Category Archives: CareerTech Champions

CareerTech Champions

Jesse Moore – Tulsa Technology Center

CareerTech grad got his career off the ground F.A.S.T.

THEN: He had aviation in his blood. Jesse Moore’s grandfather worked in aviation before Jesse was born. That family history may have been in the back of his mind when a group of students from Tulsa Technology Center’s aviation program gave a presentation at Owasso High School. Still two years away from graduation, Moore didn’t have much of a career plan, and the tech center presentation piqued his interest.

He enrolled in Tulsa Tech’s aviation generals, airframe and powerplant program at about the same time Sheryl Oxley started teaching. Moore said many of his classmates signed up for the program to get away from their high school for half a day, but he quickly realized there was more to the class than a change of scenery.

“Sheryl Oxley got me hooked,” he said. “She was even instrumental in my decision to join the Air National Guard.”

In additional to stoking his love of airplanes, Moore said Oxley and the aviation program

  • Helped him learn time management skills.
  • Showed him the importance of attention to detail.
  • Taught him how to read and understand manuals.
  • Gave him a general mechanical understanding and overview of how things work.

“Tulsa Tech gave me everything I needed for a long lasting and successful aviation career,” he said.

Moore and a classmate were offered a free trip to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Airventure, an annual air show and gathering of aviation enthusiasts in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Moore said it was one of the most memorable trips of his life. A decade later, he still volunteers at Airventure.

His first job out of school, Moore worked for Phoenix Rising Aviation, maintaining Falcon jets. He later joined a field and airborne support team with Gulfstream, a move he said catapulted his career forward. With F.A.S.T., he traveled all over, troubleshooting and solving complex mechanical issues.

NOW: After fixing a customer’s airplane one day, Moore was offered a job on the spot. He accepted the position he has today, corporate aircraft maintenance technician in Boston.

“A&P school teaches you how to learn and read manuals, do things correctly and understand why and how things work together. You can apply those skills to anything in life and become successful.

Jesse Moore, aircraft maintenance technician

CareerTech Champions

Justin Cockroft – SkillsUSA, Moore Norman Technology Center and Gordon Cooper Technology Center

His career took flight, after one love introduced him to another.

THEN: A high school graduate who thought he might want to own a home remodeling business. Justin Cockroft initially launched his CareerTech experience by enrolling in Moore Norman Technology Center’s carpentry program. There, he learned valuable carpentry skills from framing to roofing to trim carpentry. Although he didn’t start a business, Cockroft uses those skills for his own home remodeling projects.

His experience at Moore Norman sparked an interest in computer-aided drafting, which led to his second CareerTech experience. Cockroft enrolled in the CAD program at Gordon Cooper Technology Center in Shawnee.

It was at Gordon Cooper Tech that Cockroft discovered SkillsUSA, the CareerTech student organization for students preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations. He was active in SkillsUSA leadership activities and competitions, winning second place in the national SkillsUSA Chapter Display team event. Cockroft said

  • His CAD skills helped him land an entry-level position in an electrical engineering firm, where he later became senior electrical designer and firm manager, working with budgets in the tens of millions of dollars.
  • Those skills also helped him obtain a job at the Federal Aviation Administration, doing similar work.
  • He learned valuable project management and collaboration skills which he uses professionally today, both at the FAA and in the Air Force.

CareerTech provided a strong foundation for me,” he said. “I firmly believe that much of the success and opportunities I have experienced in my career can be directly attributed to the training and education I received from the CareerTech system.”

NOW: A management and program analyst at the FAA’s Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City. Cockroft administers a training program for more than a thousand federal employees and as many contractors, and facilitates the development of strategic messaging; planning; and science, technology, engineering and math initiatives.

He is a logistics readiness officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, ensuring his squadron’s fuels management flight delivers petroleum resources to the Air Force’s aerial weapons systems and vehicle management flight maintains vehicle fleet readiness.

“CareerTech provided me the opportunity to work with students, instructors and leadership, and I know I grew stronger and better because of these interactions.”

Justin Cockroft, FAA and MMAC

CareerTech Champions

Julie Smiley Foster – FFA, HOSA and STEM

CareerTech instructor transitioned from blue coat to white coat.

THEN: The first female to become a national FFA officer. Julie Smiley Foster was a high school student in Mount Vernon, Washington, when she enrolled in agricultural education and joined her local FFA chapter. FFA is the CareerTech student organization aligned with agricultural education.

