Each school day, high school students throughout Hunt County roll up their sleeves and get to work in their various career education classes. And while school districts continue to work to ensure that their kids meet state standards of college readiness, many are providing opportunities for young people to not only learn skills in their vocational classes, but also earn professional certifications.

For example, students at Greenville High School (depending on which career technology pathway they take), can earn certifications in skills as diverse as welding, electrical systems, veterinary assistance, culinary arts, or use of specific software, such as Microsoft Excel or Adobe Creative Suite. Likewise, even the smallest districts in Hunt County, like Boles ISD, offer opportunities to earn professional certifications in several of the same fields.

“Even when I was little, I was interested in engineering, but as a girl I was reluctant,” said Anika Escobar, a junior at Greenville High School. “But, after I started with FIRST Robotics and then solar car (class/team), I started to learn what all goes behind the making of a car and I liked it. In solar car, I learned so much about welding that I took the test to become AWS certified and passed.”

While some certifications don’t require prerequisites for testing, some require a certain number of classroom and/or work hours. This is the case with earning a veterinary assistant certification, as applicants are required to have a minimum of 200 classroom hours and a minimum of 300 work hours (as a volunteer or paid) in an animal clinic.

“I’ve been working at VCA Ridge Road Animal Hospital in Rockwall for about nine months,” said Brendan Warner of Caddo Mills High School. “I was a volunteer for six of those months, but now I get paid and I do lots of things like draw blood and collect urine.

“I plan to continue working at an animal clinic through college,” Warner added.

Many of the vocational offerings at high schools in the area also offer opportunities for students to work alongside their school’s staff and in their community. Examples of these kinds of programs can be seen in both Boles and Greenville ISD’s culinary arts programs.

“We have a five-year program here, where the students get to learn about the whole process of working in and managing a restaurant,” said Boles ISD culinary arts instructor Tim Dawson. “They work in the cafeteria and serve other students, and even though we haven’t done it since COVID, we have catered events.

“When they finish, they can try for a restaurant management certification,” Dawson added. “We’ve had some who have done that and gone on to a full-on culinary school, like one who’s currently at the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio. We also have a former student who wants to open a coffee shop and bistro someday, and he’s working on a business degree now to help with that.”

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Travis Hairgrove is a news reporter and features writer at the Herald-Banner and covers city government for many municipalities in Hunt County. To reach him outside of business hours, email THairgroveReporter@gmail.com.

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