GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Gaston County Schools takes the top spot in the state of North Carolina for students earning the most career and education credentials during the 2019-2020 school year. The recognition is years in the making and one that school leaders are celebrating.
“These classes are important to the district because all of these industries look to our high schools for those folks who are trained and ready to go to work,” said Sam Bishop who coordinates CTE classes for Hunter Huss High School.
Last school year, Hunter Huss ranked second in the state with 2,967 credentials awarded to students. Overall, the county has four high schools ranked in the top 15 statewide.
About five years ago, the community pushed the district to put more emphasis on helping students get career ready and that includes vocational training as well. Bishop says the district tries to offer everything in terms of industries that have a presence in Gaston County.
Some of the certificates and credentials are similar to what students would pay for and earn at a community college.
“It’s pretty inspiring you get these kids who might not even know it’s even an option,” said Chief Harry Field. Field has dedicated his career to fighting fires for the last 37 years. When he’s not fighting fires, he’s training the next generation of first responders.
He hopes these students take away self-confidence and a taste of the real world.
“They step up to the challenge,” said Field. Field has some students who are already on board with volunteer fire departments.
That’s what Jamelea Love, 14, wants to do when she graduates.
“I’m proud of myself. I never thought I’d be taking Fire Academy in high school,” said Love who loves this class.
“We’re looking toward their future and to make classes more inviting and interesting,” Bishop said.
Like most educators, the pandemic has pushed CTE teachers and students to get creative.
One of the classrooms looks like a hospital room. Students are working toward earning their nursing certificates. It’s training that Ailysa Lee, a senior, hopes will come in handy as she works to become a physical therapist.
“My sister got her CNA certificate and she was able to use it as a side job so using these experiences will help me get a side job while I’m in college,” said Lee who was dressed in scrubs.
Hunter Huss High School is looking to bring a drone class on in the near future.