It was there she learned numerous life skills from her instructor and chapter adviser. That was back in the 1970s, but Smiley Foster still recalls how he coached her and helped her win the state’s public speaking contest.

“To be able to speak to people I know and don’t know, whether planned or unplanned, has been a gift,” she said.

It was a gift that kept giving after high school. A few weeks after graduation, Smiley Foster was elected FFA state president, the first female to serve in that capacity. It wasn’t her only first, however. She continued to shatter glass ceilings in college when she was elected Western Region vice president for the national organization – the first female to hold a national office.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism (with a double major in agriculture science and journalism) from Texas A&M University and a master’s in counseling from Midwestern State University.

In addition to helping run the family farm for more than two decades, Smiley Foster taught junior high and high school science. She said she uses many of the skills she gained from FFA both in and out of the classroom. In addition to public speaking, she learned

  • How to plan, organize and follow through to produce successful events.
  • The importance of saying thank you and the value of writing thank-you notes.
  • How to speak to adults in business and how to remember names.

NOW: A National Board Certified instructor at Francis Tuttle Technology Center’s Biosciences and Medicine Academy. She teaches biomedical innovation and honors anatomy and physiology. Smiley Foster is an adviser for HOSA Future Health Professions, the CareerTech student organization that aligns with health careers education.

“CareerTech education is hands-on, problem-solving, skills-based and how-to-get-a-job training,” she said. “My purpose is to prepare students for the marathon of acquiring a career as a health professional.”

She said the professionalism she learned in the ag classroom is also a big part of her biosciences classroom. Smiley Foster said she hopes she’s a bit like her FFA adviser, Mr. Howell, who required the best of his students.

Link to National FFA podcast celebrating Julie Smiley Foster as first national officer

CareerTech Champions

Julia Lewis – Indian Capital Technology Center

Tahlequah calls CareerTech student a hometown hero.

THEN: A high school junior, weighing her career options, Julia Lewis enrolled in the health careers certification program at Indian Capitol Technology Center in Tahlequah to learn about the various jobs in health care.

“I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” she said.

The Tahlequah High School student said she knew she liked helping people, but she wasn’t sure which career path to take. At Indian Capital, she

  • Learned how to stay calm in intense situations. (See links to stories below)
  • Developed time management and organizational skills.
  • Learned how to work independently.
  • Received certifications in phlebotomy, nursing assistant, CPR, AED and first aid.

The 17-year-old’s career path was reaffirmed this spring when she was called upon to save a man’s life. Riding downtown with her friends, Lewis saw a group of people surrounding a man who was in distress.

“I didn’t think twice about getting out to help him,” Lewis said, adding that she got out of the car while it was still moving. The man wasn’t breathing, and Lewis immediately called 911 and then performed CPR until the paramedics arrived.

Lewis is being hailed as a hero and received an award from the Tahlequah Police Department. She also received the HOSA Hero Award during the group’s International Leadership Conference. HOSA is the CareerTech student organization for future health professionals.

NOW: The CareerTech program helped Lewis narrow her career plans within the health care field.  She is now a certified nursing assistant and phlebotomist., and plans to become a dentist or dental hygienist.

Her instructor, Andrea McElmurry, described Lewis as bold, brave, and mature beyond her years. She added that Lewis strives to do her best in every situation.

“She has a bright future ahead of her, and I know she will accomplish her goals,” McElmurry said.


Related content:

Lewis commended on Fox 23 News 

Facebook video of Police Chief Nate King honoring Lewis

CareerTech Champions

Nicholas Mullaney – Granite Skills Centers

Ex-offender credits welding instructor for sparking his interest in learning.

Then: An addict, incarcerated for dealing drugs. Nicholas Mullaney served his time and was released from prison three years ago, taking with him much more than his freedom. Mullaney completed the metal manufacturing/welding program at Granite Skills Center and said his instructor, Martin “Chipper” Nickell, taught him the skills he would need to land a decent paying job after his release.

“He was an amazing instructor with a great heart,” Mullaney said. “I was lucky to have had the opportunity to have him as my instructor before his passing.”

At Granite Skills Center, Mullaney

  • Learned how to weld. He said he had never touched welding equipment before entering the program.
  • Gained self-confidence, knowing he would be able to land a good-paying job with his new skills.
  • Became motivated to continue learning.

