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Real World Learning: Skilled for Life After Graduation

Ruskin Senior Jane't Wright is thrilled to be in the welding programFor Jane’t Wright, a senior at Ruskin High School, the traditional school setting was okay, but she wanted more. When the new skills trade program started this year with the opportunity to learn welding at T&L Welding Academy, she jumped at the chance.

“I have always been interested in construction,” Jane’t said. “I wanted to find a program that would be a great opportunity to get work experience that would also give me a feel for what I might enjoy.”

Building out the trade skills program is just another piece in the growing Real World Learning program offered at Ruskin.

“We really focus on applicable skills or certifications that students can have the minute they leave our doors,” HMC-1’s Real World Learning Facilitator Bethany Kelly said. “If our students choose not to go to college, they are able to go right into the career field.”

Owners Travis & LaShaunda FowlerThe program at T&L opened just this year, a dream realized by Travis and LaShaunda Jackson. The Jacksons decided to open their own school to reach underprivileged high school kids and Hickman Mills C-1 Schools was their first partner district.

“This is our chance to teach young people about the opportunities available to them,” Mrs. Jackson said. “By helping them learn a trade, they are discovering there is a better future and they can be in a position to take care of themselves, take care of their family, and make a good living.”

More than the real-world application, the hands-on experience available as part of the program has been key for Jane’t.

“It’s different because I feel like you’re learning more when you are hands-on versus the sit and listen form of traditional school,” Jane’t said.  

Students learn plasma torch cuttingThe Fast Track Welding Program at T&L was designed for students looking to enter the welding field as an entry-level welder. The program is composed of 100 clock hours, 20 lectures, and 80 lab hours. Students who join the program learn the processes and safety of using various welding gases and rods, MIG welding, oxy-fuel torch cutting, and plasma arc cutting. Students have to perform each form of welding to move on to the next section.

“I’ve learned plasma cutting, stick welding, and some other beginning welding skills,” Jane’t said. “I have really enjoyed learning about plasma cutting, that’s my favorite so far.”

Students learn grinding skillsThis program isn’t only about welding, it’s also about basic trade skills, like learning how to read a tape measure, how to study blueprints, recognize different sizes of metal, and more. Plus, students are earning their OSHA 10 certificate.

Students are also learning presentation skills as part of the curriculum. Once students complete a module, they have to share with the class what they learned within that unit, giving them the opportunity to gain public speaking experience, as well as increase their verbal communication skills. Real world learning has to be implemented in every aspect of their lives.

“These students are also learning great soft skills,” Ms. Kelly said. “All of these programs set students in the real world so they get exposed to all of the skills you don’t really learn in school. But since they are still high school students, they have mentors to help them navigate to become successful young adults.”

Students are mentored in the classThe ultimate goal for the Jacksons is for the HMC-1 high school students to receive their high school diploma, earn their trade certificate, and then be placed in an internship to set up those students for success after graduation. They have partnered with J.E. Dunn, Honeywell, Western Forms, and other local organizations to help students find just the right internship after graduation.

“I’m excited about the opportunity for a career that is available for me after graduation,” Jane’t said. “My goal is to get an internship with Honeywell and have the financial stability to help my family.”

To learn more about the real world learning opportunities available at HMC-1, visit our website.