Nearly 50 students were hailed to be the foundation of the future Fort Wayne community as they signed letters of intent on Wednesday.
The event signified the completion of their select program at Fort Wayne Community Schools' Anthis Career Center and their commitment to a job.
The signing, modeled after events held for high school students marking their athletic commitment to a college, was for students who chose to go into career technical education after high school.
These Anthis students, however, garnered appearances from several high-profile officials – more than a typical signing would.
Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and a staff member from the office of U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, were among those attending.
Others included Edmond O'Neal, president of Northeast Indiana Works; John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership; and Fred Payne, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
Family relatives weren't the only ones present to celebrate the students' achievements. Not only was this a celebratory time for the students and their parents but also what Crouch called “a proud day for the entire state of Indiana.”
“The Department of Workforce Development projects that we will need 1 million additional jobs in the next decade,” Crouch told the students. “Your career in technical education will lead to fulfilling the demands of employers here in northeast Indiana and you will be a valuable asset to the companies you are signing with today.”
Henry agreed, thanking the students for “laying the foundation for the next generation in our community. We need the disciplines you have acquired. (This commencement) wasn't just for you, but it was for us, the greater community, as well.”
Though each student took pride in their individual success, Henry and Crouch made clear they were representative of a larger goal to build a successful future for the Fort Wayne community. Each student signed into career technical education jobs, such as construction, cosmetology, information technology, and firefighting services.
Just as each student is an important piece in a bigger puzzle, this event was part of a larger picture.
Northeast Indiana Works and Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership deemed May as Career and Technical Education Awareness Month for northeast Indiana. Events were held in Marion, Garrett, Wabash and Kendallville.
Payne said this designated month helped him “ensure that we have strong characteristics in our workforce development system, which include engagement between our education system and business community, and our local government and community.”
He also hopes the events will encourage more students to be part of “programs that allow for education careers.”
O'Neal added to Payne's comments.
“I think we routinely think of people who aren't going into traditional secondary education as somewhat disappearing,” he said. “We just don't acknowledge where they go.”
But this event, he said, helped to validate that the students and their parents should be proud.
“These are the young people that are literally building our community,” O'Neal said. “They're going directly into the workforce, becoming part of the tax base, and not developing this massive amount of debt because their particular career didn't require it.”
O'Neal reported a positive response to the first-time signing event and looks forward to future May celebrations.
“It was our first year in partnership with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, so we do believe it will continue to grow and we are hopeful that student participation will expand, thus the outputs and accomplishments will expand,” he said. “But I think for year one, it was a great run.”