Mayfield-Graves Co. technology center presents panel discussion - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Mayfield-Graves Co. technology center presents panel discussion with students

From left: Dalton Beecham, Tyson Hopwood and Chelsea Cartwright listen to David Anderson, chief executive officer of Jackson Purchase Medical Center in Mayfield. (Source: Paul Schaumburg, Graves Co. schools) From left: Dalton Beecham, Tyson Hopwood and Chelsea Cartwright listen to David Anderson, chief executive officer of Jackson Purchase Medical Center in Mayfield. (Source: Paul Schaumburg, Graves Co. schools)
GRAVES COUNTY, KY (KFVS) -

The Mayfield-Graves County Area Technology Center teaches students every school day very practical lessons in various trades.

Teachers are professionals in those trades and bring their own experience to their students.

Students often take what they learn and apply it in non-profit organizations’ facilities, as part of their school work – building, wiring, and the like.

The ATC took another approach to broadenings its students’ perspectives recently, sponsoring a panel discussion about career preparation and adult life.

“We need to get to these youth before they get into college and help them realize that there is room in a community for them to do lots of kinds of jobs,” said Mayfield Mayor Teresa Rochetti-Cantrell, who was one of three panelists. “We need doctors and lawyers, but we need a [hands-on career] workforce also. Those kinds of jobs are the foundation of your community. When industries and jobs come into a community, that’s the first thing they look for – do you have a workforce? Everybody’s path is not the same. No matter what you choose to do, we want to have a place for them to come home to in Mayfield and Graves County. There are a lot of those kinds of career interests represented in these kids today.”

“We are grateful to the mayor for hosting this leadership event at city hall; it was an engaging venue for the students,” said Mike Miller, principal of the ATC. “Also, many thanks to the panelists and moderator for making this event a priority in their schedules; they were all extremely knowledgeable and passionate about inspiring the students. High school students sometimes struggle to make a connection between school work and real life, but the panelists were able to bridge that gap and help motivate and inform students for success.”

“My hope is that these students, who are at a very transformative age in their lives, are influenced by hearing from these local leaders about what they have done to be successful,” said moderator Ryan Drane, president of Graves County Economic Development. “We were very fortunate to have the three leaders who we had here today and we also had some great questions from the students.”

“This is a great size of group. If you make it too big, it’s like a lecture,” said panelist David Anderson, chief executive officer of Jackson Purchase Medical Center in Mayfield. “But, this format gave the kids a chance to ask questions."

“I’m always excited to do things such as this and I think more groups should follow suit and have events like this,” said panelist Kyle Henderson, business manager of Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 184, based in Paducah. “I think you actually have to get students directly involved in the direction they’re headed or get them thinking in specific, practical ways about their careers and adult life: ‘What do I want to do?’ If they get that exposure to different career paths, you get them motivated in choosing a career.”

“I liked hearing about their experiences. It really made me ask a lot of questions, especially for the pipefitter because I want to be an iron worker,” said Graves County senior Dalton Beecham. “It helped me realize the kind of work ethic and ownership of my own career that I need to take. It will be hard at times, but if you keep working hard, striving to the position you want to get, things will work out.”

“Everybody does need some kind of additional training beyond high school,” Henderson said. “It’s just like with our trade and our program, they are going to school for another five years. We actually are affiliated with West Kentucky Community and Technical College and the people in our program earn college credit, just like the electrical union members do. It is not the traditional college degree, but it is five years of intense training that is mandatory.”

“I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged these students were and the quality of the questions they asked. I picked up on a lot of their nonverbal communication that they were really receptive to what we were saying,” said Anderson “I love these kinds of conversations. We need to be inspiring our high school students who don’t aspire to taking the traditional four-year college route.

“When I graduated high school in 1990, vocational-technical schools were very prominent,” he continued. “As manufacturing declined over the years, it seems we took our eye off the ball on preparing students to be ready to go to those kinds of jobs as well. That’s whether it’s an associate’s degree in nursing, licensed practical nursing, or in the trades. Now, we’re in a unique spot to add jobs to Graves County and I think that’s critical.”

“I absolutely loved the forum. It kind of made the whole growing up and going into a job much less scary,” said Graves County senior Chelsea Cartwright, who studies nursing at the ATC. “I got a lot of great advice – to keep things in focus, have a plan, and set goals. I hope they do this for students next year.”

“Chelsea introduced all the speakers. I was impressed with how she did that with such poise in front of a big group,” Anderson said. “She noted that she is going into nursing, pursuing a registered nursing degree. So, at the end here today, I gave her my card and told her to keep Jackson Purchase Medical Center in mind for a job when she finishes her degree.”

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