By Carol Hillman
SCORS (South Carolina Organization of Rural Schools)
It is no secret that Colleton County schools have articulate students who are anxious to share their thoughts. I hope you are interested in hearing what they have to say.
Recently I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Andy Kubik, Jr, Director of Thunderbolt Career and Technology Center (TCTC), Mr. Brian Wilson, Automotive Technology Instructor at the Center, and Dr. Vallerie Cave, Superintendent of Schools.
A school district superintendent must understand the needs of her students and community. Dr. Cave believes a good education should prepare students to succeed in any of 4 pathways: entrepreneurship, employment, the military, and post-secondary education. In rural communities many students hope to enter the workforce upon graduation from high school. TCTC is meant to prepare them to do just that. Under Dr. Cave’s guidance the school has expanded its offerings so students who are hard workers can have a meaningful and productive future.
I visited the Automotive Shop where Mr. Wilson was teaching a level 1 class. Three students volunteered to be interviewed.
- Somia Jefferson, a delightful freshman, was happy to tell me that she really likes the intro to Automotive Technology class. She had fallen behind a bit and was I was pleased find her working independently on a computer to catch up. She is looking forward to taking a class in Early Childhood Education as she “loves babies.” Somia told me she was very excited to know I was interested in the Center because, “Not too many people know about it.”
- Daniel Gomez-Perez is a senior who has already taken the Welding and Pre-Engineering classes. This well-spoken student told me Mr. Wilson had taken him to a Skills USA competition in Greenville. It was very exciting and Daniel experience for me. He continued, “This building has given me an opportunity to know what I want to do when I graduate from high school. I want to be an entrepreneur and start my own business.” I asked him who he might go to if he needed help getting started, “Mr. Wilson is awesome. I feel safe going to him for advice about anything. He really knows all his students.”
- Keith Randolph, a sophomore, is glad to be able to take classes at TCTC. His face lit up when he told me, “My dad gave me a black 2008 GMC truck! My truck has some transmission problems and needs a wheel alignment so I am taking this class to learn how to fix it myself. I will go to college because I can make more money if I go to college. I’m going to be a Game Cock or go to Clemson.”
Mr. Kubik’s vision for the school is to have as many classes as possible work together, giving students a real life experience. In practice it looks like this: The Automotive class needed a differential stand. The Mechanical Design students drew up the specifications. The Welding class built the stand. Problem solved.
The Automotive Technology Shop attracts students by offering a wide range of experiences:
Thanks to the generosity of Walterboro Ford, TCTC students Trevion Pierce, Daniel Hawk, and Jackson Herrington are taking advantage of Ford’s ASSET (Automotive Student Service Education Training) program. Mr. Jeff Ammett oversees the paid internship program.
Currently the classroom is home to a tractor, a truck and several used cars in need of repair. Local people are able to bring their vehicles in for service. Students, with Wilson’s guidance, provide owners with a written explanation of what needs to be done and an estimate for completing the job. Once the job is completed and the vehicle owner returns they are asked to provide feedback about their experience. Mr. Wilson and his students review and discuss what they did well and how they might improve the process going forward.
Pomega and Kontrolmatic Technologies, manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, announced plans to build a facility near Walterboro. They are bringing 500 plus new jobs to Colleton County. Mr. Wilson sees an opportunity for his students and hopes to develop a partnership between the company and the school. Recently he had students remove the engine of a car and put it into a golf cart. The plan is to build and place an electric motor into a car.
When you were growing up, did you ever imagine being a high school student building a “Tesla”?
For more information about what is available at the Colleton County School District’s Thunderbolt Career and Technology Center go to https://tctc.colleton.k12.sc.us/
From left to right:
Keith Randolph, Somia Jefferson, Brian Wilson, Daniel Gomez-Perez