CASSANDRA JENKINS — Career & technical programs create confidence in career paths

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Career and technical education is the practice of teaching specific career skills to students in middle school, high school and post-secondary institutions — and, it works.

According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, taking one CTE class for every two academic classes minimizes the risk of students dropping out of high school, 93 percent of students in a CTE program graduate and 91 percent of high school graduates who earned two to three CTE credits enrolled in college.

CTE serves 94 percent of all high school students with 88 percent of public high schools offering at least one CTE program. Unfortunately, for me, my school was not one of them.

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I graduated in 2015 with a high school diploma and a top ranking, but while I was a particularly active student in sports, clubs and academics, my confidence in my future career path and college major was low.

I knew what I loved to do and what I wanted out of life, but had nothing to compare my ambitions to or a way to practice those skills ahead of college.

I attended Tarkington High School, graduating with roughly 100 students. The class sizes were small and our school’s budget was small. We didn’t have our own campus newspaper or a journalism program outside of UIL competition. So while I had an idea on what I wanted to do, I lacked assurance and when I arrived at Lamar University the next fall, I lacked a head start.

Many freshmen in the communications department could work a camera, pitch an article or create a podcast. Nursing students were certified nursing aides with training in nursing homes. Engineers were constructing robots and mathematicians creating algorithms.

These students had skill sets and a level of confidence due to their prior training in high school.

The three major high school campuses in Mid- and South County have CTE programs with classes from mechanics and nursing to education and cosmetology.

Raegan Hudspeth, a senior at Port Neches-Groves High School, spends half her week off campus as a peer tutor and nurse in training.

“Being in these programs has really helped me decide that I want to be a teacher and a nurse,” she said. “I am very grateful that PNG has these programs to offer.”

Shawn Caviness-Brigman Jr. is on his way to becoming a successful process operator in a dual-credit CTE program with PNG and Lamar State College Port Arthur — a career he felt fit for him only after trying it out.

“I heard last year that (the school) was doing this dual credit college program,” he said. “So, I sat down with my dad and he told me about the process technology program and engineering. I like hands-on work, so I tried it out and it just clicked.”

Memorial High School student Mariana Quintanar said the CTE program gives her options and a head start.

“I will have my cosmetology license and the NJROTC program, plus all my honor classes by the time I get to college,” she said. “I’m getting the most benefits out of everything.”

While to many, the CTE programs may seem like a given, they are a luxury that provides more than a healthy education but a head start, confidence and options.

Cherish them.

Cassandra Jenkins is a news reporter at The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at