‘Seize the opportunity’: Culpeper dedicates $17M career & tech education center – starexponent.com

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Culpeper County and its public schools have unveiled a major investment in local youth, the future and the community with the 50,000-square-feet Culpeper Technical Education Center on the campus of Germanna Community College’s Daniel Technology Center.

At Thursday’s CTEC ribbon-cutting, there were many to thank for making the cutting-edge career & technical education training center a reality, including the county Board of Supervisors, School Board and administration, teachers and professors, college board members and administrators, and the community as a whole for believing in the real-world value of the new institution.

Five years in the works, the $17.3 million project took less than two years to build, occurring through a pandemic and on budget, Culpeper Public Schools Superintendent Tony Brads told the crowd gathered to mark the occasion.

The end result is impressive. The center’s architecture is unique, with its pronounced angles, high ceilings, a single-floor design and an orange, gray and teal exterior front designed by RRMM Architects of Alexandria. Loughridge Construction of Richmond was general contractor on the school, which features a sizable commercial kitchen, actual automotive shop, ambulance simulator, beauty salon, woodworking shop and more.

“There are certain days that take the cake and are special days, and this is one of them. We are part of the fulfillment of an incredible vision,” Dr. Brads said.

Seize the opportunityAt the school’s groundbreaking in October 2019, the superintendent showed off a CTE T-shirt bearing the message “The coolest thing in education.”

On Thursday, Brads said there’s a new tagline.

“Seize the opportunity,” he said, holding a new T-shirt with the new phrase.

“Our students going forward will absolutely be able to do that, right here in CCPS, and get a great start on whatever it is they desire to do in life,” Brads said.

Opening Aug. 23, the school will provide courses of study, hands-on training and employment and professional certifications for 11th- and 12th-graders in focus areas of culinary arts, EMT, computer aided design & drafting, healthcare, cybersecurity, cosmetology, automotive, electrical, industrial maintenance, plumbing, masonry and HVAC.

Weekend and night classes will also made available in the new school to adults in the community through the partnership with its neighbor at Germanna Community College.

Randi Richards-Lutz, the school division’s CTE director, helped lead the project to fruition with the multi-member Joint CTEC Committee that formed in 2016.

“A humbling moment,” Richards-Lutz said of Thursday’s ribbon cutting.

She said the new building is “a tangible reminder of our goals to inspire our students to become skilled graduates for high-demand, high-wage jobs.”

The facility is a bold reflection of the comunity’s ongoing commitment to provide the highest level of public education, she said.

The CTE family of educators has grown and—now from a centralized location—will continue to strive for greatness, Richards-Lutz said.

‘The best they can be’Culpeper County Administrator John Egertson co-chaired the committee and worked hand-in-hand to make the project happen. The Board of Supervisors has been interested in career and technical education for many years, he said.

“Germanna Community College helped this become a reality, beginning with a lease for the property we’re all standing on today, and continuing through helping us with equipment, programming, and plans to offer classes to our entire community evenings and weekends. It’s been a partnership,” Egertson said.

Culpeper County Board Chairman Gary Deal called it a great day resulting from a tremendous amount of work by many people.

The training center will benefit the entire community, he said, by offering adult classes, meeting space, EMT education opportunities, economic development, affordable homes through the building trade program and catering from the culinary kitchen.

“The possibilities are endless the ways this facility will serve Culpeper for decades to come, a great source of pride,” Deal said.

He presented plaques to former Supervisor Sue Hansohn and Supervisor Jack Frazier for serving on the CTEC Joint Committee.

The Board of Supervisors didn’t waver in its support for the project, Frazier said.

“Always been behind it, they never backed up, they went on forward on this, knowing the need for this building and what it’s going to do to help so many young people,” he said, addressing the teachers and administrators.

“What needs to be done here is that these young people need to be taught to be the best they can be,” Frazier said. “If you’re the best, you’ll never be without a job.”

Proudest moment in a generationGermanna Community College President Janet Gullickson remarked that everywhere she goes she hears from employers that they cannot find trained workers. It can cause uncomfortable silences, she said.

“But nobody is doing anything about it except you,” Gullickson said of Culpeper County Public Schools. “This is probably one of the proudest moments in this community in a generation. Making people want to be their best is what we can do together.”

Gullickson said the local school division’s partnership with the regional community college, which provided the land for CTEC and is offering CTEC classes, providing teachers and other support, is probably the only one like it in Virginia. It is one of very few such collaborations nationwide, she added.

“Without Dr. Brad’s vision and John Edgerton’s vision and the Board of Supervisors’ vision, this wouldn’t have happened,” Gullickson told the crowd. “This didn’t originate at Germanna, but we are surely glad to be part of it.”

In addition to returning Germanna’s automotive program to Culpeper, CTEC will offer Germanna courses in cybersecurity, health care, CORE crafts and many other subjects. Gullickson said she wasn’t sure why the automotive program was moved away from Culpeper in 2011. But she said Germanna has now “brought it back where it belongs.”

Culpeper County School Board Chairman Marshall Keene said it has always been the school division’s vision for its students to walk out the door and across the stage with a diploma.

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“Today, this year, our vision is going to be that every kid will not only walk across the stage with a diploma, but they’re going to have a skillset, a credential to be successful in real life,” Keene said.

