Giving students more
From The News-Enterprise
The marketplace has no borders. Continuous innovations make products and services better and more efficient. Burgeoning competition in business means communities, workers and even trainees need an edge to succeed.
It’s never too early to start planning for success. In fact, it could be a risk for students to wait until late in their high school careers to consider how and where they’ll fit in a 21st century career.
In Hardin County, a profound education partnership will allow high school students not only to consider what’s next, but take real steps toward achieving their college and career goals.
Education officials took the first step in building an early college and career center when Western Kentucky University donated to Hardin County Schools 20 acres of land adjacent to Elizabethtown Community and Technical College. The land was given to WKU by Central Kentucky Community Foundation in 2007.
At the center, which officials look to open in 2014, high school juniors and seniors will be able to study one of six career pathways — health science, engineering, manufacturing, automotive technology, media arts and communication and hospitality services — and earn certification. Transportation, often a hurdle in opportunities for youth, will be provided between students’ home high schools and the center.
Also, students will be able to earn college credit for classes taken at ECTC or WKU, to which they’ll be able to walk.
This is the stuff of legacy. A public school district, two post-secondary education institutions and a community foundation that believes in the connection between education and community prosperity have come together to provide Hardin County’s youth an edge.
What educators envision is not just career planning. It’s career training. It’s not college planning in theory. It’s giving students access they need to challenge themselves to their highest potential, even if those challenges are in a college classroom.
This is not your grandmother’s vocational school, noted Hardin County Schools Superintendent Nannette Johnston. Vocational schools have had a reputation for serving otherwise poor performers. The career center will focus on job paths that lead to high-paying jobs and the curriculum will engage students and inspire them to think at a higher level.
Further, partners in business and industry are providing input on the career paths and students have expressed interest in these fields. School officials recognize work force needs will evolve and adjustments in the offerings are expected.
The pieces of this project were there, waiting to be pieced together. High schools across the state have been challenged to improve college and career readiness. WKU had land in the right spot, but no funding for bricks and mortar, which requires legislative approval. Hardin County Schools has the capacity to build. Elizabethtown has unique educational opportunities through WKU and ECTC. Hardin County is important to WKU, being the fourth most common home county of its students.
The center is a unique plan, one that’s been called the most dynamic educational partnership in the state, but unfamiliarity did not stop the center’s organizers.
Instead, they said, “why not?”
That’s what innovators say and it’s with those words that so many success stories start. What an example these community leaders have set for the very students they mean to serve.