Success breeds success, as the old saying goes. And one of the most convincing examples of that principle is in the dual enrollment opportunities at Warren County High School.
Since its introduction at WCHS in 2008, the widely popular programs have grown to serve some 100 students now in traditional academic courses and another 100 in Career Technical Education (CTE), according to program director Tracy Risinger.
These courses are defined by Tennessee Board of Education rules and allow students to earn high school credits that transfer at full value to some post-secondary institutions such as Motlow State Community College and the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT). The effect is to reduce the time and money spent in attaining a college degree.
Responding to the needs of both employers and students, the local CTE added dual enrollment classes this year in automotive technology and building trades. That expansion comes close on the heels of recently-added welding technology and a $1 million training facility in machine technology funded by a grant from the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) program in collaboration with the McMinnville TCAT.
“The CTE wing at Warren County High School is one of the best in the state,” said Todd Herzog, chair of the Business Table Roundtable Action Committee (BRAC) and the Citizens for Progress (CfP) scholarship foundation, supported entirely by voluntary contributions from area industries and individuals. WCHS students train on state-of-the-art equipment worth several million dollars, according to informed estimates.
“The beauty of the Mechatronics program is that a student who starts as a sophomore can earn a Level I industry certification by the time of high school graduation,” Herzog observed. “They can go directly into a solid job in industry or move on toward the next stage, a Level II certification and associates degree from Motlow. If they stay with it, they can do two more years and earn a bachelors degree and a Level III certification.
“They can start and stop depending on their wishes and needs,” he commented, citing the versatility of a Mechatronics-centered career.
Some courses in dual enrollment come with a cost not covered by current state funding. That’s particularly true for sophomores entering the Mechatronics trajectory, where yearly tuition can be in the area of $2,000.
Citizens for Progress donors have committed to underwrite the tuition for 10 such sophomores, enabling them to complete the Level I requirements by the time they graduate, Herzog said.
The BRAC/CfP chair is joining with Motlow and TCAT leaders in urging the Tennessee General Assembly to extend current student financial aid to 10th graders wanting to pursue those dual enrollment opportunities.
As Herzog explained, students, employers and Tennessee’s overall economy all benefit from the 21st Century technical training made possible by these programs.