Cabell career center honors its largest ‘completer’ class
HUNTINGTON — The Cabell County Career Technology Center’s “graduating” classes have grown from 47 in 2017, to 68 in 2018, to now 117 in 2019 — with more growth expected down the road.
Often overlooked between Cabell Midland and Huntington High, the center now boasts more than 300 students, an all-time high reflective of the shifting attitudes toward career-technology education (CTE).
Though not technically a graduation — many seniors will also walk alongside Cabell Midland and Huntington High graduates — the career center honored its largest-ever class
during its annual Completer Ceremony on Thursday at Huntington High School.
Students are recognized for completing one of the school’s several two-year CTE programs, such as welding, carpentry or graphic design. Completion signifies students have been certified and ready to work in their respective trades.
Around 80 percent of the 2019 completing class scored above the national average on the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) exam, a gauge of workplace readiness, Principal Frank Barnett added.
Some in the class are finished at their schools, but not all members of the completing class are seniors. Students at the career center can often complete two, sometimes three, trade certifications during their time at the school, meaning some completing Thursday will come back for another program next year.
And for many, it has laid out a path to follow they might not otherwise have found.
“A lot of these students have never experienced success academically or in the workplace,” Barnett said. “For them to feel special in a way that we honor them specifically, they can see their sense of accomplishment and the culmination of what they’ve done.”
The expected emotions were there for senior Brianna Lett, certified through the administrative support program and graduating dually with a GED as well as a high school diploma from Huntington High. Her high school experience was rough, she described it, before coming to the career center last year and finding success.
“If it wasn’t for the career center, I wouldn’t be graduating,” Lett said.
It was a similar story for graphic design student Hannah Samuel, who was failing at Cabell Midland before transferring to the career center. Her grades improved dramatically, and she plans to attend Mountwest Community and Technical College in the fall or chase a job at nearby Amazon.
“The career center really gave me the tools I needed to get my life started and do it the right way instead of just being thrown out there without the skills to do it,” Samuel said.
For Daniel Fulks, it was a bit strange to wear the cap and gown as a junior, though he is now fully certified through the auto technology program. He’ll be coming back to the career center for the auto collision program, planning to complete it in a 13th year for free.
“I do feel just as good as if I wear graduating,” Fulks said. “It was hard work, and it feels kind of weird, but it does feel kind of natural, too.”