Category Archives: CareerTech Champions

CareerTech Champions

Abigail Shannon – Meridian Technology Center and FFA

As soon as Abigail Shannon was old enough to join a CareerTech program, she followed in the footsteps of her brother and two of her sisters. They all took advantage of vocational training programs in their local technology centers. Not to be outdone by her siblings, Shannon got involved with CareerTech at Perkins-Tryon schools when she was just an eighth grader.

That’s when she joined the school’s FFA chapter, showing pigs, studying horticulture and even competing at state FFA contests. FFA is an Oklahoma CareerTech student organization aligned with agricultural education. By the time Shannon was in high school, however, she realized agriculture was not her passion.

In her junior year, she enrolled in Meridian Technology Center’s two-year health careers program. That year, she also joined a second CareerTech student organization, HOSA, the group aligned with health occupations education. She garnered several certifications, including certified phlebotomy technician, certified clinical medical assistant and medication administration technician.

In addition to introducing her to a wide variety of career options, Shannon said, her CareerTech instructors and advisers taught her leadership skills, how to express empathy and the value of teamwork.

Those skills no doubt helped her draw the attention of Langston University administrators, who invited her to study in the university’s Edwin P. McCabe Honors Program. The invitation came with a $100,000 scholarship to cover tuition, fees, room and board and a textbook stipend. Shannon’s mother received the same prestigious scholarship when she was in school to become a physical therapist.

The honors program challenges and prepares students for future success through community service and leadership opportunities, according to information from the university. Scholars are expected to complete a minimum of 60 hours of community service each year.

Shannon’s career plans were undecided when she enrolled at Langston, but she recently decided to major in elementary education. The skills she learned at Meridian Tech will definitely come in handy when she is working with both students and parents in the future, she said.

“CareerTech is an incredible experience,” Shannon said. “It will benefit you in more ways than you realize!”

Shannon’s father works at the CareerTech state office in Stillwater.

From Homeless Teen to Aircraft Quality Assurance Specialist

Porsha Lippincott’s Story

Porsha’s life changed when a counselor helped her find housing and a CareerTech aerospace program she resonated with. Today, she’s an accomplished Quality Assurance Specialist at Tinker Air Force Base. We caught up with her to hear the next chapter of her story.

To read more about Porsha click HERE.

CareerTech Champions

T.H. Rogers Lumber Company

Lumber company builds its business with CareerTech guidance

The T.H. Rogers Lumber Company has been in business for more than 100 years, and the employee-owned small business is still growing, thanks to help from OkPTAC, CareerTech’s procurement technical assistance center.

The company supplies building materials to professional builders, contractors, remodelers and homeowners. Government jobs are an important part of its revenue stream, and OkPTAC has helped them with government contracting since 2018.

Ron DeGiacomo (L) and Scott Logan (R)

In the early stages of this partnership, Ron DeGiacomo, the OkPTAC coordinator at Kiamichi Technology Centers, helped register T.H. Rogers as a federal contractor and tailored a profile to highlight the company’s capability and the products it sells. This profile is used to match the client with bid opportunities on buying agency bid sites.

“We had bid for local government jobs,” said Iva Due, district manager for T.H. Rogers, “but we wanted to grow our share of the market in state and federal opportunities.”

That’s where DeGiacomo came in.

“Anytime there is a project out there that we are a good fit for, Ron lets us know,” said Due. “He is always looking for any opportunity to help our business and community grow.” 

Since 2019, T.H. Rogers has won various contracts with federal agencies totaling more than $500,000 in award dollars. 

The partnership between Kiamichi Tech and T.H. Rogers Lumber Company has been beneficial to both organizations and to the community. Scott Logan, outside sales and assistant manager, serves on Kiamichi Tech’s Business and Education Council, which connects students and jobs and matches training to workforce needs. T.H. Rogers participates in job fairs and has hired students who have completed training at Kiamichi Tech.

CareerTech Champions

Montgomery Malone – Western Technology Center

CareerTech helped newspaper editor outline his career plans

After high school, Montgomery Malone had no interest in college and no plans for a career. He decided to enroll at Western Technology Center for additional training and took an interest inventory to help him choose a program. The results suggested he might be good at photo editing and media development.

Malone loved to write, and the two skillsets seemed to mesh with each other. He enrolled in WTC’s multimedia program, where he learned how to use programs such as InDesign and Photoshop. He also improved his communication skills. By the time he completed the program, he was a certified digital video technician and multimedia specialist.

Malone took his new career skills to the Weatherford Daily News, where he said he uses his multimedia and communication skills daily. He is currently city editor for the newspaper.

“What I experienced during my training at WTC and my love for writing all came together for this position,” he said.

His favorite part of his job at the Daily News is that he has the freedom to be creative.

“And people listen to my ideas,” he said.

At last week’s Oklahoma Press Association awards banquet in Oklahoma City, Malone won first place for an in-depth enterprise story. 

