Career Center Showcases Options

By: Todd Martin
In an attempt to sharpen future plans from abstract mystery to visual reality, Killeen ISD Career Center students are showing off their school to eighth-graders this week.

Between Tuesday and Thursday, almost 2,800 eighth-graders from every KISD middle school are touring the Career Center on Stagecoach Road in Killeen. A group of 60 seniors are serving as guides.

With the first of 13 scheduled tours underway Tuesday, Career and Technical Education Program Advisor Warren Kostencki explained the value and scope of the tours.

“This is so important for eighth-graders to see major programs KISD provides,” he said. “As eighth-graders, they are thinking about careers in a more realistic way than ever before.”

The eighth-grade tours have been part of KISD’s career-centered high school since it opened six years ago. This year, for the first time, students are seeing the whole campus instead of one chosen content cluster. It’s a three-quarter mile walk.

Eighth-graders are currently working on their four-year high school plans and the Career Center is hosting a spring community showcase from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22 open to the public.

“The kids get to see it this week and we hope they will get excited and bring their parents next week,” Kostencki said.

In a one-hour tour, Career Center guides attempted to make 23 stops to hear 2-minute introductions of each area, ranging from cosmetology to horticulture, automotive technology, networking, graphic design and much more.

Standing in front of an engine, Zach Omari, a Career Center senior in the auto technician class, told eighth-graders they have a chance to work on vehicles as high school juniors and seniors.

“I love the mechanical aspect, how everything propels,” he said later, explaining his interest in working on cars. “I like this hands-on kind of work.”

Senior John Williams and junior River Ware explained to touring students a course in its first year at the Career Center called Automotive Collision that focuses on auto bodywork.

“It’s a good way to use your hands if you have a feeling for it,” Ware said. “We take something ugly and use our hands to make it perfect again.”

For Williams, the automotive technology classes have provided more than marketable skills.

“There is more of a sense of community here,” he said, standing in the auto body shop waiting for the next tour group. “We all work together here to get the job done.”

Teachers, students and Principal Russell Porterfield all said the Career Center provides a myriad of options and also helps students understand what they like and dislike.

“The tours help them figure out what they might want to do as they backward plan,” Porterfield said. “They can have a visual experience and not just a theoretical one.”

“The other part that is important,” he said, “is that seeing it might help them eliminate some of the options they have heard about.”

Asking a 13- or 14-year-old to determine their future career is admittedly asking a lot, the principal said, but the thought process is important.

“The process of figuring out what you want to do and how to go about getting there is an important skill you use throughout life,” Porterfield said.

Nolan Middle School counselor Daniel Helvetius is working with students on forming their four-year plan for high school.

“I’m hoping they see future possibilities with connections to the real world,” he said while touring with eighth-graders Tuesday. “I hope they get some ideas of what they can do out of high school and in college and how it connects.”

The middle school counselor pointed out that in just the past five years KISD students’ options have grown substantially and continue to expand with Early College High School, the Career Center and STEM Academy options to name a few.

Senior Tyrique Thompson is reaping the benefits. The audio video production student is one of the 60 Career Center student ambassadors giving tours this week.

“I like telling people about it,” he said. “Coming to the Career Center allows me to do what I like and I see other students doing the same. We want to better ourselves.”

When Thompson graduates from high school this spring, he plans to join the U.S. Air Force, to learn about health care and to pursue his interest in making films. “I’ve learned about a lot of things here, even if I’m not in the class,” he said. “I’ve learned about health care. I’ve learned about welding.”