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If Jake Fitzgerald, Senior, had the opportunity to chat with his past self, he’d have an important message for that young man. “[I’d tell myself] probably just to take more of the classes that I want to take,” Jake says, “Maybe skip some of the classes that we’re all doing.”

Tech Ed in Action
I'm trying to have a better plan of what I want to do with the classes I'm taking. I want them to relate to what I want to do in the future.
By Nate Fisher

He clarifies what he means moments later in a particularly sharp declaration: “I’m trying to have a better plan of what I want to do with the classes I’m taking. I want them to relate to what I want to do in the future.”

Jake and other students at Momence High School can take advantage of Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses, which aim to help Jake with his aforementioned goal. CTE programs are designed to prepare students for the work environment by building career planning, vocational, academic, and global citizenship skills. CTE participants apply the learning from core subjects like math, science, and writing to real-life work situations to become better prepared for college and/ or a career. Even if the student doesn’t go on to college, these courses seed useful skills across the workforce. A student in CTE programs can also earn industry-recognized certifications to gain employment.


The CTE course experience has expanded Jake’s horizons. He’s taken courses such as Agricultural Mechanics and Advanced Woodworking and prefers the “hands-on” approach to learning. “I’ve just always liked woodworking,” he hesitates, then adds, “It’s more of a hobby, but I’ve even made and sold some stuff.” That’s right; Jake has already turned the skills acquired in his CTE courses into a lucrative business, even owning his own showcase in a local antique mall. On top of the jewelry and other merchandise he resells, he also offers handmade wooden American flags that he paints himself, using reclaimed wood to “add a little bit of character.”


Learning about agricultural mechanics has inspired him to take up welding, and he’s currently taking a welding course at the Kankakee Area Career Center. “That’s the reason I took welding at the Career Center,” he explains, “You know, I don’t know if I want to do that as a career, but it’s something good to know that relates to a whole lot of other trades.”


Jake couldn’t be more right. Students at Momence can take CTE classes across a wide variety of fields: Basic Agricultural Mechanics, Culinary Arts, Small Engine Repair, Web Page and Interactive Media Development, Computer Concepts and Software, among many others. Career fields students taking CTE classes often enter include agricultural sciences, culinary and hospitality, architecture and construction, transportation, manufacturing, and media and communication arts.


As for Jake, he’s considering starting out with some business classes at the Kankakee Area Career Center and entering the machining or welding program there. If he takes to it, he says he’d consider attending the American Welding Academy in Union, Missouri. He’s one to have Plans B, C, and D on hand, though, and says he wouldn’t mind working at the alarm company his family owns if that’s what the future has in store. Whichever door he steps through, he’ll be better prepared with the practical knowledge on hand that he gained from the CTE program’s specialized wealth of transferable skills.

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