A tour of their futures

Career academy offers high school juniors and seniors college credit courses

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Ozzy Pattison, 18, a senior at Fort Dodge Senior High, left, shows Izaih Clark, 16, a sophomore at FDSH the settings on a welder at North Central Career Academy in Eagle Grove Monday morning.

EAGLE GROVE — Sophomores from Fort Dodge Senior High got a glimpse of what some of their futures may look like Monday morning at the North Central Career Academy in Eagle Grove.

At the academy, high school juniors and seniors have the opportunity to earn a substantial amount of college credits through programs called pathways. Six pathways are offered to students: business, engineering, liberal arts, welding, machinist and education.

Sophomores are in the process of signing up for those programs for next school year.

Each of the pathways were determined by Iowa Central Community College after meeting with area businesses to see what types of jobs were in demand.

Students from FDSH were bused over from Fort Dodge to tour the Iowa Central establishment, which is housed in the old Iowa National Guard Armory, 216 S. Park Ave., in Eagle Grove.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Mason Bauer, 18, a senior at Webster City High School, gets to work on a milling project at the North Central Career Academy. Hunter Dixon, 18, also a senior at Webster City High School, looks on.

The academy was officially launched in 2014.

Four pathways have been added since that time.

In 2015 the building was completely remodeled to make way for more classrooms.

The academy is designed for students to get a head start on their chosen career path, according to Colleen Bartlett, career academy specialist.

When high school students reach their junior year they can choose to enroll in one pathway per year, Bartlett said.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Ozzy Pattison, 18, a senior at Fort Dodge Senior High, left, shows Izaih Clark, 16, a sophmore at FDSH, a welding gun inside one of the welding bays at the North Central Career Academy in Eagle Grove Monday morning. Clark is interested in the welding program offered through the academy. He can begin taking those classes his junior year.

Once enrolled, the students travel to Eagle Grove from 8:20 a.m. to 11:10 a.m. each day. The classes they take are specific to the pathway they select.

Bartlett said cost is the No. 1 benefit to students enrolled in the academy.

“There’s no tuition, there’s no books, no transportation costs,” Bartlett said. “And if they successfully complete one year they get a $500 scholarship to Iowa Central.”

Six area high schools are partnered with Iowa Central. They are Clarion-Goldfield-Dows, Eagle Grove, Humboldt, Webster City, Fort Dodge Senior High, and St. Edmond Catholic School.

Kevin Astor, FDSH assistant principal, said the academy is a way for students to get ahead in their post-secondary education.

“This is to get them career-ready,” Astor said. “They have a welding program, a manufacturing program — some hands-on stuff. We have been trying to get more students involved. It’s a great option for some kids.”

Astor said each student has different goals.

“Some transfer to a four-year school, some go on to a trade school, others enter the workforce,” Astor said. “It’s been a really positive experience for the students that have come through here.”

The number of credits students can earn is impressive, according to Astor.

“I know a couple of students who basically graduated high school with an associate’s degree,” Astor said.

Jeremy Hobmeier, an industrial technology instructor at the academy, said the skills learned in the pathways he teaches are valuable in and out of the classroom.

“It’s important for younger generations to get these skills for the workforce and in their own lives,” Hobmeier said.

It’s also an opportunity for students to experiment with an interest they may have, he said.

“This gives them a taste of something they are interested in,” he said. “It’s a good environment to try something new and they get to come here for free.”

Ozzy Pattison, 18, a senior at FDSH, spoke to a group of sophomores about the academy.

Pattison is on his way to becoming a welder thanks to the academy.

He said it didn’t take long for him to learn useful skills.

Pattison encouraged students not to be afraid to get out of their comfort zone.

“It’s a good opportunity to look into this career,” he said. “Before, I knew very little about welding, but now I know a lot.”