by jamesc 4/12/2017 4:16:36 PM --
NORFOLK – Over the years, a number of student-athletes have signed letters of intent to play sports at Northeast Community College. But now the institution has used the same concept to focus on why students attend college in the first place, to obtain a degree and eventually get a job.
Twelve high school seniors took part in Northeast Community College’s inaugural Career and Technical Education (CTE) Letter of Intent Signing Day in front of family, friends, prospective employers and college employees here recently. It had all the earmarks of an athletic signing, but the students signed their intentions to complete a CTE program at Northeast.
All of the students who took part in the signing day event have participated in Northeast’s Fridays @ Northeast program, which allows high school seniors to spend the final day of their school week on campus as college students. The classes offered introduce students to a variety of career and technical education program areas and lead directly into a program of study upon the student’s high school graduation. Classes were held on Northeast’s Norfolk Campus and at the College’s South Sioux City Extended Campus.
John Blaylock, executive vice president at Northeast, commended the 48 students from 14 high schools who participated in the program during its first year.
“They really had to perform above average just to be a part of this program. The students have taken full advantage of this opportunity to learn new skills, to evaluate their next steps in their career and then begin to continue their education into a postsecondary experience or into the workforce.”
Courtney Dentlinger, director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, spoke at the signing. She commended Northeast for hosting such a unique event.
“I gotta tell you, I like this concept of signing day. I like sports, I played sports. I watch them when I have time. But the next great power forward doesn’t excite me anywhere near as much as the youth who are going to power our economy.”
Dentlinger said there are a number of job opportunities across the region. She said at any given time, there are 40,000 job openings across the state, while there were 1,000 openings in the Norfolk area when she served as the city’s economic development director.
“These are companies that want to grow, they want to add people, they want to expand, they want to add new lines. But they need you to do that,” she said as she motioned toward the students.
Dentlinger congratulated the students for participating in the Fridays @ Northeast program, which she said has allowed them to get a head start on their postsecondary education.
“You have opportunities ahead of you to buckle down to study hard, to really take advantage of this opportunity (at Northeast)….because when you graduate you are going to be able to fill one of those 40,000 open jobs in the state of Nebraska. You’re going to be able to build your career, give back to your communities….you might even be someone who is going be opening their own business or take over from someone transitioning into retirement. This is what excites me.”
Dr. Michael Chipps, president, said the inaugural signing day will be considered as a milestone event for the students and Northeast.
“You should feel extremely special. We are here to celebrate technical education and celebrate the students who are interested in choosing this career path. As a nation, we highly value technical skills sets gained by our students. We plan to do more of these types of celebrations to showcase our academic mission and elevate the exposure of middle skills, which are highly needed and are in short supply across the United States.”
Following remarks, each of the twelve students came to the front of the room to sit at a table in front of a Northeast backdrop, sign their letters of intent with family, faculty, staff and local employers standing behind them, put on a Northeast ball cap and pose for pictures.
Blaylock said the students are deserving of such recognition. In comparing the event to an athletic signing, he said, “Why can’t we have that same level of enthusiasm and excitement for that student who wants to get a career and technical education? Northeast Community College has elevated the role of career and technical education to the point that it is important to have students sit at that table and sign a piece of paper saying that you are committed to yourself first.”
“Gaining skills to be successful in a career is life changing. It sets one up to be employable and to contribute to society in a very positive way,” Blaylock said. “Because this is so important to the community, region and the state, Northeast wants to make this a ‘big deal.’
Corinne Morris, dean of agriculture, math and science at Northeast Community College (left) adjusts the ball cap of Nolan Smith, a senior at Bancroft-Rosalie High School, as he is about to signs a letter of intent to Northeast at the College’s inaugural Career and Technical Education Letter of Intent Signing Day on the Norfolk campus recently.