HUNTERSVILLE – About 30 hours before they were scheduled to walk across the stage  at UNC Charlotte’s Halton Arena to collect diplomas, 10 Hopewell High School students took giant steps toward careers in the electrical industry.

On Friday, June 7, ceremonies were held at Hopewell, on Beatties Ford Road, to honor students who completed in-school training through the Carolinas Electrical Training Institute and were ready to commit to continued “learn while they earn” opportunities coordinated by the CETI, the top electrical apprenticeship program in North and South Carolina.

The first “signing ceremony” for CETI’s innovative program – initiated in a smaller scale trial run at Hopewell last year – featured each student signing a “Letter of Intent” to participate in hands-on training and associated classwork to prepare for electrical careers.

The students – Allan Austin, Kam Dakeen-Ali, Demond Dixon, Shaziya Gaskin, Charles Gould, Cody Keener, Ricardo Morales, Gailyn Rorie, Braheim Trader and Justin Walker – successfully completed a CETI-outlined course of instruction offered at Hopewell taught by Robert Butts to qualify for the CETI apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship positions.

For Dixon, participation in the program changed the course of his senior-year plans.

“I wasn’t really thinking about a career in the electrical field and was actually looking at options for graduating early when I learned about the CETI program from a Hopewell adviser,” Dixon said. “I started looking at the benefits and the potential opportunities with the electrical program, and it looked like something worth pursuing.”

Fellow participant Gould knew he wanted a “hands-on” career and his search for options led him to the CETI program.

“At the start of the year, my dad and I were were asking about shop classes, things to do with my hands, learning a trade,” Gould said. “I always had an interest in electrical work and this was something just like what I was looking for.”

On track for careers

During the ceremony, CETI Director Tina Williams said the combined work-study program for the students will provide compensation starting at $35,000 the first year with pay increases for the following two years as they reach educational plateaus connected to their work experience.

In brief comments to an audience including proud parents, town officials, and Hopewell and CMS educators and administrators, Hopewell Principal Tracey Pickard congratulated the students for the decision they made to pursue a career and the commitment they demonstrated to complete the first phase of their training.

“This is an exciting day for these amazing young men,” Pickard said. She then challenged the students to continue their work to make the most of the opportunities provided.

“In achieving success, there isn’t an elevator, you have to take the stairs,” Pickard said. “And this morning, you are starting your climb.”

Pickard added that the CETI program – like the many other career-targeted programs offered at CMS schools – opens new avenues to students and paths to careers.

“Program like this, helping students map out a course to prepare for opportunities and improve their lives, is the heartbeat of schools,” she said.

Other speakers at the ceremony included Julie Gayheart, chair of the Career Training Education Department, who applauded the community’s support for the implementation of the CETI program at Hopewell.

Gayheart said the efforts of CMS CTE Director Susan Gann and North Zone CMS Options Coordinator Todd Porter were vital. Gann praised CETI instructor Robert Butts and the rest of Hopewell’s team and, addressing the students, said she was proud of their accomplishments.

“I can’t wait to see where you guys end up,” Gann told them.

An example of the community’s interest in the CETI program and similar career-training tracks at Hopewell was a presentation of a $3,000 donation from the Lake Norman Small Business Network to fund career-oriented scholarships.

Gayheart also acknowledged backing for the program from Lake Norman Economic Development. She particularly emphasized efforts by Haley Frazer, LNED’s community relations manager, who contacted the Dillard’s department store at Northlake Mall about the program. Dillard’s, in response, provided business attire for each of the students.

Matthew Hayes, superintendent of the CMS Northwest Learning Community, saluted the students for their efforts and their decision to participate in the program.

“Never miss an opportunity,” Hayes told the students, while describing the CETI program as a “phenomenal” example of what partnerships between schools and industries can create. “And with this, you can see the opportunities, and also the endless possibilities.”

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