Congressional Visit

By: Todd Martin
The congressman representing the Killeen area offered personal support to career and technical education during a visit Wednesday to the Killeen ISD Career Center.

Taking up an invitation from school district leaders during a visit to Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. John Carter learned firsthand from students the power of the kind of education offered at the career-focused high school.

By design, students took center stage during a briefing and tour, as well as a radio and television interview.

Senior Jesenia Tobias, a three-year Career Center student studying commercial photography led an overview of the school’s history.

She explained in a presentation in the school’s lecture hall that the high school, which opened in 2012, has grown from 16 to 29 programs of study and from about 600 students to its current enrollment of 1,734.

The broad areas of study – called clusters – have grown from 10 to 13. Dental assistance and automotive collision repair are the newest courses. Proposed additions include engineering, advanced robotics, cyber security and renewable energy.

Carter wanted to know Tobias’ aspirations. She said she hopes to work in a travel-related field and use her photography skills as supplemental income.

Superintendent John Craft, sitting in the same presentation, pointed out that students at the Career Center are working on real-world projects through their creative and technical learning.

Students from the four traditional KISD high schools feed into the Career Center, but about 200 are currently at the Career Center all day and that number is growing.

Industry credentials are growing, too. Since the school opened, the number of industry certifications earned has risen from 53 the first year to 336 in the most recent.

The congressman, along with his own staff members and KISD leaders, visited computer networking, emergency medical technician and nursing, pharmacy, cosmetology, teaching, welding and veterinary assistance classes.

He ended up in the school’s television studio where broadcasting students interviewed him about his visit.

“We have a great need for technical experts,” he said in the interview, explaining that the demand for jobs that the Career Center supports is high.

“The reality is we need welders more than we need some kinds of engineers and we need everything here more than lawyers, and I’m a lawyer,” he said.

When asked which program he would join if he were a student, Carter said he would like to have more construction skills and understand the inner workings of radio and television.

He presented the school with a U.S. flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol, a gesture that CTE Executive Director Nancy Duran appreciated. She and CTE Program Advisor Warren Kostencki praised the congressman’s visit.

“I think it’s important for him to see what he has worked for,” Kostencki said, “and this was an opportunity for us to thank him and to show him the results.”

“It was important to us that he hear from students,” Duran said. “He could see they were excited to be here.”