Category Archives: CareerTech Champions

CareerTech Champions

Each year, thousands of Oklahomans reap the benefits provided by Career and Technology Education. CareerTech Champions tell the story of how individuals apply learning to become successful employees, entrepreneurs and leaders in business organizations.

Tanner Thomas – Meridian Technology Center and TSA

TannerThomas

Tanner Thomas

Engineering student gets a head start on his college plans.

THEN: Engineering has been his passion since he joined the Technology Student Association as a sixth grader. By eighth grade, Tanner Thomas was already an officer, and he served at the state level for four years, including state president during his junior year at Stillwater High School.

When Tanner enrolled in Meridian Technology Center’s pre-engineering program, he combined his love of engineering with his love of chemistry and physics. But when he learned he would have to give up music to make it all fit, he signed up for online classes so he could continue to play saxophone in his high school band. Tanner received first chair honors in soprano, alto and baritone saxophone in the All-State band in his sophomore and junior years.

Through TSA’s many leadership activities, Tanner learned

  • How to work well with others.
  • Presentation and public speaking skills.
  • Valuable study skills.

Tanner said he used his presentation and public speaking skills to compete in essay and speech competitions. Last year, his essay for Oklahoma Electric Cooperative’s Youth Tour contest earned him a trip to Washington D.C. He also applied those skills to political campaigns for school clubs and organizations such as TSA.

“Learning to clearly and effectively communicate my ideas helped me not only as a state officer,” he said, “but also in school projects and life situations such as interviews, meetings and speeches.”

NOW: He is currently a National Merit Scholarship finalist, and was honored with Distinction in Advanced Placement/Project Lead The Way. His dream is to attend Northwestern University next year, double-majoring in saxophone performance and engineering.

“If you want to be successful, you have to start now. Opportunities don’t present themselves; you have to look for them.” Tanner Thomas

 

CareerTech Champions

Each year, thousands of Oklahomans reap the benefits provided by Career and Technology Education. CareerTech Champions tell the story of how individuals apply learning to become successful employees, entrepreneurs and leaders in business organizations.

Mick and Nancy German and Family – FFA

Cushing family has quite a collection of FFA jackets.

GermanFamily

Mick and Nancy German with two of their daughters, Leslie and Taylor.

Mick German was a third generation dairyman, heavily involved in FFA in high school. In 1975, he served as president of his FFA chapter.

Mick’s wife, Nancy, said she had wanted to enroll in agriculture in high school, but her mother said no, ag was for boys. By the time Nancy was a senior, her mother had softened her stance and allowed Nancy to enroll in FFA as an elective.

Soon, Nancy was showing lambs. Her love of animals grew, and after high school she went to Oklahoma State University, double majoring in animal science and ag education, with a minor in horticulture. After college she received her veterinary technician license.

Later, Mick’s daughter Amy got her own blue jacket. She was involved in FFA in high school, showing sheep and doing public speaking. (Amy’s daughter Destiny has also added an FFA blue jacket to her wardrobe and is showing goats.)

Mick and Nancy’s daughter Leslie joined FFA in eighth grade, competing at the state and national levels in several events. Like her father, she was president of her FFA chapter, serving in 2005-2006. FFA helped her get numerous college scholarships. She received a bachelor’s degree in animal science and ag communications and a master’s degree in ag education. She works for OSU Extension in Okmulgee County as an ag educator.

Nancy said their youngest daughter, Taylor, had no choice but to tag along with her sister, and by the eighth grade she too became involved FFA, raising cattle and chickens. Leadership was in her blood, and she was elected president of her FFA chapter in 2011. Taylor competed at state and national contests like her sister and received a full-ride scholarship to East Central University. She earned a degree in family and consumer sciences.

“Needless to say, FFA played a huge role in our kids’ lives,” Nancy said. She said FFA

  • Taught her children the value of hard work and responsibility.
  • Gave them valuable experience in public speaking and interpersonal communication.
  • Helped them finance their college educations.

“We bleed a little blue each day,” Nancy German

GermanGrandchildren

Mick and Nancy German’s grandchildren

CareerTech Champions

Each year, thousands of Oklahomans reap the benefits provided by Career and Technology Education. CareerTech Champions tell the story of how individuals apply learning to become successful employees, entrepreneurs and leaders in business organizations.

