TCD helps teens focus on future

As principal of the Technology Center of DuPage and the parent of a TCD graduate, I have a thorough appreciation for the advantages focused college and career preparation programs have for DuPage County-area students.

In my daily professional experience, I am consistently impressed by the willingness of our students and many staff members to strive for excellence in the ever-evolving world of career and technical education.

You may be wondering, "What is TCD and how does it 'fit' into DuPage-area students' high school experience?" Technology Center of DuPage is an area career center that serves more than 1,000 students from 24 member high schools in DuPage County and Lyons Township in Cook County.

To meet the demands of business and industry, TCD provides programs, industry-specific expertise, and exceptional equipment in its advanced career and technical education facility. Our emphasis on career readiness in these "supersized career electives" is beneficial as our students gain the academic and technical knowledge critical for success in a future career.

DuPage-area students are fortunate that the schools participating in this cooperative effort have established systems and understandings that open the doors for students to experience an accelerated college and career program while still in high school. Our partner school administrators and counselors are vital to making this effective connection for our students. This opportunity also is made possible, in large part, by TCD's well-developed relationships with several community colleges, primarily the College of DuPage. College readiness is achieved through dual credit - students earning both high school credit and college credit at the career center.

It is important to recognize the exceptional commitment of our students. TCD students accept a thoroughly unique pathway through their high school experience that prepares them for success in post-high school pursuits. Though TCD students are still high school kids who worry about how to win at Madden NFL 18 or find a date for homecoming, they also have a mature vision of how their educational experiences will translate into a productive career. The young adults at TCD see future opportunity differently and, in many cases, with better clarity than many of their peers.

The maturity of TCD's students pays significant dividends as they prepare for future education and career opportunities. Last school year, 714 students earned an average of eight college credits while attending TCD. Nearly 20 percent of graduating TCD seniors begin their college careers with more than a full semester head start on a degree. While this accelerated start on college is certainly impressive, it is also worth noting that each year more than 600 students graduate from TCD with state-approved and industry-recognized certifications in their particular industries.

The students who attend TCD have a purposeful sense of a career while many of their classmates have only a vague idea of what life after high school might hold. Many future high school graduates imagine "making money" but have a stunning lack of understanding as to how "making money" happens. College is important for them, but they don't imagine with real clarity what they might do with the experience. Seldom is this the case with students who have made the choice to join us at TCD.

Whether they are sharing a bus ride to our impressive facility in Addison; exploring the complexities of applying the theoretical mathematics and science concepts from their previous school studies into real-world experiences; or accepting the responsibility for the health and welfare of others in clinical/apprenticeship experiences in the community, TCD students are fortunate to have found a way to, as one TCD 2017 graduate said with a grin, "just do high school better."

Throughout the year, this column will highlight TCD's exceptional students and programs; emphasize the importance of our sending school partners; and share with our community why so many of our students tell us that TCD is "the best part of my school day."

• Steve Carr is principal of the Technology Center of DuPage, the area career center providing career and technical education opportunities for DuPage County and Lyons Township high school students. His column appears monthly in Neighbor during the school year.

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