Three Ways to SuccessLast month, I made an appeal to Grenada High School's incoming ninth graders: get serious about your academic future. It's never too early to start making yourself an attractive candidate for universities.
But what if you 're not sure about four more years of schooling? Maybe you have family responsibilities that prevent you from moving away from Grenada, or you're afraid the financial constraints of higher education are too great. Maybe you slacked off the first few years of high school and barely made the grade before you got serious about your future. What then?
You're very fortunate to live and attend school in Grenada, where, if you play your cards right, you can still get a good job and even earn a degree - often without paying a dime or even leaving town.
Let's start with the student who's chomping at the bit to get a job right away. You can actually start building your career in high school by taking classes at the Grenada Career and Technical Center. New high school certifications have made it even easier for a student to find a job with professional credentials.
In the GCTC's welding and carpentry classes, students take the NCCER exam, while auto repair students may take the ASE test. Passing scores on these exams will earn them certification cards like the professionals carry. Employers recognize the skill required to earn these credentials, which often increases a student's chances of being hired and may even enhance their starting wages.
The GCTC's new culinary arts kitchen is nearly finished, and this fall, students will be able to learn in a professional-grade kitchen before taking their ProStart certification exam, which gives them an advantage seeking employment in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
Certification isn't the only advantage to taking GCTC classes. The school continues to make new in-roads with local industry. If students aren't on-site touring the local facilities, industry leaders will often stop in to meet students and talk about their profession. Automotive instructor Ricky Jones says he is always fielding calls from local mechanics looking for skilled workers.
Then there are local companies that go above and beyond to work with GCTC to attract the next generation of home-grown employees. Modine is coming in this summer to update our welding shop with new lights, equipment, and brazing techniques, which will give our students highly sought, specialized training that will make them desirable hires right out of high school.
What about the student who would like to go to college, or maybe just travel the world in an exciting line of work, but they have no idea how they'll ever pay for it all? Consider Grenada's prestigious NNDCC program.
Most kids entering high school can't imagine the range of opportunities that come with a career in the military. Stop in and talk to Chief Newtroin Foreman, who took over GHS's NNDCC program five years ago and has doubled the number of cadets. The program has received regional recognition as the "most improved unit" out of 50 schools in five states and rank second in the state for physical fitness.
But this program is not just about physical training. Students also learn community service, financial responsibility, history, politics, and valuable life skills. In the past school year, students have toured military bases, met government leaders, visited NASA programs, and flown with the Hurricane Hunters of Keesler Air Force Base on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Students who commit to serve in the military branch of their choice after college will be eligible for a host of scholarships and personal-living stipends. They also qualify for higher pay grade entering the service and a host of other financial incentives. Some of Foreman's gradu-ating seniors this year will be heading to the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and even West Point Military Academy where they'll train to serve as U.S. Army officers.
If you're looking for adventure, or even cutting-edge training and a college education, you should give some serious thought to a military career path. You're not locked into the military for life, and the opportunities can be both thrilling and affordable. Plus, it's hard to put a price on the personal structure, leadership, and discipline you'll receive as part of Grenada High's NNDCC.
Another way to earn a degree with minimal financial investment is to score a 20 or above on your ACT and qualify for free tuition at Holmes Community College. Grenada has its own affiliate campus just down the street from the high school.
Go in with determination, keep your grades high, and with a 3.5 GPA, you could enroll in the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. Students who maintain good grades may become eligible to advance to a university such as Delta State — where full scholarships have been offered to top PTK students — and up to $2K a semester at other regional four-year universities like Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Holmes' career tech programs offer one- to two-year certification in jobs from forestry, computer programming, maintenance technology, engineering, heating and cooling, nursing, physical therapy, and business.
Their partnership with the University of Mississippi gives students an opportunity for a transfer scholarship. After two years at Holmes, they can attend Ole Miss classes on the same Grenada campus and take junior and senior level classes to earn their BA in elementary education, criminal justice, general business, or general studies.
So those are three ways any type of student — as long as they have the will and are ready to work hard — can leave Grenada High School with a plan for the future and the momentum to succeed.