Fox Valley Career Center marks 50 years at Kaneland High

  • Alex Fabbri, right, and Ryan Mueller, both 16, work on replacing an air bag sensor in a truck during the auto tech 1 class at the Fox Valley Career Center at Kaneland High School. The center is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

      Alex Fabbri, right, and Ryan Mueller, both 16, work on replacing an air bag sensor in a truck during the auto tech 1 class at the Fox Valley Career Center at Kaneland High School. The center is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Posted11/15/2019 6:00 AM

The need for a certain segment of the high school student population to be exposed to careers that don't necessarily require four years or more of college has been apparent for decades.

The Fox Valley Career Center on the campus of Kaneland High School has provided that service for the past five decades. The center celebrated its 50th anniversary with an open house last week, and it's positioned to carry on that mission for decades to come.


And it's in a bit of a sweet spot at the moment. The combination of rising college costs and a strong economy in which jobs are being filled as fast as baby boomers are retiring, has opened far more students to the idea of researching a trade.

"A lot of our trades people and business owners now are saying that if you (students) come in, we will train you and also pay for your continuing education," said Rick Burchell, director of the Fox Valley Career Center for the past nine years. "We are starting to see an upshot in this, with students realizing you can have a good life and make a living out there without a college degree."

Students need an associate degree in technical training and they need the hands-on experiences that the career center has been offering.

"But this isn't like 50 years ago where you could walk out of high school and get a job in the plant," Burchell added. "Things are a lot more technical now."

Students at the career center are learning everything from being in the HVAC business, auto repair, culinary arts, horticulture and fire sciences to electricity, cosmetology and other trades.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

"I would never discourage anyone from getting an education and furthering it, but there are other opportunities to make a good living if you are willing to work," Burchell said. "What I see as the biggest change is in perception of how one looks at what a career would be."

Part of the lure, of course, is to avoid the fate of many college graduates who leave campus with large debt; a burden that can often have workers continuing to pay it off well into their 30s.

About 500 students from many of the Fox Valley area high schools are learning trades at the center, which recently expanded to include fire science classes at the former Kaneland Middle School site on Meredith Road.

"There isn't just one career path," Burchell said. "But if you can leave high school with some certification in new technology, it is much easier to get a job in a shop because they know you have the aptitude and you can work."


Congrats to Terry:

It was nice to see Terry Emma, director of the Geneva History Museum, earn the Wood Award from the Geneva Chamber of Commerce last week as the citizen of the year.

Her list of accomplishments and efforts on behalf of the city, schools and history museum is quite long. My work with her as part of the Geneva Dancing with the Stars fundraiser committee for about four years left a favorable impression. Terry was a hard worker you could rely on.

Like many people, it took a bit of time for Terry to land in the place it seemed like she was born to oversee. Her work at the history museum has revealed that perfect fit.

It also is the canvas to express what really motivates her: A deep love of her community and the people in it.

Hearing the bells:

During the holiday season, the sound of Salvation Army bell ringers may be the most common of traditions. It's what you hear when walking down the streets of our downtowns, or when your first get out of your car at a large retailer in which bell ringers have set up outside.

All of the Salvation Army units in the Fox Valley region can always use more bell ringers. If interested, you can sign up for a two-hour time slot at for the unit in your area.

It's the most important fundraiser for the organization, which nationally helps nearly 30 million people.

That's a turkey bowl:

Evergreen Pub and Grill in St. Charles is hosting its fourth annual Turkey Bowl from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17.

Nope, it's not football. It's actual bowling, if you count rolling frozen turkeys along a tarp to knock down bowling pins as such.

Teams of four players who pay the $40 entry fee will participate in an event that raises money for Project Mobility, a local organization that builds adaptive bikes for children and adults with disabilities.

The pub extends its holiday events to the following Sunday, Nov. 24, with a Turkey Smoke Fest from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. It's a day in which the large smoker will be in action cooking an assortment of meats.

But the day also is set aside to raise money for the Anderson Animal Shelter through a baking contest, and local Marines will be on hand to conduct a raffle that will raise money for their "Toys for Tots" program.

Cancer cure campaign:

Because I have gotten to learn about young Cole Spiegel of Wheaton by writing about his fight against basal cell carcinoma nevus syndrome in past columns, his grandfather, Duane Buttell of St. Charles, sent a recent video in which Cole got to meet Chicago Bears defensive coach Chuck Pagano.

Pagano, himself a cancer survivor, has created a foundation that has raised millions of dollars to aid cancer research and also focus on young kids fighting the disease.

The meeting between Cole, a sports fanatic and Bears fan, and Pagano was a promotion for the new "Tackle Cancer" campaign and made possible through Make-A-Wish Foundation.

His wish was to meet Pagano because of their connection in fighting back against cancer.

It's a touching video, one in which Cole gets to illustrate his keen awareness of the sports world in asking Pagano which team he would pull for when Wyoming, his alma mater, played against Boise State, a football team he coached.

"You always have to root for your alma mater," Pagano said, while giving Cole a high-five.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.