A step ahead of the rest

The North Central Career Academy in Eagle Grove has given four area students a college advantage

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Shelby Axtell, of Eagle Grove, was in the teacher education pathway at the North Central Career Academy. Axtell wants to work with younger children.

EAGLE GROVE — The North Central Career Academy in Eagle Grove is helping area students get ahead in their chosen career paths in life.

Four students specifically benefited from the program prior to their high school graduations.

Brian Borkowski, of Webster City; Matt Bennett, of Fort Dodge; Shelby Axtell, of Eagle Grove; and Ozzy Pattison, of Fort Dodge; have each dedicated themselves to a particular profession, and each one of them is excelling, according to Colleen Bartlett, career academy specialist.

“These students are all ahead of the game in their own ways,” Bartlett said.

The students graduated from their respective high schools in 2017.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Ozzy Pattison, of Fort Dodge, opted for the manufacturing pathway during the North Central Career Academy. He also completed a job shadowing assignment at L&M Ethanol.

Launched by Iowa Central Community College in 2014, the career academy provides high school juniors and seniors the chance to earn college credits through programs called pathways. The pathways adopted were developed by Iowa Central leaders after meeting with area businesses to see what types of jobs were in demand. Six pathways are currently offered — business, engineering, liberal arts, welding, machinist and teacher education.

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

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

Students do not pay for transportation, tuition, books or fees of any kind, according to Bartlett.

Borkowski is a graduate of Webster City High School. He plans to double major in computer integrated fabricated technology and engineering and design technology.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Matt Bennett, of Fort Dodge, examines a cutaway hydraulic valve. Bennett took the manufacturing pathway at the North Central Career Academy.

Computer integrated fabricated technology involves the design and use of heavy equipment seen in factories such as mills and lathes, he said.

Engineering and design technology involves computer software used to design and digitally build the various products that are sent to factories and ultimately built by those workers, according to Borkowski.

Borkowski is continuing his education at Iowa Central Community College and plans to finish with two bachelor’s degrees at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

One of the benefits to his career choice is how diverse it is, he said.

“A mechanical engineer could be anything from designing your next car to designing a new gun or some knick knack that kids play with,” he said. “It’s a very robust field where, depending on the specialization, a mechanical engineer could do a number of different things.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Brian Borkowski, of Webster City, plans to double major in computer integrated fabricated technology and engineering and design technology. Borkowski holds a 3D printed scooper.

As a junior in high school, Borkowski entered the manufacturing pathway at the academy. His second year there he studied engineering.

“The engineering strand really peaked my interest,” Borkowski said. “When I talked to my advisors at Iowa Central they said I could double major and finish with both at the same time. I just jumped on it.”

He graduated high school with about 35 credits towards college. Some were earned through his high school and some were earned at the academy.

“It’s a special opportunity to be able to have so many credits done already,” he said.

Borkowski credited the academy for giving him a boost.

“If I didn’t have the academy, I wouldn’t be able to double major at Iowa Central,” he said. “It has been a blessing.”

Learning new technology at the academy was a challenge for Borkowski at first, but he persisted.

“We did a segment where we were programming robots and that was something I had never done before,” he said. “So it took me a couple of days just tweaking with the software to figure out what does what.”

He said most other students were a few days ahead of him. But by the end of the lesson, Borkowski had caught up.

“Once I did get used to the program, I was able to get everything accomplished by the end of the class, and was even ahead of a few people,” he said.

In high school, Borkowski earned an Eagle Scout award, was involved in the fall play and individual state speech. He also played on the school’s golf team.

Bennett is a graduate St. Edmond Catholic School.

The academy helped him find a direction in life.

“Going into my senior year, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do and this helped me decide,” Bennett said.

He enrolled in the manufacturing pathway at the academy. There he took classes centered around welding, mills, lathes and shop operations.

Bennett said he enjoyed the work once he learned the ropes.

“Once I learned how to do everything. I just enjoyed the hands-on stuff,” he said.

After completing one year at the academy, Bennett earned 14 college credits.

“The academy was life-changing for Matt, because he didn’t know what he was going to do,” Bartlett said.

In high school, Bennett played basketball for four years, baseball for three years and football for one year. He also ran cross country for three years.

He plans to continue his education in industrial mechanics at Iowa Central with the hope of someday starting his own business.

Axtell is a graduate of Eagle Grove High School.

At the academy, she enrolled in the teacher education pathway her senior year.

“I always wanted to be a teacher because my mom is a first-grade teacher,” Axtell said.

Denise Axtell teaches at Eagle Grove Elementary.

The experience at the academy gave Shelby Axtell a glimpse into what being a teacher is actually like, she said.

“One of the things I liked with my class is we did a lot of observation at Eagle Grove schools as opposed to just being in the academy,” she said.

The observations allowed her to learn about different teaching styles, she said.

“There are some teachers who are more strict in their approach, while others are more laid-back,” she said.

After one year at the academy, Axtell earned 20 credits that will go towards her degree in education.

“She skipped two years of college, basically,” Bartlett said.

As a result, Axtell will be considered a junior in college by the spring of 2018. She has already taken her Praxis exam. The Praxis is a required test for those who want to become teachers.

“It was pretty easy for me,” Axtell said. “I passed by a lot.”

She said her goal as a teacher will be to create a fun atmosphere for students.

“I like the creativity aspect and helping children want to go to school and learn every day,” she said. “That’s very exciting to me.”

Her favorite teacher was her kindergarten teacher, Stacy Osborn, Axtell said.

“I loved going to school because she made it more fun,” she said.

In high school, Axtell played volleyball and softball, served as a manager for wrestling and football, and was involved in Future Business Leaders of America and Future Farmers of America.

Her plans are to attend the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls to pursue a career in early childhood education.

Pattison is a graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High.

At the academy, he enrolled in the manufacturing pathway.

There, Pattison excelled in welding, even helping to instruct other students, according to Bartlett.

“Matt and Ozzy both often helped other students because they were so efficient themselves,” she said.

Pattison’s experience at the academy opened other doors. He completed a job shadow with L&M Ethanol Maintenance in the spring. The experience helped him land a job at that company, located in Fort Dodge.

“I do some welding there,” he said. “We travel a lot. I like meeting new people and I enjoy doing the work.”

Through scholarships, Pattison will be attending Iowa Central’s welding program for free.

“That’s what I’m most proud of,” he said.

Pattison said the academy is helpful if students use the resources as intended.

“I recommend going if you actually care because some kids just didn’t care,” he said.

Bartlett said students benefit more if they choose a pathway they plan to pursue after high school.

“You have to be focused in what you want to go there for,” she said. “You can’t just go because your friends are going. You need to go because it’s going to help you explore the career you are interested in or further your education for the career you want to go in. Those are the best reasons to go. That’s why you want to go.”

“The career academy is called the career academy because we are helping you explore careers,” Bartlett said. “We are helping you. You are one step away from starting your education in the career you want to go to. We are helping them explore a career that they maybe want to do the rest of their life.”

For more information on the North Central Career Academy or to register contact Colleen Bartlett at 574-1974. Students can also speak with their high school counselors on the academy.