Six months into my position as director of the DuPage Area Occupational Education System, I have heard many times that Technology Center of DuPage is "the best-kept secret in DuPage County."
I'd like to share the stories of three students who feel fortunate they heard the secret before it was too late.
Each of these high school seniors was honored by the DAOES board of directors for outstanding work and class leadership in their respective TCD programs. DAOES is the governing body for Technology Center of DuPage and also administers the delivery of career and technical education for 14 member high school districts.
Matthew Watson of Naperville Central was unaware of the Fire Science/EMT program until his mother happened across a TCD course guide in Central's Career Center. Through the course guide, they learned Matt could begin pursuing his interest in emergency management while still in high school. Though disappointed he had missed the full two-year program, Matt still signed up for the Emergency Medical Technician program for his senior year.
Matt organized a study group with several other students to tackle the rigorous course work. He has eagerly taken on command roles in the program's mock scenarios and, according to instructor Greg Leston, "has grown tremendously in his communication, prioritizing and critical thinking skills."
In an email to me, Matt's mother, Lory, said Leston is a mentor and role model who has helped her son "realize his true potential … (and) instilled in Matt the confidence he needed to aspire for more."
Matt has been accepted into the University of Akron's unique Emergency Management and Homeland Security bachelor's program, which includes a 10-month paramedic license program through Akron General Hospital.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that emergency management directors earn a median annual salary of nearly $68,000, with some regions of the country paying six figures.
Kevin Tucker from Addison Trail High School thought he would have to wait until he graduated to pursue his interest in elevator construction. A chance mention to a school counselor led him to enroll in TCD's Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning program. Within a year, Kevin's strong work ethic and transferable, TCD-acquired electrical, diagnostic, and technical skills helped him land a part-time job with Colley Elevator in Bensenville, which specializes in commercial/industrial lifting systems.
After graduation, Kevin will enter a five-year apprenticeship with the International Union of Elevator Constructors, working full time with benefits while he trains for journeyman status. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts faster-than-average growth in this field (13 percent through 2024), with a median pay scale of $40 per hour (or $83,000 annually) in the Midwest.
In December, Sidney Wiese of Wheaton Warrenville South was honored for her work in the Nursing Assistant Training Program. She heard about TCD from friends, just in time for Sidney and her mother to attend the annual winter open house.
"Right away we both loved it and were very impressed!" she said.
Sidney approached her school counselor, who helped fit TCD into her schedule junior and senior year. Fortunately, Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 allows TCD's medical science programs to qualify as science and applied technology credits toward graduation.
Junior year, Sidney completed Medical Terminology and Healthcare Careers, earning nine hours of college credit in biomedical terminology, survey of health care careers, and first aid/CPR through a dual credit agreement with College of DuPage. She will earn another six credits through TCD's nursing elective, already has completed the mandatory clinical practicum in a long-term care facility, and is preparing for the state Nursing Assistant certification exam this spring.
After graduation, Sidney will apply her dual credit at Illinois State University's Mennonite College of Nursing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 16 percent growth in nursing jobs through 2024 and a median annual salary of $68,000.
These students illustrate why we work so hard to give other students and their parents the chance to hear about the TCD programs offered through DuPage County and Lyons Township high schools. If you see a mailed postcard from Technology Center of DuPage or an email from "TCD Campus," read it and share it. Learn more by visiting tcdupage.org and follow us on social media @TCDuPage.
As most high schools are beginning their course selection process for next year, I'd like to personally invite all members of the DuPage community to visit Technology Center of DuPage from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18, during our annual Community Open House.
This event provides a firsthand look at 20 elective high school programs that not only prepare students for a career, but give them a head start on the postsecondary education needed to reach their career goals. See the project-based programs in action; talk to current students, alumni and instructors; and discover dual credit, certification and scholarship opportunities.
Be sure to tell others, because TCD is definitely a secret worth sharing.
• Mike Zimmerman is director of the DuPage Area Occupational Education System, the governing body for Technology Center of DuPage and other career and technical education delivery sites in the region. See tcdupage.org for participating member high schools and information about TCD's advanced CTE programs. Technology Center of DuPage is located at 301 S. Swift Road, Addison.