• Career Training Doesn't
    Stop In High School

    Posted by Josh Flory on 9/20/2018

    Destiny Leeper has a plan.

    The Halls High School graduate wants to start her own salon, and eventually become an educator who trains students in the beauty business.

    But first she’s getting an education of her own. Leeper was part of the Career Technical Education program at Halls and now attends the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Knoxville.

    Leeper spends 30 hours a week on TCAT’s Liberty Street campus, and said she has not only learned about cutting and coloring hair on a mannequin, but has gotten training with actual customers.

    “I just like making people feel beautiful,” she said.

    For students like Leeper who aren’t looking to attend a four-year university or a community college, the path from a high school CTE track to a TCAT program is a popular alternative. Knox County Schools has partnered with Pellissippi State Community College and the Knoxville Chamber to create the Career Magnet Academy at Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains campus, and students can also take CTE courses through their high school.

    At Halls, for example, students can take classes in a variety of programs including health science education, carpentry and welding.

    “We understand that there are going to be a lot of kids who are much more passionate about cosmetology, much more passionate about auto mechanics than they are maybe math or science,” said Brad Byrd, a school counselor at Halls. “And we like for these students to understand that there are multiple opportunities for you outside of the traditional university or a community college.”

    A student at TCAT-Knoxville works on a manicure.
    Destiny Leeper, right, looks on as a classmate at TCAT-Knoxville practices hair-styling.

    With 27 campuses across the state, the TCAT system is one of those opportunities. Representatives of the TCAT-Knoxville and TCAT-Harriman campuses are scheduled to attend the KCS College and Career Fair, which will be held on Sep. 25 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at the Jacob Building in Chilhowee Park.

    The event is an opportunity for students to learn more about course offerings, tuition and financial aid programs available to students.

    Leeper is a beneficiary of the Pell Grant, and said financial aid has helped cover not only her classwork at TCAT, but also her equipment and books -- “and let me just tell you, they’re not cheap,” she said of the latter.

    But the Pell Grant isn’t the only option. Tennessee Promise is a scholarship and mentoring program that provides two years of tuition-free attendance at a community or technical college.

    Byrd, of Halls High School, said it’s important to remember that the Tennessee Promise program isn’t merit- or need-based, and that he tries to make sure his students know that it applies to technical colleges.

    On a recent afternoon, Leeper gave visitors a tour of a cosmetology room at TCAT-Knoxville, where students were practicing their skills on volunteers.

    Rachell Parret, who graduated from Karns High School in 2008, was working on a manicure and said her goal is to own a salon.

    Asked why she chose TCAT, Parret said it was the only option where financial aid would pay for what she needed.

    “I didn’t have to pay a thing,” she said, “so it’s perfect.”

    A student at TCAT-Knoxville works on a manicure.