Monthly Archives: May 2021

CareerTech Champions

ShiAnne Farris — Northwest Technology Center and HOSA

THEN: ShiAnne Farris didn’t choose between college and CareerTech — she chose both. And that was just the beginning. Farris was a junior at Alva High School when she took the first step toward her career goal of becoming a doctor, enrolling in Northwest Technology Center’s health careers program. At Northwest Tech, she

  • Learned baseline medical knowledge.
  • Served as a state officer in HOSA, the CareerTech student organization associated with health careers.
  • Networked with peers and gained valuable leadership skills
  • Received numerous certifications, including certified nurse aide, certified medication aide and massage therapy.

After high school, Farris went to Northwestern Oklahoma State University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing degree in 2013. But even that wasn’t her end goal. Far from it. A few years later, Farris returned to NWOSU to work on prerequisites for medical school. She was accepted to the Oklahoma State University School of Medicine in 2019 and expects to graduate in 2023. After that, Farris expects to have three or four years of hospital residency.

In addition to school, Farris has worked as a CNA, CMA, nurse and registration clerk at Share Medical Center and Alliance Health. She is on the rural medicine track and plans to return to Alva to practice medicine. With a stubbornness that became a fierce determination, according to her instructor at Northwest Tech, Farris has faced – and conquered – a series of tough challenges.

NOW: She drives three hours home to Alva on weekends to spend time with her 6-year-old daughter and 16-month-old son. As she works toward becoming a doctor of osteopathic medicine specializing in either emergency or family medicine, Farris said she schedules every second of her day — her showers, study time and even the time she makes phone calls. Farris said she believes it is never too late to go after what you want.

“It’s okay to be stubborn. Never let anyone tell someone they can’t do something.”

ShiAnne Farris – medical student and mother

Female inmates graduate from truck driver training class

Four Oklahoma women are blazing new trails in big rigs.

The women are graduates of the first truck driver training class for incarcerated women. The program is a partnership between the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

“This program and others like it align with our mission to help offenders transition successfully from the correctional system to the workplace,” said Oklahoma CareerTech State Director Marcie Mack. “We’re very proud of each of the ladies, who have learned the skills they need for prosperous employment that will make a positive impact on their lives and the state’s economy.”

Two of the women, all of whom came from the Oklahoma City Community Corrections Center, have been released from DOC custody and hired by an Oklahoma City-based over-the-road trucking company.

During an eight-week finishing program with the company, the two women will drive all over the country with a trainer, gaining experience as drivers. Once they complete their training period, the two women will be given their own trucks and hired as full-time drivers.

The other two women are scheduled for release later this summer and plan to interview with the same industry partner.

The women started their training class in March and ended it earlier this month. They completed an intensive four-week program that included both classroom time and driving time. Their classes were conducted at Central Technology Center’s satellite site in El Reno.

The program in which they studied started as a pilot project in summer 2019 with men who were on probation; the program transitioned to incarcerated individuals in 2020. Two classes of men from Union City Community Corrections have completed the program, but this is the first class of women.

“They aren’t just giving us a job, they are giving us a whole new life,” Joanna Fowler said in an ODOC video. “And I’m so grateful for it.”

About Oklahoma CareerTech

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education provides leadership and resources and assures standards of excellence for a comprehensive statewide system of career and technology education. The system offers programs and services in 29 technology center districts operating on 59 campuses, 399 PK-12 school districts, 13 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities and 32 adult basic education service providers.

The agency is governed by the State Board of Career and Technology Education and works closely with the State Department of Education and the State Regents for Higher Education to provide a seamless educational system for all Oklahomans.

CareerTech Champions

Averee Murray – FFA

Owasso FFA president is “one to watch.”

Then: An Owasso eighth grader whose first love was soccer. Averee Murray’s horizon broadened when her sister let her tag along to the school barn to help take care of her show pigs. Murray said she knew right away she wanted to be part of the FFA experience, describing the atmosphere as “competitive, yet kind,” and the students as “well-rounded.”

She enrolled in agricultural education and became active in Owasso’s FFA chapter, where she is currently serving as chapter president. She participated in the 2020 Oklahoma FFA Officer Leadership Conference and credits FFA for helping her develop a strong work ethic, as well as teaching her

  • Time management skills.
  • The value of attention to detail.
  • How to be more proactive.

The high school senior said she integrates those skills into speechwriting, raising show pigs, interviewing for scholarships, interacting with friends and working on group projects in school, along with many other professional and personal activities.

After high school, Murray plans to major in agricultural communications at Oklahoma State University.

“I consider CareerTech as a stepping stone to my future career pathway,” she said. “It provides students a safe environment to learn about their interests, while providing an easy transition from student to professional.”