Goodwin Feh – Canadian Valley Technology CenterGoodwinFeh

Nursing grad pledges $5,000 in annual support to his CareerTech alma mater.

THEN: A young man living in the Republic of Cameroon, where an estimated 48 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and violent crime is common throughout the country. Goodwin Feh left his native Africa to get an education in the U.S. Eventually he enrolled in the practical nursing program at Canadian Valley Technology Center, where he excelled in the classroom.

At CV Tech, Goodwin said he was able to escape the despair of his previous life. He

  • Completed the LPN program.
  • Passed his state practical nursing board exam.
  • Developed a hunger for learning, which led to associate and bachelor’s degrees in nursing and a master’s degree in business administration.

Goodwin has worked as a certified nurse aid, LPN, nurse supervisor, chief clinical officer, director of clinical operations and chief executive. He also obtained his U.S. citizenship.

NOW: A health care entrepreneur who founded Cohesive Healthcare Management and Consulting in Shawnee in 2016. He manages 300 employees, providing operations expertise to rural and community hospitals.

Goodwin and his wife have begun giving back to CV Tech through an annual pledge of $5,000 to the CV Tech Foundation. CV Tech Nursing Director Lauri Jones said the money will be used to help students overcome various hardships.

“The instructors at Canadian Valley provided me moral support and encouraged me to trust in myself.”

Goodwin Feh

CareerTech Champions

Each year, thousands of Oklahomans reap the benefits provided by Career and Technology Education. CareerTech Champions tell the story of how individuals apply learning to become successful employees, entrepreneurs and leaders in business organizations.

Steven Rogers – DECA, High Plains Technology Center

Technology center instructor literally grew up in the CareerTech family.StevenRogers

THEN: As a small child, Steven Rogers says, he ran the hallways of High Plains Technology Center while his dad taught in a classroom there. Having grown up on that campus, it wasn’t much of a stretch for him to take classes there as soon as he was old enough.

Steven chose marketing and management classes at High Plains Tech and joined DECA, the CareerTech student organization for marketing students.

He said his two years in DECA taught him:

  • Public speaking, through competitions and events.
  • The importance of good customer service.
  • How to be more self-confident, something his marketing instructor emphasized.
  • Business management skills.

After graduation, Steven used those management skills to open three businesses in five years.

I think students coming out of CareerTech have a better understanding of the mechanics of a business,” he said.

NOW: Steven needed to make a career change for personal reasons and decided to join the High Plains family once again, this time as an instructor. He was denied that opportunity three times, but he did not give up. With his fourth application, Steven was hired.

“I have a passion for teaching, and I love the CareerTech family as my own,” he said.

Steven is now the industrial coordinator at High Plains Tech. Also a fireman and EMT, Steven teaches fire, industrial and wind rescue classes.

“CareerTech helps students develop strong work ethics.”  Steven Rogers

CareerTech Champions

Each year, thousands of Oklahomans reap the benefits provided by Career and Technology Education. CareerTech Champions tell the story of how individuals apply learning to become successful employees, entrepreneurs and leaders in business organizations.

Anthony Rifenberry – Adult Basic Education

Graduation and certification are terms this BPA winner didn’t expect to hear.

AnthonyRifenberry

THEN: He had been an orphan all of his life. Anthony Rifenberry moved from a series of foster homes to the Oklahoma Lions Boys Ranch, now Lions Meadows of Hope. When he turned 18, he needed to find a job.

It was a vicious cycle. To get a job, he needed training, and to get training, he needed money. But the roadblocks didn’t stop there. Anthony wanted to enroll in Meridian Technology Center’s information technology program, but to qualify for the financial assistance he would need, he would have to have a high school diploma.

Anthony enrolled in the Meridian Tech’s adult basic education program, and in only three months, he earned his high school equivalency diploma. The ABE program gave Anthony:

  • The confidence to believe he could graduate high school.
  • Personal assistance with complex math and other subjects required to pass the HSE exam.
  • The knowledge and skills he needed to pass the HSE exam.

The smaller, more intimate classroom environment was one of the keys to Anthony’s academic success.

“I definitely learned more math at Meridian Tech than I did in high school,” he said.