CTEC Principal Shaun Summerscales, formerly an assistant principal at Culpeper’s Eastern View High School, said he is honored to have been entrusted with his new post. Summerscales called the ribbon cutting a historic and momentous occasion.

Students will have the opportunity to get real-world authentic experience, industry certifications and dual-enrollment college credits, helping launch them forward into life after high school, he said. Summerscales introduced the center’s 12-member staff.

“You are looking at some of the most experienced career and technical education instructors in the state of Virginia … life lessons they are ready to impart on our students through love, and well wishes and also some challenging experiences taking place here in the classroom,” Summerscales said.

“Today was the culmination of 6 years of an outstanding community collaboration, and I am so proud to have been a part of it from its inception,” said former School Board chair Michelle North, who attended the ceremony. “The CTE center truly speaks to the best of Culpeper—the School Board, Board of Supervisors, community leaders, business owners, CCPS administrators and staff working together to provide a state-of-the-art, career training center for our public school students and adult learners. Well-paying, high in-demand jobs that were once out of their reach are now a reality.

“What a wonderful gift to CCPS and Germanna learners, and employers throughout the county and surrounding jurisdictions!” North added.

Health field demandShowing keen interest, community members toured the school, entering an expansive lobby with a high-tech “pixel wall” that greets visitors with automated messages.

People looked all around, greeted one another and met teachers, including EMT instructor Stephanie Corbin, a Culpeper County High School graduate who worked in the EMT field and in teaching prior to returning to her hometown.

“It feels amazing to come back and give back to the community where I got my start as a volunteer,” Corbin said. “Now I get to train those who are going to come up in the ranks, and they’ll hopefully give back to their community.”

Corbin will teach the one-year course, after which successful students can take the National Registry of EMT test and Virginia EMS certification. Then they can start volunteering or can get job in an ER working as an EMT, do private transports or continue on to medic school, among other options.

“Going into health =-related industries gives them a huge leg up,” Corbin said. “The health-care industry is rapidly expanding and there will be need for first responders. The population is aging and 911 calls are increasing—and we’re in a pandemic.”

Chef Cohen’s kitchenChef Joe Cohen’s culinary classes in the new school are already full, which shows how popular the industry is, and probably has something to do with making cakes.

Successful students will earn a ServSafe industry credential good for five years. They will learn basic knife skills, kitchen and handling safety and proper cooking.

“They learn how to clean and then they get to eat,” said Cohen, in his eighth year teaching culinary arts for Culpeper County Public Schools, formerly in the annex on the Culpeper High campus.

CTEC is incredible, nicer than some college teaching kitchens he’s visited, Cohen said.

“Four six-burner rangers, convection oven, combination oven, char-broiler, griddle, fryer, hanging outlets so students can work at their stations,” he said, giving a tour. “They will learn sanitation, how to sweep and mop a floor and wash dishes with a dish machine, which a lot of operations have. There’s a proofer/steamer holding oven, food pantry, catering storage … above and beyond.”

Cosmetology and draftingCosmetology instructor Felecia Harris has been licensed in the field for 32 years and taught for 11 in Buckingham before coming to Culpeper to teach at the new school.

Successful students in her class will earn a career studies certificate in cosmetology and earn college credits they can transfer to any four-year college.

After the second year, cosmetology students will have the ability to take state boards for barber, master barber, cosmetologist, waxing technician or aesthetician. Then they can get a license to practice, Harris said.

DeNeen Hamlett is the computer-aided design and drafting instructor at CTEC.

She relocated from North Carolina and is in her 16th year teaching. Getting certified in the field can result in a really good job, Hamlett said, even in these times.

“The pandemic opened up opportunities to work remotely. I certified kids from their homes on their ChromeBooks last year. Now they have summer jobs working for companies remotely making more than minimum wage,” she said.

Hamlett said the new school is top-notch.

“I feel like I caught the tail end of a really good situation because it’s already here,” she said.

Hamlett added of her former school, “This is one of the things I had pushed for in my district they couldn’t embrace. They didn’t see that the hub was essential, the hub of having the trades in one house, in one facility, and the concentration, the support of all the teachers in one building.”

Students weigh inSeth Massey, a rising senior at Culpeper High, helped present the colors at the ribbon cutting as a member of the school’s JROTC color guard.

He didn’t have enough room in his schedule at first to enroll at CTEC, but now he might. Massey said he’s interested in the automotive program to help boost his mechanical hobby.

“We race three boats, work on all of those: me, my uncle, my cousin and my brother,” he said “We do it about once a month, so I know my way around a boat engine, it’s something fun I enjoy to do.”

Marcus Luckinbill, a rising senior at Eastern View High, is bound for the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech or the U.S. Naval Academy.

He wants to study cybersecurity, computer science or mechanical engineering, and said he would have enrolled at CTEC for some early training had it been around two years ago.

Luckinbill spent the summer working as a full-time, paid intern at the new school.

He said he did a little bit of everything during his internship, including setting up classrooms and sitting in on interviews with prospective teachers to provide insight to administration on their student interaction.

“It’s awesome,” he said of the Culpeper Technical Education Center. “College isn’t for everyone, so this is the perfect way to get people into the community, getting a skilled job and make a salary right out of high school.”