Fall Leadership conference draws 640 CTE students to Kingsport

Rick Wagner • Sep 23, 2016 at 6:00 PM

KINGSPORT — About 640 career technical students from the greater Northeast Tennessee area converged at the Eastman Employee Center Thursday for the annual Upper East Tennessee Career Technical Education Students Fall Leadership conference.

Church Hill resident Nathan Cooper, a senior at Volunteer High School, said he really enjoys digital arts classes and plans to attend Neumont College in Utah, a self-described “geek college.” The for-profit school offers a three-year degrees in computer science, software development and game development. He said at Volunteer, he and other digital arts students make stickers and use 3D printers.

Nathan and other students learned about opportunities after high school school and tips on resumes, finances and higher education from speakers, and they also got to mingle with fellow students from schools from other areas. The Upper East Tennessee Skills USA Committee, a group of teachers, meets monthly and put together the event. It is open to CTE students from Sullivan, Johnson, Carter, Washington, Greene Hawkins, Hancock, Hamblen, Jefferson and Sevier counties and any city school systems in those.

To participate, students can be in SkillsUSA, HOSA-Future Health Professional, Technology Student Association, Future Farmers of America and Future Business Leaders of America.

Toni Campbell, president of the committee and a cosmetology teacher at Sullivan South High School, and Tammy Turner, cosmetology teacher at Volunteer High in Hawkins County, said representatives this year came to the Model City from every school system except Sevier. Campbell said attendance was about 640 compared to nearly 750 last year. She said it is the only event in the region where CTE students from all fields of study, from welding to auto body, from cosmetology to culinary arts and business, get together. Dobyns-Bennett High auto body teacher Dave Ashford is the group’s treasurer.

Dobyns-Bennett High CTE students at the event included senior Nicole Dalton in cosmetology. She plans to finish her certification at Bella Donna Academy and get a business degree at Tennessee Tech University after two years at Northeast State. She also is the youngest Miss Sullivan County ever and will compete in the Miss Tennessee pageant in June of next year.

Other D-B students included sophomore Laitlin Bledsoe, a culinary arts sophomore who plans a career in special education after attended East Tennessee State University or culinary arts; Tyquia Tranbarger, a senior in culinary arts and veterinarian classes who plans a pre-vet medicine major and to become a vet; Cydney Kinkead, a sophomore in culinary arts who plans to get a college degree in that; Kamryn Shockley, a senior in culinary arts who plans a nursing degree first at Northeast and then ETSU; and Halle Artrip a senior in cosmetology who plans to go into nursing at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.

Speakers talked about leadership, employability, skills, job interviews and finances, including presenters from Eastman Credit Union, the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing, Tacoma Hospital and Eastman Chemical Co., as well as state Rep. John Holsclaw Jr., R-Elizabethton. They also got a free barbecue lunch, free T-shirts and were eligible for door prizes. Sponsors were Eastman, Braeden’s Barbecue, Hutchinson Sealing System, Northeast State Community College, the Northeast Tennessee Technical Education Alliance, a group of CTE directors, and Tennessee Abrasive Inc.

Brittney Coffman of Chuch Hill, a senior from Volunteer in cosmetology, said after graduate she plans to get her certificate by January and eventually open up her own shop after building up a clientele, although she said she may go back to college. She has 1,200 of the 1,500 hours required for a cosmetology license in Tennessee.

“Cosmetology helps me build relationships with people and it helps me to touch people in ways you normally don’t get to do,” Brittney said. She said the conference opened up her perspective on the varied CTE fields of students.

Sullivan South High senior Samantha Crawford, said she has 1,000 cosmetology hours and hopes to reach 1,500 by January. “I want to end up doing my own salon if things work out,” she said, adding that she plans to seek a two-year business degree at Northeast State..

Cassi Foster, a senior at Unicoi High, said she is in computer-aid design and president of the Health Occupations S A at her school. She plans to get a four-year nursing degree, likely at either Milligan College or ETSU, followed by a graduate degree in biomedical engineering so she can work in proshtetics and with 3D printers. She cited the varied CTE interests among students.

“You don’t foresee a girl going into welding or drafting,” she said. But, she added, some do.