October 24, 2019
By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
It was a fast and furiousmorning at Rocky Fork Middle School.
But it had nothing to do with the blockbuster movie franchise.
Instead, it was the latest in a series of Eighth-Grade Pathway Fairs being organized by Rutherford Works and the Career and Technical Education department for Rutherford County Schools. Pathway fairs are designed to help students make a more informed choice on which CTE pathway they plan to study during high school.
“This is the first step toward high school,” explained Regina Ward, director, education and workforce development.
“We want you to figure out what things you’re interested in,” continued Ward, when addressing eighth-graders from Rocky Fork and Thurman Francis Arts Academy, “and what problems are you wanting to solve in your career path.”
Students attended four 30-minute sessions that included presentations from administrators, teachers and students from Smyrna High School along with industry partners from the community.
Those professionals took time away from work, Ward said, “to share what their day-to-day is like” along with post-secondary requirements and the most desired field of study for each respective pathway.
Rutherford County Schools offers 15 different pathways and each high school offers 10 of the 15 pathways.
“I am really excited to talk with these kids today,” said Abby Swanager, a senior from Smyrna High, who spoke to students attending a session for teaching as a profession. “I really believe sparking their passion early and really getting them to decide what they want to do helps them.”
She added, “I’ve always wanted to work with kids and being in different classes has helped me know about the different career paths.”
Referring back to when she was in eighth grade, Swanager said middle school students relate to hearing firsthand stories from fellow students.
“I was there once and I had no idea what I wanted to do,” said Swanager, who stressed the importance of developing a relationship with their pathway advisors and “asking them questions about the career path and then really being involved in that career path.”
Students used results from their recent YouScience scores to determine the top four pathways related to their skills and interest.
The 15 pathways include: advanced manufacturing; agriculture, food and natural resources; business management and administration; hospitality and tourism; information technology; marketing, distribution and logistics; STEM; transportation; architecture and construction; arts, audio visual technology and communications; education and training; finance; health science; human services and law, public safety, corrections and security.
“Our CTE students are killing it,” Ward said. “They have a 98 percent graduation rate. Typically, the graduation rate is closer to 95 percent.”
Ward also noted an increased ACT average of 21.
“That’s one of the reasons we really urge students to consider a CTE pathway,” Ward concluded.
Students from Eagleville, Rocky Fork and Thurman Francis have already participated in two successful pathway fairs.
Whitworth-Buchanan: Oct. 29
Blackman: Oct. 30
Oakland: Nov. 5
Stewarts Creek: Nov. 6
Rockvale: Nov. 12
Rock Springs: Nov. 13
Christiana: Nov. 19
LaVergne: Nov. 20
Siegel: Dec. 3
Smyrna: Dec. 4
PHOTOS / KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT