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    By Todd Martin

    The five-year-old Killeen ISD Career Center is larger than ever and this week its students and staff members conducted what must be one of the largest tours in town.

    Every eighth-grader in KISD toured the specialized high school that focuses on high-demand career and technical education fields.

    Three or four middle schools a day sent eighth-graders to the campus on Stagecoach Road to see firsthand some of the course offerings based on their own interest surveys. They saw veterinary technician, horticulture, video game design, automotive, television production and many other career cluster areas.

    Since the Career Center is larger than ever with 1,650 students enrolled in morning and afternoon sessions, the expo grew beyond the KISD facility.

    For the first time, eighth-graders also visited the nearby Texas A&M University-Central Texas to learn about college options and businesses that hire in the local area.

    More than 2,900 eighth-graders, along with middle school career exploration teachers and other educators toured the learning areas with current Career Center students serving as guides.

    In one hallway dedicated to health sciences classrooms, students took a look at how phlebotomy students learn to draw blood. They also walked through a simulated hospital room with beds and lifelike mannequins and an ambulance simulator.

    Shoemaker High School junior Jordan Davidson-Frazier told visiting students about the certified nursing assistant program and Harker Heights High School junior Valeria Cosme presented information about the certified medical assistant program.

    “I hope they will take advantage of what they see here and learn what it’s all about,” said Davidson-Frazier, who said she hopes to enter college on her way to pursuing two majors and a career in the medical field.

    Cosme said she also hoped to finish high school with a certification to help work her way through college on a pathway to a career as a trauma nurse. “It’s interesting here because I like learning how to care for people,” she said.

    In the animal science area, set up like a veterinary clinic, Shoemaker High School senior Kamryn Jackson showed eighth-graders how to use a prosthetic canine head and leg with simulated blood.

    “We’re giving tours because we want to get them excited about what we’re doing here,” she said, noting that she is working to earn a certified veterinary assistance certification.

    “I love getting involved in agriculture,” she said. “I live in town and can’t have a cow in my backyard.” She can use the Career Center barn at the rear of the property to care for livestock.

    “I hope they get an interest, a taste for what we do here,” she said. “It makes me proud to tell them about it. This is the best thing I could have done in high school.”

    The annual career expo is a prelude to high school pre-registration, career and technical education counselor Warren Kostencki explained.

    There is a recruitment value to the tours, but school leaders – educators and current students - are quick to point out that the career center is not for everyone.

    “Seeing it makes it real for them,” Kostencki said. “We go to the middle schools and explain what we do here, but there are still students picking courses based on their friends and there are those who have no interest at all. Sometimes they see something here and develop an interest.”

    Ayleen Marie Rise, a Liberty Hill Middle School eighth-grader, said she enjoyed seeing the veterinary science area and said she would consider that an option, though her first choice is to attend the Early College High School.

    “It was interesting to see all the careers in my group,” she said. “I like to see what they do with science here.”

    Eastern Hills Middle School eighth-grader Joseph Mateo said he was most interested in the photography classes, particularly the use of specialized software. He was also interested to learn at Texas A&M about scholarship opportunities.

    Jordan Sweeney, also an eighth-grader at Eastern Hills, was interested in the audiovisual area, including a green room for video work and the equipment in the health care area. She said she hoped to become a lawyer.

    Priscila Fernandez, an Ellison High School senior and one of 162 “all-day students” at the Career Center, was a tour guide for eighth-graders. She said she especially enjoyed showing off the automotive area, where she is a third-year student.

    “I want them to see we are professional here,” she said following one of her tours. “I want them to have fun, but I want them to see we are serious about what we do here.”

    February 15, 2017