Now: Murray is one of 20 students selected to serve on the Oklahoma Agriculture Youth Council and one of only 97 Oklahoma high school students appointed to the 2021 Student Advisory Council, a group set up six years ago by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister to assist in policy matters. The Tulsa World recently named Murray as one of the 2021 Owassons to Watch.

After college, Murray would like to work in public relations for a large agricultural company or with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

“I learned that to get any further than you already are, you start saying yes to things you aren’t completely comfortable with in the moment.” Averee Murray, student

CareerTech student chosen as 2021 Presidential Scholar

An Oklahoma CareerTech student is one of two state students chosen as 2021 Presidential Scholars.

Sean Kuehn of Sand Springs is among 161 high school seniors in the 57th Presidential Scholar class who are being recognized for their accomplishments in academics, the arts and career and technical education fields.

Kuehn is a senior at Charles Page High School. He is the national president of Technology Student Association, a former state president of the Oklahoma Technology Student Association and a national champion in Prepared Speech. TSA is a CareerTech student organization affiliated with science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

Kuehn serves on Oklahoma CareerTech Director Marcie Mack’s Student Advisory Committee and Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s Student Advisory Council. Earlier this year, he was one of two Oklahoma students chosen represent the state during the 59th annual United States Senate Youth Program Washington Week.

CareerTech Champions

Jay Villemarette – Moore Norman Technology Center & SkillsUSA

CareerTech made such an impact he could feel it in his bones.

THEN: A self-conscious 17-year-old with an unusual hobby and no plans for his future. It was back in the ’80s when Jay Villemarette decided to enroll in Moore Norman Technology Center’s auto body course because he liked working with his hands. He didn’t know at the time that this decision would shape his future.

The auto body program taught the high school junior how to repair vehicles, but the personal and professional life lessons Villemarette learned from his MNTC instructor were even more valuable.

“Moore Norman is one of the first places I felt valued as a person,” he said. “And I owe much of my self-confidence to my instructor, Jim Opdyke. What he saw in me – at 17 – was something I didn’t see yet.”

One of the first lessons he learned was the importance of following through with the projects he started. Villemarette represented his class at the state SkillsUSA contest and placed third in the auto body competition. He went on to win fifth place at the national convention. Self-confidence was winning over self-consciousness.

It was the process of self-discovery that gave him the confidence to follow his true passion, which had absolutely nothing to do with cars. That passion started as a hobby when he was just a child.

How it all started

When Villemarette was 7 years old, he found a canine skull in the woods. He was fascinated by it, and with his father’s help he began collecting other skulls. By high school, he was selling them while he worked as an auto body technician.

Several decades later, what started as an unusual hobby is now a successful family business. Villemarette and his wife started Skulls Unlimited International, a mail-order company that services customers from around the world. Again, this is where his newfound self-confidence came into play.

“I created a market where a market hadn’t existed,” he said. “I brought skulls and skull collecting into the mainstream market and made skulls and skeletons available to the educational and science communities.”

Villemarette has supplied skeletons and skulls to many well-known museums, including the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.; the American Museum of Natural History in New York; and the Field Museum in Chicago. His company processes about 30,000 skulls or skeletons a year, making it the largest supplier of osteological specimens in the world. It was even featured on “Dirty Jobs” and “Modern Marvels”.

In 2010, Villemarette opened the Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City. There, visitors can see a Komodo dragon skeleton that was a presidential gift to George H.W. Bush; a complete 40-foot humpback whale skeleton; and much more.

NOW: All three of his sons work for Skulls Unlimited with him and his wife, and two of the young men took courses at MNTC.

“These classes have done for my sons what it did for me,” Villemarette said. “I attribute much of my work ethic and self-confidence to my time at CareerTech.”

See: Skulls Unlimited featured on Dirty Jobs

See: Skulls Unlimited featured on Modern Marvels

Skulls Unlimited website

“CareerTech made an impact on my life that changed me forever.”  Jay Villemarette, Skulls Unlimited

Museum of Osteology
The history of Skulls Unlimited

Purple Ducks place second in national space challenge

CareerTech represented TWICE in StellarXplorers VII top 10.

Francis Tuttle Technology Center’s Purple Ducks beat out 209 teams from across the country at the national StellarXplorers VII High School Space Challenge.

(L-R): Bryan Kitzrow, Sean Rice, Renardus Herholdt, Samual Doerflinger (Team Captain), Clark Howard & Charles Koutahi

StellarXplorers is an Air Force Association program designed to inspire students to pursue education and careers in STEM fields that use space system engineering.

