My father was one of the driving forces that fueled my passion for the trades. He was a woodworker, a finish carpenter, and my hero. I loved working by his side in the woodshop, even at a young age. I was too small for safety glasses, so I wore pool goggles to keep the dust out of my eyes. In my first year of high school, I signed up for building trades classes to follow in his footsteps. My school counselor called me to the office and said, "Those are boys' classes." As we discussed elective options, I settled on my second choice, agriculture. It was a pivotal moment in my life, changing my future forever.
I found a deep passion for agriculture and the National FFA Organization, so much so that I made it my career choice. I majored in Agricultural Education at Purdue and started my teaching career at Jay County High School in 2008. While teaching, I became active in service organizations such as the Indiana Association for Career and Technical Education. I met amazing people through these organizations who were passionate about serving their schools, students, and communities.
While attending a workshop, I crossed paths with Ronna Kawsky, retired Warsaw Area Career Center Director. I shared my goals and passion for Career and Technical Education, and she suggested I get my CTE director license. I shared that it wasn't in the budget, and she immediately said, "I have a friend I want you to meet." I graciously accepted help from a stranger (now friend), with a passion for CTE, whom I had just met that morning. It was another important moment in my life that again changed my future forever.
With a glowing recommendation from Ronna, I was accepted into the CTE Program at Purdue University with the support of a scholarship from Dr. James Greenan. Upon graduation, I was given the opportunity to serve as the Area 18 CTE Director, where I now provide support to nine school corporations and over 9,000 CTE students. I help students explore career opportunities that interest them no matter their background! CTE at the middle school, high school, and post-secondary levels provides a practical approach to engaging students by providing hands-on experience for students, which provides critical thinking opportunities that test students' problem-solving skills. When students take pride in their accomplishments, they become more confident in their abilities and skills. As students develop and grow, so does their self-image, which triggers decision-making skills that help develop my students into productive citizens in our community before and after graduation.
To those looking to forge a similar path, I offer the following advice:
Share your goals: Whether personal or career goals, genuine passion fuels perseverance and innovation, and talk about it.
Be Adaptable: Embrace change and be open to new opportunities. The journey may not always be what you had planned, but each experience contributes to your growth.
Build Relationships: Find a mentor; reach out to someone in the career path you are interested in and ask them about it! A strong network provides support, guidance, and diverse perspectives, which is essential for personal and professional growth.
Remember that sharing your goals is not just about personal progress; it's about creating a community that thrives on collaboration and mutual empowerment. Your dreams have the power to resonate with others and spark conversations that lead to incredible outcomes. So, don't hesitate to voice your aspirations! There's a world of possibilities waiting just around the corner!
Director, Area 18 CTE
Aligning Opportunities Between Students, Community, and Industry
Don Wood Foundation
P.O. Box 25537
10315 Dupont Circle Drive West
Fort Wayne, IN 46825
*By Appointment Only*