization, more than 84 percent of Alabama public high school students are enrolled in career tech courses.
Kolawole Areme, the admissions director at Talladega College, said that students who are involved in career technical programs often seem more focused as they enter college. Their exposure to career-related skills and opportunities, he said, can put them a step ahead of other students in figuring out their paths through college and careers.
That’s the case for Kijana Byrd, the head teller at the Bulldog Branch, a school-based credit union affiliated with First Educators Credit Union. Always fond of math and dealing with money, Byrd said his experiences with the accounting program have prepared him well for his future. He said he thinks he will have a head start when he begins Albany State University in Georgia as an accounting major in the fall.
Juniors Terrance Marbury and Deshawn McKenzie both showcased their welding abilities at Friday’s fair, including a metal table sitting atop scrolled legs.
McKenzie is in his second year in the school’s welding program. Confusion over his schedule his sophomore year landed him in a welding class accidentally, but he fell in love with the program quickly.
Bentley Porterfield, the school’s welding instructor, said his students have the opportunity to pick up enough skills to leave his program and go to an industry to start at a beginning position.
Both McKenzie and Marbury hope to become underwater welders after they graduate.
“I like the craftsmanship of it,” McKenzie said. “I like being able to create things. I like to be in charge of what I’m doing.”
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.