Today, I want to talk about one of my favorite cities in the U.S.–Jacksonville.
No. Not the one in Florida: population 821,784, the largest city in the country and home of the NFL Jaguars. I want to talk about Jacksonville, Texas: population 14, 434, home of the Tomato Festival and the Jacksonville High School Indians.
Over two hours from Dallas and three hours from Houston, this small town in east Texas has one of the best Career and Technical Education(CTE) programs around. Every spring, like most schools across the country, Jacksonville High School hosts a sports banquet. However, unlike most schools, JHS also hosts a Career and Technical Education Awards ceremony spotlighting students who received certifications in nursing, automotive, culinary, agriculture, arts media, business and computer literacy.
I had the pleasure of speaking at last year’s ceremony (CTE not sports) and was thoroughly impressed– blown away actually. The CTE Certification Coordinator, Mr. Chuck Silvertooth, introduced several terrific instructors who proudly announced all of the students in their respective programs who achieved industry credentials. It was obvious to all those in attendance (students, teachers, community leaders, parents and yours truly) that the CTE instructors at JHS were genuinely interested in helping their students find their personal pathway to prosperity.
Mr. Silvertooth himself recognized 90 kids who successfully attained 230 Microsoft Office Specialist certifications including three perfect scores! And to top that, one of his students, Kami Martin, was named the U.S. Champion for Excel 2007 the following month. She and four other students from around the country beat out over 72,000 qualifiers to represent the U.S. in the Microsoft Office Worldwide Competition held in San Diego, CA last summer. Oh, and by the way, Kami was the very first U.S. Champion from the great state of Texas!
Hosting a CTE Awards Ceremony is a terrific occasion to formally and publicly honor well-deserving students. It is also an opportunity for schools to meaningfully engage with parents who are actually eager to understand the benefits of CTE programs in public education. One parent told me that she “finally gets it.” Until that night, she really did not understand the value and benefits of industry recognized certifications and why her son was so excited about a “piece of paper.”
By setting a very high bar and challenging their students to achieve more than just good grades, Mr. Silvertooth and the CTE staff of Jacksonville High School are elevating both the employability and college readiness of their students. They are transforming the lives of every single young person who’s willing to sign up for their classes, and essentially shaping the future of their small community.