NOW: Anthony is a member of Business Professionals of America, and his network design team won the state contest. The team will compete at BPA’s national conference in Anaheim, California, in May. After he graduates with his network and PC support specialist certification, Anthony would like to continue his education, possibly enrolling in network engineering or cybersecurity.

“I had convinced myself that graduating high school and getting into a technology center was not possible.”

Anthony Rifenberry

CareerTech Champions

Each year, thousands of Oklahomans reap the benefits provided by Career and Technology Education. CareerTech Champions tell the story of how individuals apply learning to become successful employees, entrepreneurs and leaders in business organizations.

Buddy Pearce – Pontotoc Technology Center

Buddy Pearce1

Firefighter followed his dream to the highest, driest, windiest, coldest continent on the planet.

THEN: After a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, two years of college and an unsatisfying job in the oil and gas industry, Buddy Pearce needed a new challenge. He said the most exciting thing he could imagine was to be a firefighter, so he sold his Harley-Davidson motorcycle for tuition money and enrolled in the 20-week fire academy at Pontotoc Technology Center. Buddy said his instructors at Pontotoc:

  • Taught him the importance of honor, loyalty and hard work.
  • Helped him prepare for a number of certifications, including firefighter I and II, HAZMAT operations, EMT basics, CPR and first aid.
  • Made it possible for him to land a full-time firefighter/EMT job in Seminole.

Buddy said his instructors inspired him so much he began working part-time as an instructor for the academy.

“The instructors prepared us not only for the fire service, but also to lead successful lives,” he said.

NOW: Buddy served four years with the Seminole Fire Department. He left Oklahoma to accept a position with the Antarctic Fire Department, the only full-time professional fire department in Antarctica. He is deployed six to seven months a year at McMurdo Station, a U.S.-managed scientific research station. He returns to Oklahoma between contracts.

“I am now skilled enough in my craft that I have been able to follow my dreams,” he said.Buddy Pearce 2

“I absolutely use the skills I acquired at Pontotoc Technology Center every day of my life.”

Buddy Pearce
Antarctic firefighter

 

CareerTech Champions

Each year, thousands of Oklahomans reap the benefits provided by Career and Technology Education. CareerTech Champions tell the story of how individuals apply learning to become successful employees, entrepreneurs and leaders in business organizations.

Justine Talmadge – Adult Basic Education, Caddo Kiowa Technology CenterJustineTalmadge

THEN: A recovering addict who started using drugs in seventh grade. Justine Talmadge was a mother of three who said she had no hopes, dreams or passions when she dropped out of high school. After spending six months in rehab, Justine said, she was clean and motivated. Her goal was to get her high school diploma and find a career.

“I didn’t want to be a nobody,” Justine said. “I wanted to prove I wasn’t stupid.”

She had tried to get her equivalency diploma three times before. She then enrolled in the adult basic education program at Caddo Kiowa Technology Center. Justine said ABE instructor Brad Shaw and the Caddo Kiowa staff helped her by

  • Offering a scholarship that paid for her high school equivalency exam.
  • Helping her discover her passion for welding, through a job fair on campus.
  • Working with her to pass the high school equivalency exam that led to her diploma.

“It took me 15 years to figure out what I am good at,” Justine said, “and I am good at welding.”

NOW: Justine is well on her way to becoming a welder. She is halfway through her first year in the welding and metal fabrication program at Caddo Kiowa. She said welding instructors Keith Theesen and his assistant Shane Wilson played a major role in her success.

“Justine is that student who comes into your classroom and reminds you why you do what you do.”

ABE instructor Brad Shaw

CareerTech Champions

Each year, thousands of Oklahomans reap the benefits provided by Career and Technology Education. CareerTech Champions tell the story of how individuals apply learning to become successful employees, entrepreneurs and leaders in business organizations.

Jimmy Hollis – Granite Skills Centerhollis

Skills Centers grad chose the right pipeline for success.

THEN: The maintenance supervisor at the Oklahoma State Reformatory, who wound up on the inside of the bars for drug trafficking. Jimmy Hollis said he was making a lot of bad decisions in his life at that time, and called his three-year incarceration “the worst thing that ever happened” to him.

