(WACO) – Dylan Lowery’s career plans have taken shape even before he receives a diploma later this month from Connally High School.
Lowery, 18, is a student at Connally Career Tech Early College High School on Cadet Way in Waco. During his sophomore, junior and senior years, he took the quick bus ride to Texas State Technical College to take cyber security classes. He has his last course in the fall at TSTC to finish an associate degree in Cyber Security and wants to start work on an Advanced Technical Certificate in Digital Forensics.
“I would like to stay in Waco and work with cyber security,” Lowery said. “I want to do an internship with TSTC to get experience.”
The Connally Independent School District’s early college technical high school partners with TSTC to provide students with opportunities to earn dual credit hours. Connally Career Tech had more than 100 students this academic year who took courses in Cyber Security, Culinary Arts, Welding, Visual Communication Technology, Precision Machining Technology and other technical programs offered at TSTC.
“The partnership with TSTC is crucial for our district. There are schools that would die to be close to a TSTC campus,” Connally Career Tech Principal Hermann Pereira said. “For us to send our kids to the best expertise in the area is good for the school district. Everything is in line to make this a success.”
Connally Career Tech is the only early college technical high school that TSTC works with in Waco.
“There are a lot of good students that have potential,” said Sheryl Kattner-Allen, a manager in TSTC’s Dual Enrollment Operations. “I see the paperwork that comes through and you can see students who are interested and are willing to do the extra work in the summer that has to be done.”
This year, more than 30 Connally Career Tech graduates will wear special stoles at Connally High School’s May 19 graduation ceremony and a special medal from TSTC for completing a career pathway.
Some of the students graduating said the opportunity to take college-level courses changed their minds about their futures.
Randall Stranacher, 18, said taking college classes in welding, cyber security and automotive collision technology made him realize that an education after high school is important to his future. Stranacher’s father, Ryan Stranacher, is an instructor and graduate of TSTC.
“Being at Connally Career Tech has given me time to decide what I want to do,” Randall Stranacher said. “I want to fix and paint vehicles. Ever since I was little, my family was big on cars.”
The younger Stranacher will finish a certificate in Automotive Collision Repair this summer and study auto body refinishing in the fall.
Some students will finish their work at TSTC before moving on to other colleges.
George Zachary Galvan, 18, will finish a Pharmacy Technician certificate after doing clinical work this summer in Waco and attend McLennan Community College in the fall. He finds a career in pharmaceuticals an interesting prospect.
“We are at such an advantage right now,” Galvan said about himself and his classmates. “We can get ahead on getting a job. I knew it would be difficult and tough. I didn’t find the work at TSTC overwhelming, but you had to be prepared and take this seriously.”
Marshall Woodlock, 18, completed a culinary arts certificate at TSTC and is planning to study management in Texas or Massachusetts. He said he was drawn to cooking when he was young preparing meals for his working family.
He credited the early college technical high school in getting him ahead of other students like him.
“College was in the plans, but it wasn’t financially available,” Woodlock said.
Elizabeth Gostomski, a counselor at Connally Career Tech, designs students’ school days around the TSTC course schedule.
“I have contact with someone from TSTC at least once a day,” she said.
Connally Career Tech, which opened three years ago, is projected to rise to 130 students next year. A sixth teacher will join the staff this fall. The students will have additional career path choices as McLennan Community College is added as a partner offering health science and public safety course options.
Pereira said there are plans in the next academic year to create industry advisory committees for each of its career clusters. These committees can offer input on what is expected of students, who potentially can be future employees and what work skills are needed.
“They want to keep that talent pool in Waco,” Pereira said.
For more information on the Connally Independent School District, go to connally.org.
For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.