“After realizing I could absorb so much knowledge,” Mullaney said, “it sparked my interest to expand my knowledge even more.”

Mullaney is working on a college degree in marketing and professional sales and has maintained a 4.0 GPA.

Hired as a welding fabricator at Metro Sign Corporation, Mullaney was later moved to the install team. He was recently honored with the company’s Employee Spotlight, and has received several pay increases since he started in 2018, as well as Christmas bonuses.  

Now: He has paid health benefits at Metro Sign, and a company phone. Mullaney has his CDL permit, and when he completes the CDL test, he will receive another pay raise.

Mullaney rents a home and owns two vehicles, and he and his fiancé are expecting a baby boy this spring.

“My life has changed tremendously since this program. CareerTech gave me a skill I can take with me the rest of my life; no matter what happens in my future, that skill will always be there.”

Nicholas Mullaney, welding fabricator

CareerTech Champions

Larry Capps – Gordon Cooper Technology Center

CareerTech drove this shop manager to get his college degree.

THEN: His parents expected him to go to a four-year college and earn a degree. Larry Capps wasn’t sure that was what he wanted; he knew his true passion was working on cars. One afternoon when Capps was working on a friend’s car, he realized he was doing exactly what he wanted to do in the future.

Luckily, Capps’ mom didn’t stand in his way. She encouraged him to check out the automotive program at Gordon Cooper Technology Center, and he took her advice. He enrolled in the program, and when he graduated from Gordon Cooper Tech, he went on to get his associate degree at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology.

Capps said the GCTC program

  • Taught him core fundamentals of automotive repair.
  • Helped him develop leadership skills.
  • Allowed him to work with some of the leading minds in the industry.
  • Showed him how to take initiative.

He credits CareerTech for much of his professional success. “The instructors at CareerTech were truly concerned with my growth and helped to ensure my skill set was honed for success in a dealership,” he said.

NOW: Capps is shop manager for Fowler Toyota in Norman. He said the core fundamentals he mastered at GCTC allowed for a smooth transition into the automotive industry.

“My passion for CareerTech has not diminished since I completed the program.”

Larry Capps, shop manager

NOTE:

In 2020, Fowler Toyota donated new cars to Moore Norman Technology Center and Tulsa Technology Center to help train automotive students.

CareerTech Champions

Cody McCuistion – Meridian Technology Center and BPA

Guthrie High School student said MTC technology program was “too cool to pass up.”

THEN: A lover of technology, long before high school. When Cody McCuistion heard he could spend half of each day at Meridian Technology Center learning more about what he already enjoyed in his spare time, it was an easy decision for the Guthrie High School student. But then, McCuistion discovered he was also going to earn 68 hours of college credit — while he was still in high school!

He enrolled in Meridian Tech’s network engineering program and joined Business Professionals of America, the CareerTech student organization affiliated with business, marketing and information technology education. McCuistion said he loved BPA and enjoyed competing at the state and national level.

He said the two-year program at Meridian Tech fast-tracked him to receive industry certifications, knowledge and experience. McCuistion

  • Received CompTIA A+ certification, Microsoft Server certifications and Cisco network training.
  • Graduated with a high school diploma and essentially a two-year associate degree in the same year, while only paying $5 per credit hour.
  • Gained confidence in his abilities through BPA.

“The program led to a jump-start in my career path,” he said.

Although technology has advanced since McCuistion was in school, he said he uses a variation of those network engineering skills every day.

NOW: A solution architect for Hitachi Vantara. McCuistion sets up and delivers proofs of concept and product demonstrations for Hitachi Vantara’s Unified Compute Platform suite of enterprise products.

He has designed and built various server deployments and worked in mission-critical scenarios to restore failed services or resolve performance, reliability or security issues. McCuistion also has experience in highly secure environments tied to the Department of Defense, identifying security vulnerabilities in deployments and engineering ways to close those holes.

McCuistion said CareerTech’s concurrent enrollment options offer students the opportunity to learn skills that apply immediately to their future success. He urged today’s young people to avoid accruing debt for education expenses whenever possible.

“Seek out training in skills that can generate an income stream now and use that income to pay for further education, if that’s wanted or needed down the road,” he said.

“CareerTech offers much-needed skills for today’s workforce. Don’t pass up the opportunity to take advantage of it!”

Cody McCuistion, Hitachi Vantara

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

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 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

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