Eventually Jimmy started making better decisions, including the decision to enroll in the Skills Center’s plumbing program. He had worked part-time as a plumbing apprentice before he was incarcerated, but even with his background, he said he learned a lot from CareerTech’s self-paced plumbing modules. At Granite Skills Center, Jimmy

  • Completed a 1,050 hour plumbing program.
  • Prepared for the plumbing journeyman exam.
  • Passed the journeyman exam before his release.

NOW: Running his own service truck for Andy’s Plumbing in Lawton. Jimmy earns $22.50 an hour, and he even supervises a helper.

“The CareerTech instructors pushed me to succeed,” he said, adding, “I use the skills I learned in the plumbing program every day on the job.”

 CareerTech currently offers training at 16 sites across Oklahoma.

“The plumbing program opened my eyes to the shortage of skilled tradesmen”

Jimmy Hollis, plumbing journeyman

CareerTech Champions

Each year, thousands of Oklahomans reap the benefits provided by Career and Technology Education. CareerTech Champions tell the story of how individuals apply learning to become successful employees, entrepreneurs and leaders in business organizations.

Lawson TLawson Thompsonhompson – Carney Public Schools

Ag educator says students gain “purpose, preparedness, and professionalism.”

THEN: A self-described sports fanatic growing up in a small town, in a sports-minded family. Lawson Thompson aspired to play college sports, like his mom, dad and brother had done. That was before he got involved in agricultural education. In his senior year at Deer Creek-Lamont High School, Lawson decided to give up sports to dedicate his energy toward his new passion, FFA. He served as a state officer that year and went on to Oklahoma State University for a bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences and natural resources. Lawson said devoting himself to agricultural education and FFA was one of the greatest choices of his life.

“It’s a lot more than cows, plows and sows,” he said. In FFA, Lawson developed skills he uses every day, including

  • Communication – the value of clearly communicating with people of all ages in various settings, as well as public speaking.
  • Leadership – how to be a better leader, mentor and role model.
  • Time management – active participation in numerous ag and non-ag activities helped him learn how to manage his time.

“I utilize skills I gained from agricultural education/FFA every day,” Lawson said. “I would not be an effective educator, mentor, husband or person if I didn’t understand values such as hard work, dedication, discipline, leadership and service.”

NOW: Agricultural education instructor and FFA adviser at Carney Public Schools. Lawson’s FFA chapter was chosen as one of the top 10 chapters in the country. His students also nominated him for KFOR-TV’s Thankful 4 Teachers award, and he was one of the top 10 nominees in the state. Sponsor Air Comfort Solutions recognized Lawson with a $5,000 check.

“I strongly believe that if an employer interviews a candidate who came through any one of CareerTech’s eight student organizations (FFA, FCCLA, HOSA, DECA, TSA, BPA, SkillsUSA or NTHS) and one who did not, that candidate who was a CTSO member will get the job 10 times out of 10.”

Lawson Thompson, agricultural education instructor
(former Oklahoma FFA state officer, former Oklahoma CareerTech ag education intern)

CareerTech Champions

Each year, thousands of Oklahomans reap the benefits provided by Career and Technology Education. CareerTech Champions tell the story of how individuals apply learning to become successful employees, entrepreneurs and leaders in business organizations.

Ethan Tucker – Red River Technology Center

Home-school student does double-duty at Red River Technology Center.Ethan Tucker

THEN: A home-school student growing up on his grandparents’ farm. Ethan Tucker never received a diploma, and when he decided to work outside the farm, his options were limited. At Red River Technology Center, he signed up for high school equivalency classes, at the same time enrolling in Red River’s HVAC program. He went half days to HSE classes, and the other half of the day he studied HVAC.

“I chose HVAC because there’s a constant need for heating, and in Oklahoma there’s an even greater need for cooling experts,” Ethan said.

Ethan said at Red River, he:

  • Earned his HSE diploma.
  • Learned fundamentals of electrical skills.
  • Gained mechanical troubleshooting skills related to heating and air conditioning.
  • Won both state and national titles at SkillsUSA competitions.

“I’m a competitive guy,” he said, “and SkillsUSA allowed me to compete while working on my troubleshooting skills.”

NOW: Ethan is an industrial maintenance technician for Goodyear Tire and Rubber in Lawton, Oklahoma.

SkillsUSA is probably the best decision I’ve ever made.”

Ethan Tucker, industrial maintenance technician

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