CareerTech Champions

Joseph Gordon – Moore Norman Technology Center

A love of computers runs in Joseph Gordon’s family. His father works in information technology, and Gordon took his first programming class in middle school. He was intrigued by how computers worked, but he wasn’t really enthralled with programming. A few years later, he toured Moore Norman Technology Center and was intrigued by the network and cloud administration course.

The 16-year-old high school junior enrolled at Moore Norman Tech and was already A+ certified early in his first semester. When school let out for the summer, he accepted an unpaid internship with Norman Public Schools to repair MacBooks. He continued the internship after school started, working for NPS early in the morning, driving to Moore Norman Technology Center for class, working his after-school job at Schlotzsky’s and then going home to study.

But that’s not all. While interning at NPS, he completed his CompTia Net+ certification. He learned a lot as an unpaid intern, but he told his instructor, Todd Hendrickson, “I’d like to make some money.”

Hendrickson agreed it was time for Gordon to start getting compensated for his talents. He helped Gordon get a job with the Addison Group, running cable and providing an Ethernet network for T-Mobile during his senior year of high school. Gordon started at $15 an hour, but after he updated his resume to include his latest certification, his salary was bumped to $17 an hour.

In March 2022, two months before Gordon’s high school graduation, Dell approached him about a VxRail network support team they were putting together. VxRail is an appliance that provides networking, computing and management capabilities. Hendrickson helped Gordon prepare for an interview, and the high school senior was offered one of the 14 open positions. Gordon will work from home and earn a starting salary of $69,000 a year, plus benefits.

“The young man is ecstatic, and his future is set,” Hendrickson said, “and he hasn’t even graduated high school yet!”

As a technical support engineer, Gordon will troubleshoot customer issues with Dell’s VxRail, but he will also use his skills for personal projects, including cabling his house.

“I’m setting up a personal website to document my journey,” he said, “so that anyone who goes through the same journey has a potential guide.”

CareerTech Champions

Gabriel Lewis – Francis Tuttle Technology Center

Chef Gabe battles for MasterChef – again

In Season Eight, he made it to the top seven on the hit TV series “MasterChef.” That was in 2017. Gabriel Lewis of Oklahoma City was straight out of high school and working at a fast-food restaurant. Flash forward to 2022’s Season 12, and the Putnam City North alum is back on television in “MasterChef: Back to Win.”

Oklahoma CareerTech Champion from Francis Tuttle Technology Center

The Season 12 competitors are all experienced chefs making their second appearance on the show. After Episode Six, Lewis was among 17 chefs still in the running for the $250,000 prize.

For Lewis, much has changed since his television debut five years ago. He’s now a graduate of the prestigious Johnson and Wales University in Denver, he’s working on a cookbook, and he is booking private catering jobs all over the country. Together with his sister, a professional photographer, Lewis has created a dynamic collection of cooking videos as well as an impressive web and social media presence.

Before Lewis left the MasterChef kitchen in 2017, renowned New Orleans chef Aaron Sanchez even promised him a job after culinary school, but COVID shutdowns robbed him of that opportunity.

A passion for cooking runs in Lewis’ family. He grew up with three expert cooks – his mother, his aunt and his grandmother. He turned that love into a career plan, enrolling in a two-year program at Francis Tuttle Technology Center’s School of Culinary Arts while he was still in high school.

“Francis Tuttle gave me a snapshot of what the industry is really like,” Lewis said.

In addition to cooking skills, his experience at Francis Tuttle also gave him the confidence to audition for “MasterChef,” where he became a popular contestant. Fans were disappointed to see him eliminated, but world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsay saw potential in the CareerTech grad and offered to pay his tuition at Johnson and Wales.

“You’ve got the potential to be huge in this industry,” Ramsay said in 2017.

Regardless of how “MasterChef: Back to Win” turns out, Lewis is already pretty big. He recently filmed a national commercial, he’s running a business, and he plans to compete in the World Food Championship in Dallas in November.

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.

Porsha Lippincott

From living in a refrigerator box to repairing airplanes for Tinker Air Force Base.

THEN: A homeless high school dropout, living in a refrigerator box and working at Sonic. A counselor at Norman North High School learned of Porsha’s plight and connected her with an independent homeless shelter. She moved into an apartment, went back to school and saved enough money for a dilapidated car to drive to and from school. When that car broke down, she taught herself how to repair it. That motivated her to enroll in Moore Norman’s automotive technician training program after graduation. After completing that program she:

  • Earned her ASE certification.
  • Was referred to the aviation maintenance technician program at Metro Technology Centers.
  • Learned about assistance programs that would help her pay living expenses while she trained at Metro Tech.

NOW: A certified aviation maintenance technician, Porsha works at Tinker Air Force Base and is an instructor at Metro Technology Centers’ Aviation Campus. One of her process improvement ideas is already saving Tinker $2.5 million annually, which she considers a small way of paying back for all she has received from CareerTech and others.

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