(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY STEVE PAGE)
If you build it, they will come.
And they, in turn, will build things themselves and generally make life better for everyone.
And they will do it all without going to college.
That is the reason the Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township is adding career pathways to Decatur Central High School. Not just classes, but an entire building, just south of the school and adjacent to Devere Fair Stadium.
DC Principal Tom Wachnicki says this is the perfect offering for the students.
“College doesn’t have to be for everyone,” he said.
According to the College & Career Readiness & Success Center, College and career readiness refers to the content, knowledge and skills that high school graduates must possess in English and mathematics – including, but not limited to, reading, writing, communications, teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving – to be successful in future endeavors.
Some Hawks are already working their way toward that goal.
“At Ben Davis, in Wayne Township, the kids are able to get some career training,” Wachnicki said of the Vincennes University Area 31 Career Center on the campus of Ben Davis High School.
Area 31 serves students from several schools, including Decatur Central, Monrovia and Mooresville.
That’s a great start, Wachnicki noted, but DC needs more.
“We already have 30 or so kids in the Area 31 Co-Op,” he said.
According to the co-op’s web site, “Area 31 is high school with direction, hands-on learning and real-world work experience. Area 31 students attend career preparation classes for half a day, either morning or afternoon, every day. The other half of the day is spent at their home high school.”
Good news and bad news.
“With a co-op, you have very limited numbers,” Wachnicki said. “So we surveyed our students. What they call career pathways exploded. With their response, we started creating our own career pathway here.”
Looking at the artist renderings, they’re getting quite a facility.
Designed by the architects at DELV Design, and with Patterson Horth General Contractors building it, the place is already rising from the ground.
“The large part of the building was our bus garage.” Wachnicki said. “You’re just re-utilizing the space. Right now, we’re utilizing every space in this building.
“Initially, we will have three facets: construction, advanced manufacturing and logistics, and animal and plant sciences (Ag, for agriculture),” Wachnicki explained. “Hopefully, we will add a health occupations pathway. And we’ll also have space for our athletic trainers.
“We have eight times the number of students in the pathways than we could have in the Area 31 service center. When it is in place, we’ll have 180 students in construction, 115 in advanced manufacturing and logistics, and we had to hire a second teacher for the Ag pathway. This facility will allow us to accommodate these students.”
All with an eye on the future.
“It’s a nice opportunity for job and career advancement,” Wachnicki continued. “They can be welders and beginning construction, if the kids are certified apprentice.
“No college expenses, and you can earn a $35,000 to $50,000 opening wage. And they’re doing it without college debt. That’s what’s exciting.
“We’ve tried to teach the kids, ‘You have to have a big enough dream.’
District administrators began dreaming big years ago.
“I’m really thrilled that our district has embraced the idea of a high-wage project,” Wachnicki said. “The last four years, I don’t know if we had a hope, but we didn’t know the response from the kids, from 30 to 40 at the start to almost 200. We need a bigger facility to house all these kiddos. This time last year, it turned very serious.
“We’re not just building a pathway, but building a building for these pathways. Just having the space to allow the kids to get hands-on is really exciting.”
For all concerned.
“We built the pathways, and they sure did come,” Wachnicki said, smiling. “Now, we need the building to house it. If all things go according to Hoyle, we’ll be in the building this time next year.
“Now, one vision will help students be ready for tomorrow.”