Muncie center helps students find careers

By By Michelle Kinsey

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — Dillan Addington, 17, has been creating muscle cars out of junk heaps for years with his dad in the garage.

Now the Winchester High School student is doing the same thing at the Muncie Area Career Center garage. Only here, he gets college credit for it.

Addington, who was racing through a spark plug demonstration during the MACC's open house on Thursday, is part of the automotive technology program. It's just one of many programs offered at the career center - programs that some would argue remain under the academic radar in the community.

Mike Kingsley is a first-year information technology instructor at the MACC.

He said lots of folks his age (in their 50s) still "believe that the MACC is just for kids who are getting job training, need help or are getting their GED."

"I think there is truth to that," MACC Director JoAnn McCowan told The Star Press (http://tspne.ws/WMjKVB ). "I don't think some people realize that it's no longer about where you go if you don't go to college and you're just preparing for work. With College and Career Pathways, it's really the opposite of that now. Now, because we are aligned with dual credit, you can go either way."

The Indiana College and Career Pathways program of study includes secondary and postsecondary courses that will lead to industry-recognized credential or technical certification, or an associates or bachelor's degree at an accredited post-secondary institution.

Another requirement, according to the Indiana Department of Education, is that these fields must be "high wage and/or high demand in Indiana."

In addition to automotive technology, Pathways programs include agriculture, construction, business, hospitality, information technology, manufacturing, public safety, transportation and health sciences.

Central High School student Amanda Marshall, 17, is studying the latter at the MACC. And while she enjoys her time in the classroom, she lights up when she talks about her internship at Internists Associated.

"I love it there," she said. "You really get to put what you've learned here into practice."

At the open house, she was tucked away in an ultraviolet booth placing cotton swabs full of a sour solution on willing tongues.

The experiment was designed to show how sensitive our tongue is, she said, and that some areas of the muscle are more sensitive to sweet, sour or spicy things.

"How cool is it that we get to do this stuff?" she said as she flipped through a book of blood tests and pressure checks.

Central student Destiney Anderson, 16, hopes to become a pediatrician.

"What I am doing here (at the MACC) will actually help me become a CNA (certified nursing assistant)," she said. "Right now, I am doing an internship at a nursing home and when I pass my state test, I could work there or other facilities like that."

Internships apply to almost every program at the MACC.

"We are fortunate in Muncie," McCowan said. "We have an extensive internship list. About 60 to 70 businesses and organizations count on us for interns. Everything from auto dealerships to nursing homes. They all want to support what our students are doing here."

MACC also has strong partnerships with Ivy Tech and Vincennes University, McCowan said, which happily transfer credits earned at the center to their campuses.

As for the future, she said she would like to be a "feeder school" for Ball State University as well.

Bryant Nguyen, a student at Central, is creating web sites as a part of the information technology track.

"It's pretty amazing that we can leave here with a bunch of college credits to give us a head start, or we can get a job right out of school," said Nguyen, 16. "The choice is ours."

There are more choices to come.

Enrollment is up over last school year. In 2011-12, 309 students attended classes there. This year, 348 kids from 11 different high schools are enrolled.

Several more wanted in, but there wasn't enough room.

"We are looking at expanding health careers next year," McCowan said. "This year, we turned away 56 kids who wanted in. We know that health care is the No. 1 growing field right now, so we need to open up that portal here a little bigger."

The center will also expand its biomedical program, which kicked off last fall.

McCowan would also like to see the center add an industrial maintenance track. "We have seen that need locally," she said.

"We have certainly come a long way over the last 10 years," McCowan said. "Back 12 years ago when I started here, we were still running a food service training program. Since then, we've either changed our offerings to meet local needs or we've upgraded programs or we've identified what those careers of the future will be."

Jerry Highley was in line to try his hand at some welding during the open house, which drew several hundred to the interactive booth displays in the gym.

"This is what my son does here and I admit, I've always wanted to try it," he said as he pulled on a pair of thick gloves and welding mask.

His son, Trent, 17, who attends Yorktown High School, loves working with his hands.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for him because it fits his passion," he said. "And, to top it all off, he gets college credit for it."

Central senior Aaliyah Tyree, 18, is enrolled in the cosmetology program at the MACC.

Her dad, Danny, said he didn't have opportunities like this "back when I was in school."

"I don't know if the kids realize how great this is," he said as he leaned against the wall in the hallway outside the gym. "I would have loved to have had classes like this back then."

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Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com

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