Stroll through the halls of Tullahoma High School and you’ll find biology, calculus and history classes like you would in any American high school. While THS strives to send its college-bound students off well-prepared, it also devotes considerable effort to preparing students to enter the workforce immediately after graduation, with hands-on classes geared toward giving them a leg up on their careers.

Career Technical Education (CTE) classes help students learn trades to set them up for a life of success if a college degree isn’t what they had in mind. College isn’t for everyone, and there are many careers in the area where a student can live a comfortable life after high school, possibly even without the student loan debt.

“Some students want to take a different direction than college, and that’s OK,” said THS CTE Director Shari Zimmerman. “At Tullahoma High School, we offer more than 10 different programs to help our students figure out what path is best for them. Some students will take the college path, and some students will take the trade path. We want those who choose the trade path to know that they can earn a good income straight out of high school.”

Programs at the high school include:

•        Advanced Placement: These classes cover advanced learning for math, science, history, English, literature economics and psychology. These classes are geared towards students who are choosing to pursue post-secondary education at a community college or university.

•        Machining: A student learns how to use heavy machinery to cut metal and make a variety of parts for businesses and industries around the world. The courses offered at the high school cover quality control, industrial maintenance and milling, to name a few.

•        Welding: Students learn how to melt metals to form unbreakable bonds that are used for building structures as well as a variety of uses for industrial needs.

•        Cosmetology: Students learn about hair, cosmetics and the chemicals used in salons and how to apply them to satisfy customers’ needs.

•        Business: Students can study financial planning, economic, management, office management, and technology coding to better prepare them for college courses in this field. 

•        Marketing: This path provides an introduction to marketing management, promotion, distribution and selling, as well as economic fundamentals.

•        Public relations: The course focuses on the concepts and strategies associated with promoting products, services, ideas and events. The course explores consumer behavior patterns and motivations for buying.

•        Computer coding: These courses are meant to teach students how to use computer coding to process information. The classes teach students the coding foundation necessary to create computer programs. Students will learn how to troubleshoot and debug programs and software applications so that all functions of the computer run smoothly.

•        Criminal justice: Students in this course of study lean about law enforcement services and about the legal and correctional services of the industry. Students learn terminology and investigation skills related to crime scenes, aspects of criminal behavior and applications of scientific inquiry to solve crimes.

•        Health science: This course study covers the wide variety of health professions in the workforce. From health science education and medical therapeutics to therapeutic clinical services, students learn the many ways to be successful in the field of health. The program can even lead to students earning their Certified Nursing Assistant status by completion of the program.

“It’s good for students to be able to have a craft or a skill that they enjoy,” said Zimmerman. “It’s always best to expose yourself to different trades to see what you like best. Sometimes plans don’t go accordingly. If there’s a backup plan, you’re able to be prepared.”

CTE classes are beneficial in many ways to the students at Tullahoma High School. The classes allow the students to be hands on and experiment in different professions to help them decided what path suits them best.

“I love the fact that I can construct new materials from a piece of flat metal,” said Brionna Stetson, a senior who is in the welding course. “I thought the program would be really sexist honestly, but it’s really not. I get to do everything the boys get to do. It’s actually fun being a girl who welds. The only thing the boys don’t let me do is pick up heavy objects, and I get that. The best part about taking these classes in while I’m in high school is that I will have a head start once I graduate. Not everyone gets these opportunities.”

Stetson added that welding is a career that she wants to pursue after high school.

“I really like that I learn something new every day,” said Dylan Legeune, a junior in the machining class. “It gives me a lot of hands-on experience for when I graduate. Machining is something that I would like to pursue after high school. The program gets me excited and looking forward to what opportunities are available and what I’m going to be doing out in the field.”

Students are able to showcase what they have learned in a series of contests held throughout the year. The contests are geared towards each student’s skills, and they are able to compete against other schools at the regional and state level.

The high school’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) competed in a personal finance competition at the regional level in Smyrna on Jan. 24 and took home first place. In November, the cosmetology class competed at Love Beauty School and won scholarship money. There are many other competitions held for each skill all through the school year.

“The students enjoy going to competitions,” Zimmerman said. “There’s nothing like a competition to get the kids to sharpen and show their skills. They learn how to really refine what they are doing and pay attention to the details.”

Tullahoma has a variety of industries nearby that need future machinists, welders, health professionals and business leaders. Microcraft, TE Connectivity and Schmeide Corporation, to name a few, as well as Arnold Air Force Base and Lynchburg’s Jack Daniels Distillery.

“The best thing about the CTE classes is that students can try out new things and find new passions and skillsets without the cost or consequence of finding out in college,” Zimmerman said. “It’s great that the students get to try things out before they get to college and find out that a path they had considered just wasn’t for them. CTE classes are here to lead students to find something they love.”

Tullahoma High School is preparing the students for what comes after graduation. All students must pass three courses in their directed area of study to obtain a diploma. Students can even progress enough through their program that work-based training can be used as credit to graduate.

Students are able to obtain hands-on work experience by an approved employer or internship position for at least seven hours per week with at least one class period per week of classroom instructional time. Students spend approximately 10 days in the classroom at the beginning of the semester for instruction and paperwork for completion. The students spend the rest of the semester working alongside professionals in their program of study to gain a better understanding of what’s required in the field.

There are many jobs that provide a comfortable living without a four-year college degree, and they are often available with a little hands-on experience, a technical degree and right out of high school. College may not be the path for every child, and Tullahoma High School is allowing students to find what suits them best with the use of CTE classes.

For more information on Tullahoma High school, visit www.tullahomahighschool.net.  

Faith Few can be reached by email at ffew@tullahomanews.com.