TCD students demonstrate skills as they prepare for future

The program electives at Technology Center of DuPage are quiet for the summer. No more Pizza Fridays for a while; no chatter down the main hall - except for the young people coming for robotics camp, culinary camp and Cosmetology's summer session.

The students who participated in a TCD elective enjoyed a year full of accomplishment, growth and visions of future success. Sixty-five were inducted into the National Technical Honor Society, the organization that recognizes outstanding student achievement in career and technical education. This past semester, 547 students took advantage of the dual credit offered through their TCD programs (transferable college credit earned concurrently with high school credit).

Back in February, TCD's Professional Cooking, Baking and Service program fielded a management team at the Illinois ProStart Student Invitational. The five-student team placed third in the state, earning multiple renewable scholarships: Ellie Chanhnourack and Kat Woltman from Downers Grove High School District 99, and Alyna Wilson, Paola Ramos and Keenan Suacillo of Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200.

A few things are left to do:

• Fifty-six Nursing Assistant students are eligible to sit for the state certification exam on Thursday, June 16.

• State SkillsUSA champions Marty Stubben of St. Francis High School and Rachael Kennedy of Lake Park High School will compete Monday to Friday, June 20 to 24, at the national conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

• TCD will be represented by state champ EMT seniors Joe Egan from Willowbrook High School and Matt Slonoff of Hinsdale Central High School at the International Health Occupations Student Association Conference from Wednesday to Saturday, June 22 to 25, in Nashville.

All these were among 120 students recognized last month at TCD's Senior Awards ceremony. Visit to review the accomplishments and future plans of these fine students.

For those who still think career and technical education is for the non-college-bound, I offer the results of TCD's annual senior survey:

• 78 percent are entering a college or university next fall, with 61 percent majoring in the program of study begun at TCD;

• 6 percent are enrolling in a career-specific technical school or industry apprenticeship; and

• 7 percent are entering the military, with plans to use their service benefits to pay for college later on.

Only 5 percent reported that they plan to work full time right out of high school in their chosen career path. However, in doing so, they will be able to use the industry license or certification earned through their TCD program.

Every year, some students discover during their TCD elective that the career they thought they would pursue after high school is, in reality, not a good fit. This is a valuable insight since college is an expensive place to do career exploration. As one student commented, "I really liked learning if (this) was the career for me without wasting thousands of dollars!"

Of this year's seniors at TCD, 75 percent reported that they will work and go to school at the same time in career-related, résumé-building jobs that will pay better than most part-time jobs available to college students. Many will make use of the scholarships they have earned - more than $300,000 so far - to help pay the bills.

As I complete my year as the interim director at the Technology Center of DuPage, I want to thank both our faculty and staff for their great work in preparing your students for the future. It is important to understand that young people entering the 21st-century workforce need to be multi-skilled and able to retrain for new jobs throughout their careers. To accomplish this, students need a solid academic foundation and strong analytical and critical thinking skills.

Students enrolled in a TCD elective obtain these skills through our project-based learning model. By combining rigorous academics with a chosen career path, we can spark students' passion for their fields, as is noted in the many students honored at our recent senior awards program.

While many of my colleagues are focused on testing and other quantitative ways to measure student success, it is important not to overlook the association between helping students find their passion and connecting that with a purpose.

Why is that important?

Students who have nurtured that connection wake up in the morning and understand why they are going to TCD that day, why earning good grades has practicality and, ultimately, why graduating from high school is not only imperative, but the solid springboard to the postsecondary education or training the workplace expects. Today's career and technical education programs are uniquely positioned to support the relationship between passion and purpose.

Finally, I want to personally welcome Mike Zimmerman to the Technology Center of DuPage as the new DAOES/TCD director. Mike is a proven leader who will bring passion and enthusiasm to TCD as we continue to provide outstanding career and technical education programs to DuPage-area students.

• Alf Logan is the interim 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. Save the date: Parents, students and community members are encouraged to visit Technology Center of DuPage at its fall Open House, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 21 at 301 S. Swift Road, Addison.

Recent Lake Park grad Rachael Kennedy will compete in esthetics this month at the National SkillsUSA Leadership Conference. She will go to Illinois State University, using her cosmetology license to help finance her education in business. Courtesy of Technology Center of DuPage
Pictured are students who were among 120 honored at TCD's 2016 Senior Awards, from left: McKenzie Eaton, Lisle, TCD Nursing Assistant program, heading to the University of Arkansas for nursing; Christopher Alexander, Downers Grove North, TCD Electronics, will study electronics engineering at College of DuPage; Kayla Paz, Addison Trail, TCD Criminal Justice, will major in CJ at Lewis University; David Taylor IV, Wheaton North, TCD Pathway to Engineering, will study engineering at Upper Iowa University; and Leonardo Kekic, Lake Park, TCD Automotive Technology, will major in automotive at Southern Illinois University. Courtesy of the Technology Center of DuPage
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