Career center assembly

Some people might think Fort Frye and Waterford High School students can’t be friends. Some people might think women can’t be welders.

Some people haven’t met Fort Frye senior Keisha Bennett and Waterford senior Janelle Pugh and aren’t familiar with the Washington County Career Center.

“We are best friends, and we work together now too,” said Pugh, who with Bennett is moving on from a pre-apprenticeship program to employment as an apprentice welder with Pioneer Pipe.

Pugh and Bennett were among 195 seniors from all six high schools in Washington County who were recognized Tuesday at the career center’s annual awards assembly.

As they gathered before the assembly in Marietta College’s Dyson Baudo Recreation Center, a number of seniors cited the opportunity to get to know students from other schools as one of the advantages of attending the career center.

“When you go there, you don’t know what you’re expecting,” said Cole Farley, a Frontier High School senior who studied electricity at the center. “And when you see there are people there from all over the county and they’re just like you … you fit right in.”

Farley will continue working at Mid-Ohio Valley Integrated Systems after graduating from Frontier on Friday. He also plans to study computer-aided drafting at Washington State Community College.

“It’s nice to get out there and make something of myself,” he said.

The students maintain connections with their home schools, playing sports and participating in other activities. But many feel right at home at the career center as well.

“It’s like having our own school with a lot of different kids,” said Marietta High School senior Donnie Welsh, who studied auto body and plans to go to Hocking Tech and enter law enforcement.

Welsh and the other career center seniors on Tuesday were clad in the caps and gowns of their home schools. But Fort Frye’s Amber Fulford, one of three valedictorians speaking Tuesday, reminded her classmates they are all connected.

“Today, we will graduate as a family, dysfunctional at times, but we always pull together,” she said.

And career center secondary director Mike Elliott told the students that connection doesn’t end when their classes do.

“Even as alumni, it’s still our job to help you,” he said.

Students were recognized for a variety of accomplishments during Tuesday’s ceremony, from earning scholarships to maintaining high grade point averages and demonstrating excellence in their chosen fields. Elliott also asked four seniors to stand and be applauded for their decisions to enlist in the military – Belpre’s Lee Parker, Navy; Belpre’s Emily Pickens, Air Force; Warren’s Zachary West, Marine Corps; and Marietta’s Robert Yoho, Army.

Fort Frye’s Teya Bennett was singled out for using skills she learned in the career center’s patient health care program to help perform CPR on a woman who collapsed at a local department store.

“She is alive today because of what one of our students did,” Elliott said.