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Technical center offers wide array of classes

Johnson County Career and Technical Center, also referred to as the Vocational Center, has grown to offer a large array of classes for students of varied interests. These students learn critical skills they can carry with them a lifetime.
According to Director Jim Crowder, roughly 2,000 students or 90 percent of all Johnson County High School students will take a class during their high school years in the Career and Technical Center. These classes offer exposure to skills and opportunities the students would not get in a typical classroom setting. Some of these programs of studies are part of a Fast Track Program, allowing students to earn college credits that can transfer to Northeast State. Crowder gives credit to the staff for their dedication, contributing to the success of the programs. “What makes the programs is the teachers,” he said, “We have really excellent teachers that put in a lot of extra time.”
Each program of study offers clubs for the students to participate in. According to Crowder, this enables the students to become fluent in interviewing skills, public speaking, along with district and regional competitions in their area of study. Students from Johnson County Career and Technical Center have competed on a national level in their area of study with students from across the nation. Crowder was pleased as one student representing Johnson County Career and Technical Center placed 15th in the country in carpentry. Another student from the business technology program of study placed ninth in the nation. According to senior Julia Lipford, students are limited to four classes at the Career and Technical Center per year. “Generally, I take as many as I can,” Lipford said.

Within the Agriculture Program, students can study agriculture mechanics, aquaculture, aquaponics and hydroponics, geothermal and horticulture. Students taking classes in agriculture mechanics can become proficient in welding, small engine and electrical skills that can provide job opportunities in their future. They will also learn basic information on small engines and tractors, along with repair and maintenance of agricultural equipment, with the opportunity to advance to designing, building and repairing agricultural equipment.
Visitors from far and wide have come to Johnson County to investigate the school’s alternative farming center. This geothermal system both heats and cools the program’s 9,000 square foot greenhouse. Set up as a small business, inside this facility you will find both fish and plants that are available for sale to the public. This enables the students to earn monies that in turn support their efforts while studying alternative agriculture.

Members of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) grow ferns, cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes year round, studying soil-less methods of farming. The lettuce seedlings are placed in volcanic rock and set inside a tray, allowing the plants to grow in a water garden and receiving nutrients from the fish water. At the greenhouse, FFA student members are responsible for catching, cleaning and filleting the tilapia they offer for sale. Student Rachel Dugger demonstrated the art of filleting the fish and the necessary preparation needed in order to have the fish ready for market. Five tanks can handle up to 25,000 pounds of fish on a daily basis. Koi, an ornamental fish used in ponds, are also available for purchase. These hearty fish can live in a wide range of water temperatures, from 35 to 90 degrees, living up to a surprising old age of 75 years.
Even though school is out for the summer, the center needs to be maintained on a daily basis. This past week a large group of students were busy at work, weighing koi for customers and planting mums to sell in the fall. The students also sell ferns that are watered and receive nutrients from the fish water. Not only are students learning agricultural and business skills, they begin to understand the importance of chemistry as they check the ph level for their crops. Through hands-on instruction, students see for themselves and experience the importance of animal nutrition, waste management and water testing.
Students enrolled in the agriculture program have the opportunity to study plants, animals and soil. Students study greenhouse horticulture, learning garden center operations and management, landscaping and floriculture. They develop business skills as they learn to market and sell their products, along with working with customers. The students learn how to grow both floral and food crops. Classes are available in animal systems, offering education regarding nutrition, care and handling of small animals, along with studying diseases and reproduction. Students also have the opportunity to study horses and their care, learning the different breeds, how to shoe the horses and how to provide proper nutrition, along with information on saddles and bridles.
Classes are offered within environmental and natural resources systems that explore wildlife management, studying various species, their habitat, wildlife control and hunter safety. Through forestry classes, students learn tree identification, wildlife management, forest protection and timber harvesting. They also have the opportunity to take classes in plant and soil science, studying the conservation of both soil and water. Students may choose to take classes in floral design, along with landscaping and turf management courses. These students learn how to draw landscaping designs, select and place plants, along with learning how to maintain a healthy yard.

The list of courses for our students is vast. They have the chance to take courses in areas of interest for them, including automotive technology, business and computer technology, construction and culinary arts, family and consumer science, health science and marketing. Look for future articles on Johnson County Career and Technical Center as we continue to explore the many exciting opportunities that are available for the youth of Johnson County.