During the competition, teams defined orbits and spacecraft components and launched vehicles to meet a set of mission requirements. The students had to choose where to launch from, what equipment/sensors to choose for the payload while staying within the weight and cost constraints, and what orbit to select for the satellite to optimize its objective. The scenario used actual “real-life” situations, numbers, and constraints. Teams also gave a presentation to a panel of experts.

While preparing for and participating in the challenge, students develop skills such as teamwork, time management, communication, conflict resolution, leadership, risk assessment, critical thinking and relevance. They use problem solving-methods with complex open-ended situations.

The Purple Ducks team members were Sean Rice, Renardus Herholdt, Sam Doerflinger, Clark Howard and instructors Bryan Kitzrow and Charles Khoutai. The Oklahoma City students finished just a few points behind the Africanized Killer Bees, which represented Aurora Composite Squadron, Civil Air Patrol, from Portland, Oregon.

Charles Khoutai said teams get to work with STK, a software platform that allows students to analyze the complex missions and operations in space.

“We never know what skills will open doors to for our students,” Khoutai said. “But with the establishment of the newest branch of military, “Space Force,” the relevance of space missions becomes real. 

CareerTech offers a state-approved course that aligns with the competition and includes earning an STK certification in level one and two.

Along with bragging rights, each of Francis Tuttle’s second-place team members received a $2,000 scholarship from the Department of the Air Force STEM program.

“The AFA is very proud of all the students who competed in the StellarXplorers National Finals,” said retired Lt. Gen. Bruce “Orville” Wright. “Not only were they among the top teams this season, but they competed in the midst of a pandemic.”

Stephen K. Gourley, StellarXplorers program director, said, “These very talented competitors represent the next generation of the technical workforce the nation needs. With the graying and passing of the Apollo-era cadre, the U.S. needs to find and challenge talented students, whoever and wherever they are. We are quite proud of the participants’ demographics, all backgrounds, races and genders drawn from urban, suburban and rural populations.”

Edmond North’s Alex Loney, national TSA vice president

According to the AFA, nearly half of the StellarXplorers are underrepresented minorities and over a third are female. Sponsors of the program include Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Air Force STEM Program and L3Harris, with additional support from the Educational Alliance of Analytical Graphics Inc., Space Center Houston and Coyote Enterprises. 

The Stars AFJROTC team from Edmond North High School also competed in the finals and placed in the top 10. One of the members of that team was Alex Loney, national Technology Student Association vice president: https://tsaweb.org/about/people/national-tsa-officers.  

The CareerTech STEM division partners with the local Gerrity AFA Chapter to support StellarXplorers teams in Oklahoma. The two partners will join forces with the FAA to provide training June 9-10 for teachers interested in competing and/or adopting the course next year. For additional information, visit the Oklahoma CareerTech website at www.okcareertech.org/educators/STEM and select Professional Development.

Related content: Oklahoma News Report story on StellarXplorers

CareerTech Champions

Desirae Woodward – ABE and Central Technology Center

NOW when she goes to a restaurant, she can sit and relax.

THEN: A waitress and a single mom. Desirae Woodward had dropped out of high school as a sophomore, and waiting tables was all she had ever done. Irregular work hours forced her to miss many of her children’s activities, and her job didn’t provide health benefits.

Food service was her only marketable skill, and even though she enjoyed her job, Woodward wanted more. In 2019, she enrolled in the adult basic education program at Central Technology Center. Determined to build a career for herself, she received her HiSET high school equivalency diploma a year later.

“I wanted to set a good example for my kids,” she said.

At Central Tech, Woodward

  • Gained computer skills and became more familiar with technology.
  • Developed good study skills and habits, which improved her testing scores.
  • Learned how to create a resume, which helped her land a job.

“I also gained confidence in herself and what I am capable of,” she said.

Having a diploma opened up doors for Woodward.

“I was able to apply for jobs I couldn’t apply for without a diploma or a GED,” she said.

She used that diploma to get a job at Central Tech. She said she uses her new skills every day.

NOW: No longer a waitress. Woodward said she has a “normal” job with great hours, working as secretary and classroom aide for Central Tech’s truck driver training program. She answers and directs calls, inputs student and class information, prepares graduation materials and orients incoming students. She receives on-the-job training in Word, Excel, Outlook, SharePoint and Lumatech software.

Woodward’s new job offers health benefits, and she gets to spend more time with her kids.

“CareerTech changed my life,” she said, adding that now, she gets to do her part to improve the lives of others.

She’s not finished learning. Woodward said she wants to build on her current skills and learn “any new thing thrown my way.”

“I want to raise my kids and just be happy,” she said.

