VINEMONT - On Thursday evening the Cullman Area Technology Academy (CATA, formerly the Cullman Area Career Center) held an open house for prospective students, parents and other interested visitors. All 18 of the school's programs were represented, working areas were open and active, and staff from CATA's partner programs at Wallace State were present.
CATA Principal Billy Troutman said, "Every program's here; a lot of teachers are here. We have students who are here, as well as hosts. For several programs, we have Wallace State partners visiting with us as well. We've got refreshments and food for everybody; Culinary Arts put that on for us."
CATA Counselor Diane Barnett spoke briefly about the importance of career tech training, and about the students at this particular school.
"Seventy-five percent of the jobs that make the world go around are skilled jobs, career tech jobs; and that's what we offer here,” she said. “We have almost 700 kids that we're serving now, and we rarely have any discipline problems, because the kids want to be here. We have a gem of a place here for Cullman County and City Schools."
The Cullman County Board of Education's (CCBOE) Career Tech Director Jeff Curtis was present to talk to students and parents about the system's partnerships with Wallace State through Dual Enrollment and Fast Track for Industry. Currently, 145 Cullman County and City juniors and seniors are enrolled in Wallace programs.
Curtis shared, "One-hundred-seven of them are in technical programs (Fast Track for Industry). They are in the same programs as here. They're taking college classes in those programs, and then they're taking high school classes in our general studies building (on the Wallace State campus). It gets them a two-year head start on what they want to do. Thirty-eight are in Fast Track Academy, students who are working on transferring to a four-year university. If they take full advantage of it and come 11th and 12th grade, they will graduate high school and graduate Wallace at the same time with a two-year associate degree in their program."
Walking around the CATA complex, visitors explored workshops and talked with instructors. In several shops, students were busy showing of their skills as instructors explained things to visitors. A couple of examples follow, though many more could have been included.
In the Heating and Air Conditioning shop, instructor Corey Neal supervised as student Bailey Calvert was hard at work on the inner workings of an AC unit.
Said Calvert, "I like it, because it's hands-on. It also helps you in everyday life; I helped my dad with this (AC repair) a couple of years ago, and found I liked it and decided I want to do something like this. I found out that Mr. Neal taught up here, and he's a great teacher. You do learn a lot."
In the Health Sciences room, instructor Tracy Smith bragged on her students.
"Next week, we have 17 students qualified for state competition, which is a huge feat in itself,” she said. “They'll be traveling to Montgomery, and they'll be doing a variety of public speaking, veterinary medicine, CPR/first aid, medical photography, medical assisting, several different aspects of health care.
"These students have such a good relationship with the Child Development Center, they call weekly wanting our Health Science students to volunteer. We assist them with their field trips, we plan things for them. This is a service-based organization; they're about giving back to the community."
All over the CATA complex were many more teachers prepared to boast about their students, and students who would do the same for the teachers.
The final word went back to Troutman, "The thing to know about this place is that it's the perfect place to get a foundation for your career. If you've got any kind of interest in a skill set or craft trade, what better place to start? Even if you have an interest in going to college and you're preparing for that, this is a great way to build some foundational skills that might apply there. It's just a good place to start."
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