May is a month usually associated with celebrations such as high school graduation parties, graduates preparing to start their college journey and athletes signing on to participate in collegiate sports.
But among that pool, another group of students is already working in their field or getting ready to start their career. Many of them can be found in career and technical programs, where a large number of students receive real experience while simultaneously gaining knowledge in the classroom.
For the first time on May 9, Northern Career Institute held a signing day at its Willoughby campus to recognize graduating students who are beginning a career in their area of expertise.
Joined by their families, NCI faculty and employers, students were recognized one by one and each signed a paper, just as college athletes do. Except these students signed their name to symbolize the start of their career.
Charles Murphy, Willoughby-Eastlake School District’s assistant superintendent, said that the district is excited to celebrate the achievements and future careers of NCI students because of the time and) effort they put in.
“They’ve worked hard, they’ve trained for this, this has been their dream,” Murphy said. “And we want to recognize their dream.”
Students represented several programs, including: cosmetology, auto technology, collision, welding and business. NCI coordinator Deanna Elsing said that some students weren’t able to attend the signing day because they were working.
“Another thing that I’ve really enjoyed today was just watching the relationships already between our students and the business owners,” Murphy said. “There’s a genuine caring between the two groups that seems to go beyond just an ’employer-employee’ relationship. They’ve picked these kids for a reason; they believe in them.”
Emma Piatek was one of the students recognized at the signing day, as she will be managing a Little Caesar’s in Painesville after graduation. Come fall 2019, she said that she’ll also be taking business and economics classes at Lakeland Community College.
“(I’ll be) hopefully gaining a lot of experience within that, managing a whole group of people, as well as dealing with customers and dealing with sales,” said Piatek, who has worked at the Little Caesar’s store in Eastlake since August 2017.
Another student, J.C. Cendrowski, will be a third-generation employee at his family’s business, Lake County Brake & Front End. He is a general service technician and has been working for his family’s shop for about a year.
Cendrowski’s father, John, said that some of his son’s responsibilities involve tire work, oil changes, brake jobs and front end work.
J.C. added that they also include “learning; learning fast.”
The signing was also attended by members of the Alliance for Working Together. Executive Director Alice Cable said that there are students who have participated in the alliance’s programs, such as Robobots and a manufacturing career expo.
“We are specifically involved in promoting manufacturing careers and within that industry, NCI’s main program would be welding,” Cable said. “And almost all of their students are placed (in careers) right away.”
“The reason (the alliance) wanted to be involved is: we want to help change the culture that going directly to a career is actually a great thing to do,” she continued.
A total of 28 NCI students were recognized at the signing day. The school’s career and technical programs will conclude for the year on May 14, Elsing said.