Students take classes focusing on industry, technology

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KIRTLAND — The Central Consolidated School District has welcomed its first group of high school students enrolled in classes that focus on industry and technology at the Bond Wilson Technical Center here.

This week, 18 students from Career Prep, Kirtland Central and Shiprock high schools started elective courses at Bond Wilson, which is housed in the former Grace B. Wilson Elementary School.

They attend classes that center on aerospace manufacturing, unmanned aircraft systems, conceptual design and planning, and employee skills development.

Milo McMinn, coordinator of academics for Bond Wilson, said the classes were developed by the district and in collaboration with Raytheon Co., the Navajo Transitional Energy Co., North American Coal Corp.'s Bisti Fuels, the Arizona Public Service Co. and Navajo Technical University.

McMinn said having those entities working with students allows them to gain insight into careers and firsthand knowledge while earning credit.

"As a district, we can try to meet the needs of these companies and create a work force that is ready to go," he said.

Students had to apply to the program and were selected late last year.

They travel to Bond Wilson by bus from their high school and attend classes from 8:30 to 10:25 a.m. weekdays.

Carissa Arthur, a sophomore at Kirtland Central High School, applied because she wanted to learn more about aerospace engineering, a career she has been interested in since middle school.

"I saw they offer that program, and it made me want to join. It's a good opportunity to get certification, and it'll look good on a résumé," Arthur said.

NTEC and Bisti Fuels are sponsoring a course that introduces students to occupations in mining. Nathan Tohtsoni, education coordinator for NTEC, said that type of engagement is part of the company's goal, and the collaboration with CCSD started last April.

"By engaging our students with education, mine tours, internships, scholarships and school outreach, the students and educators can be informed about the important role coal plays in the energy landscape," Tohtsoni said.

In addition to the courses offered at Bond Wilson, the school also provides space for students participating in the district's Industrial Maintenance Operations Program and for students enrolled in San Juan College West's certified nursing assistant program.

The Industrial Maintenance Operations Program is another collaboration between the district, APS and NTU that allows high school students to learn the fundamentals of the energy industry while earning a certificate from NTU.

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Kirtland Central seniors Brock Beckstead and Nia Nelson are part of the nursing assistant program and attend Bond Wilson on Tuesdays and Thursdays to complete online courses.

Beckstead enrolled in the program because he is interested in a career as a nurse practitioner.

"It kind of gives me a step up on everyone else," Beckstead said.

Nelson is also interested in a career as a nurse and said the opportunity is helpful to students.

"This is another step toward my goal, my dream career," she said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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