Many students graduate from high school and have no idea where to go or what to do with their lives, nor do they have the funds to continue their education.
Craig County Public Schools has partnered with Botetourt Technical Education Center (BTEC) to offer their students a broad scope of possibilities to those who cannot afford a major college, who prefer to learn a specific trade or those who wish to get a jump on their college careers.
The school states that it “seeks to provide a safe, challenging and supportive environment in which all students have the opportunity to acquire and practice the skills needed to be successful in their chosen career, through applied academics.”
Melissa S. Whiting, the principal at both Craig County High School and Middle School, explained that a few weeks ago, several members of school administration had the privilege of accompanying a large group of students interested in enrolling in the BTEC program. “It was amazing to witness first-hand the wonderful opportunities made to our students through BTEC,” she said. “The interest from our students was very high.”
For the 2018 – 2019 school year, 35 students attended BTEC. Approximately 45 have signed up for next year, creating a greater need for more scholarship funds to help them achieve their successful job careers.
The classes offered include: Aerospace Technology, Auto Service, Building Trades, Computer Systems Technology, Cosmetology, Criminal Justice, Cybersecurity, Engineering, GED/Adult Education, Information Systems Technology, Mechatronics, Nurse Aide, Veterinary Technology and Welding.
Students who have had the privilege to attend BTEC shared some of their personal feelings.
Chloe Ryan, a high school junior, is in her first year of Information Systems Technology (IST), a computer class. “I took the class because I really like computers. I think it is really fun as we are programming and making websites. We need computer technology for all jobs today,” she said.
Makala All, Christen Greenway and Sierra Klotter are all 11th graders taking cosmetology for the first time.
Said all three, “It will help us to get ready for our careers after high school. Cosmetology classes will help us start our own business after high school. We all like doing hair and nails.”
“We get to learn a lot of how to do hairstyles and it is a lot of science involved. It’s not just about curling or washing hair. We have to know what chemicals can be used for hair and much more,” Klotter said.
They all agreed that students learn a lot by just going to BTEC. “If we didn’t have BTEC, we would have to pay a lot more money to go to school after high school graduation and it is really expensive for cosmetology,” Klotter added.
They talked about the possibility of opening their own salon, including nail care, massage and possibly a tanning booth. It seemed that these early classes which zone in on specific jobs, have spurred their dreams a little faster, especially when they have other classmates who are doing the same.
Several seniors attend and are experiencing personal success from their classes.
Camron Fisher and Austin Brookman are in Auto Service 2. “I want to work on engines for NASCAR,” said Fisher despite having no family members with such trade experience. “Also, if someone is broken down on the road, I will have more experience than my classmates in helping someone right now.”
Brookman shared that he chose to go because of his interest in cars. He one day hopes to become a diesel mechanic and is already set up to go for Tech School in Nashville, Tennessee. “BTEC gives you a lot of experience in what you want to do, he said.
BTEC has a program where students can attend two days a week and work a part-time job three days a week. “This allows you to make money, gives you great experience so that in the future you can move up to a better job,” Brookman added.
Brandon Carper, Cameron Crush, Harrison Early and Michael James are in their third year of Welding classes. “I’ve always had an interest in welding since I was little and I’ve been pretty decent at it,” Carper said.
He continued, “I chose to attend, because they can certify me in welding, therefore if I go to a job interview and I’m certified and someone else is not, then I will have better chance of getting a job. I am actually already lined up with a job at Altec which I’m really excited about.”
Crush also shared that when he tried welding, he fell in love with it. “I’m not old enough to get a job because I’m 17, but BTEC will help to set us up with a job later which is great. It’s setting us up for our future! I believe that in welding, we are building America and building things for people, because if you look around, there is welding everywhere.”
Early mentioned that he likes the fact that he will be graduating high school with the American Welding Society Certification on his resume. “It’s very important for people to donate to the scholarship programs because it prepares high school students for their futures very well,” he said.
Added James, “BTEC is good because there is a whole generation of people who go to college, creating a gap from people who are retiring as plumbers, electricians and welders. No one is filling these jobs, so there is a big need for people to be performing them and BTEC is a great opportunity for those interested in doing the work.”
Lanai Taylor, Tori Rader and Alexis Short are all in their second year of nursing. They each will receive their CNA license when they take their State Board Exam in May.
“The care of people really triggers my attention and when people aren’t getting the care they need, that makes me want to strive to do better and help people,” Taylor said. “BTEC allows you to pursue a specific skill you have an interest in and to have it under your belt by the time you graduate high school. I feel like scholarships should be given to these students because they can help the community in having a job right out of high school.”
Said Rader, “I think scholarships are important because not everyone can pay for college. Some students can’t pay, so having those funds are nice so you and your family don’t have to worry.”
“I love BTEC because it shows more than just a high school diploma,” Short said. “If we had more scholarship funds available then more students would go because BTEC is not cheap.”
Only 20 students with at least a 3.0 GPA can get into the second-year nursing program.
All three plan to further their education at college but will use their certifications to get a good job while taking college classes. So far, they each have gotten job offers.
Joseph Old is in his third year of the cybersecurity program. Old said that when he took a tour of BTEC in 2016 to meet all the teachers, he connected with the cybersecurity teacher. “I have always liked computers,” he said. “Not only is it one of the fastest growing industries in the entire world, it also has some of the highest pay rates in entry-level jobs.”
Old explained that some students he knew who graduated from BTEC and started making $80,000 a year right out of high school. “They were the top four students of the class,” he said before adding, “If you do decide to go to college after graduating high school with BTEC certifications, you can get yourself a pretty nice job while you are there.”
Whiting believes the opportunities offered to CCHS students through the BTEC programs are “incredible and, in some instances, even life-changing.” This is her first year associated with BTEC.
“I have learned that it is often these particular courses that give the students motivation to succeed academically and professionally and, in a few cases, BTEC has served as the primary reason for a student to complete school and earn a certification along with a high school diploma,” Whiting said.
This year, BTEC charged $682 per semester per student. “We were able to pay 80 percent of the cost and students paid 20 percent which equaled about $136 per semester,” Samuel C. Foster, II, Director of Instruction and Educational Technology said. “This amount varies from year to year depending on the tuition charges, how many students attend and how much money we have for the program (federal, state and local).”
High school students in Craig are hoping there will be funds for everyone who wishes to attend next school year.
If anyone would like to sponsor a student, they can send their donation to Craig County High School and write BTEC Tuition Assistance in the memo line. Tuitions must be paid in October for Semester 1 and March for Semester 2.
“There is something there for everyone,” said several students. “BTEC is career based. They give you the skills and help you find a job. We hope people will help us in our career endeavors.”