Before receiving diplomas at tonight’s (May 14) graduation a group of William Blount High School students have careers solidly in hand.

The high school held a signing ceremony Thursday with eight companies that hosted students for work-based learning during the past year and now have put them on the payroll with full-time work or internships.

William Blount’s career and technical education teachers know well-paying, fulfilling careers are available right out of high school with the right foundation. “We try to find what their niche is, what they’re good at,” teacher Tim Smith said.

For Zachary Willis, who will work at Boatmate, that was welding.

“I’ve never seen him that excited about anything,” teacher Bruce Suddarth said.

For the three students joining Massey Electric and its four-year apprenticeship program, teacher Smith said, “Your future’s set for you.”

Already their work has included hooking up MRI machines at a hospital and industrial machines, as well as building renovations.

Jim Jackson, owner of Viper Customs, signed up for the work-based learning program after complaining about the difficulty in finding workers.

“I want to make sure that they learn life skills and work ethic,” Jackson said. “It’s so frustrating to meet 20-year-olds who don’t know how to sweep a floor or wax a car.”

Blount County Schools students must apply for the work-based learning opportunities, and to work at Viper Customs they had to be willing to start with pulling staples from seat covers. That can start them on the path to being craftsmen in restoring boats.

Jackson hired Logan Goforth and Luke Wright for full-time jobs this summer.

Addison Goforth, a national finalist in a cybersecurity competition, put her skills to work for the information technology firm Avero Advisors, working in a real life cybersecurity setting, Vice President Mike Caffrey said during her signing.

She’ll continue working full time this summer before starting college at Tennessee Technological University.

Addison Goforth has been interested in computers since she attended Union Grove Middle School. “I walked into a computer lab and it felt right,” she said. During a Computer Science Foundations class at William Blount, she found her niche in cybersecurity.

“Don’t you love seeing women in technology? I do,” teacher Miri Blair said of Goforth and the next student to sign.

Molly Marantos took three programs of study in high school: mechatronics, digital arts and coding. She was so passionate about learning networking, Blair said, “She on her own would study online.” Marantos earned third place in a state FBLA competition.

Although other students have had work-based learning experiences at DENSO, Marantos was the first to work in information technology as part of the manufacturing company’s help desk.

William Blount High School offers a full range of CTE programming, including automotive maintenance, carpentry, interior design, finance and criminal justice, among others.

“There’s a huge need in the community in all business areas,” said Alisa Teffeteller, director of CTE programs for Blount County Schools.

Teacher Sara Bell, who leads William Blount’s work-based learning, already has had 33 student apply for next year. Because of the pandemic, younger students couldn’t tour the CTE programs, so William Blount offered a virtual way for them to explore the options as an “escape room” online game this year.

Education Reporter

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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