“I want my kids to know you can do anything you set your mind to.”

Desirae Woodward, high school grad and Central Tech employee

CareerTech Champions

Phil Berkenbile – Agricultural Education and FFA

Retired state director’s dedication to CareerTech goes back to his high school days.

Then: A Dover, Oklahoma, farm boy, coming of age in the ’60s. When Phil Berkenbile enrolled in agricultural education at Dover High School, it literally set the trajectory for his life. He was an active FFA member, doing the usual ag stuff — showing animals, learning about crops and farming. But for Berkenbile, like so many other young people, FFA also taught invaluable life skills.

His ag education and FFA experiences taught Berkenbile

  • Public speaking skills.
  • Leadership skills.
  • Skills in agriculture mechanics, agronomy and livestock production.

Berkenbile said those skills have benefitted him well beyond his high school days. He said he uses them to work with professional organizations such as his local school board, the CareerTech Foundation board and the Morrison Lions Club.

“These skills are making a difference in my community,” he said. “I try to be involved and assist individuals and groups whenever possible.”

He has only worked in two places, he said. He began his career as an ag teacher at Morrison High School. In 1988 he moved into an ag leadership position with the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

“I use the skills I learned in FFA in everything I do,” he said. “It’s just become part of my background.”

He returned to Morrison Schools as superintendent, then later returned to CareerTech to finish his career, ultimately serving as CareerTech’s sixth state director until his retirement in 2013.

Berkenbile served on several boards and task forces, including as chairman of the Governor’s Taskforce on Healthcare and chairman of the Oklahoma Education Technology Trust Foundation. He received the prestigious 2012 VIP Award from the Oklahoma FFA Association and the 2010 VIP Citation from the National FFA Organization. The VIP Citation is one of the most prestigious awards a person can receive for supporting FFA and its programs.

Now: A 2015 inductee into the CareerTech Hall of Fame. Berkenbile called CareerTech a pathway to success.

“CareerTech programs prepare students with the skills to be successful in their field and in life,” he said.

Berkenbile serves on the Morrison School Board and the Morrison Community Development Association, among his many community service activities.

Six slated for induction into Oklahoma CareerTech Hall of Fame

The Oklahoma CareerTech Foundation will induct six people into the Oklahoma Career and Technology Education Hall of Fame in October. This year’s inductees are Kent Boggs, Carolyn Cotton, Nancy Randolph Davis, Bob Funk, Phil Waul and Greg Winters.

“These Oklahoma CareerTech Hall of Fame honorees have contributed significantly to the success of the CareerTech System,” said Marcie Mack, CareerTech state director. “Each recipient has advanced the mission of CareerTech in unique and extraordinary ways. We appreciate and honor their commitment to students, businesses and the lives of Oklahomans.”

Boggs retired from the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education in 2018 as the state FFA secretary. Before joining ODCTE in 1985, he taught agricultural education in Elgin and Marlow.

Cotton retired from ODCTE as a family and consumer sciences education program specialist. She taught FCS for more than 30 years before joining the state department.

Nancy Randolph Davis, who will be inducted posthumously, was the first Black student to enroll at Oklahoma A&M, which is now Oklahoma State University. She taught family and consumer sciences at Dunjee High School and Star Spencer High School.

Funk is the co-founder, president and vice chairman of the board of Express Employment Professionals and a longtime advocate of career and technology education. In 2018, he received the inaugural Oklahoma CareerTech Advocate of Excellence Award.

Waul worked for 42 years at Central Technology Center. He joined the tech center as a drafting instructor in 1973 and retired as superintendent in 2015.

Winters retired as Canadian Valley Technology Center superintendent in 2018 after 44 years in the CareerTech System. He also served as superintendent at Eastern Oklahoma County Technology Center and Kiamichi Technology Centers.

The 2021 class of inductees will increase the Hall of Fame membership to 86. The Hall of Fame, which is sponsored by the Oklahoma Foundation for Career and Technology Education, was founded in 1990.

Previous inductees include governors, college deans and professors, business and industry leaders, educators and CareerTech System faculty, staff and agency members.

The reception and banquet will be Oct. 14 in the OSU Student Union Ballroom.

For more information about the Oklahoma CareerTech Foundation, visit https://www.okcareertech.org/about/foundation.

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education provides leadership and resources and assures standards of excellence for a comprehensive statewide system of career and technology education. The system offers programs and services in 29 technology center districts operating on 58 campuses, 399 PK-12 school districts, 13 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities and 32 adult basic education service providers.

The agency is governed by the State Board of Career and Technology Education and works closely with the State Department of Education and the State Regents for Higher Education to provide a seamless educational system for all Oklahomans.