More than a class
When it comes to offering on-campus college classes to high school students, few schools compare to Adair-Casey/Guthrie Center High School.
With 68 on-campus and online college courses available, AC/GC has a vision to help students discover their passions and get them engaged in high-demand job areas.
Of the 68 classes available, 37 are offered on campus at AC/GC, and many include a combination of traditional classroom learning and real job experience. These classes have no tuition cost for the students.
This rare opportunity brings students from other school districts to AC/GC to participate in these classes.
“All (schools) have online options,” said AC/GC Superintendent Steve Smith in a previous interview. “These are classes with our own instructors that are actually offered on campus. That’s what makes us unique.”
On-campus classes at AC/GC include criminal justice, health occupations, welding, agricultural sciences, building and trades, education, business, accounting, and math. Next year, the school plans to add Comp I, Comp II and Spanish to the list .
For some students, taking these classes helps determine that a particular career is not for them. Others discover a passion that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
At $151 a credit hour, a typical semester at DMACC costs over $2,400. With 16 credits available to earn in Kirk Davis’ construction classes, AC/GC students could potentially save an entire semester’s worth of time and money.
To do this, a student would need to take a beginning level tech overview course, architectural construction, construction materials theory and a senior level construction application course.
Construction materials theory students Gabe Rowley and Easton Benson, both juniors, aren’t sure what their plans are after high school, but both believe they could potentially pursue construction.
“I think (taking college classes) is going to save money in the long run, depending on the college that we go to,” said Benson.
“If we go to DMACC, we’re already going to have some of our schooling done,” Rowley added.
To determine if construction is a good fit, students complete a wide variety of projects, many of which simultaneously benefit the community.
Construction students have assisted with the Williams Building renovation in Guthrie Center, helped with a Habitat for Humanity project and built a new storage shed at Guthrie Center Elementary School.
“We try to give them a little piece of everything in the construction world, which is not always an easy task,” Davis explained.
Construction, nursing and education are all high-demand job areas with opportunities available right here in Guthrie County. This encourages young people to return to the county after college to live, work and raise their families.
“One of the things I’ve been preaching is that in the construction world, the plumbing world, the electrical world, the HVAC world, those are jobs that are never going to be outsourced,” said Davis. “They’re always going to be available, whether you’re in Guthrie Center, Adair or Des Moines.”
Even if Davis’ students decide not to pursue construction as a career, he argues that the skills they learn in his classes will be useful in their daily lives.
“It’s a skill set that the students can never have taken away from them,” said Davis. “Almost everybody that you know is either a homeowner or a renter of some type. With some residential construction skills, you can save yourself a lot of money.”
Many education majors don’t begin accumulating classroom observation hours until their second semester of college, but students in Bob Bolton’s education classes are ahead of the game.
Bolton teaches two college-level education classes at AC/GC. The first class, Foundations of Education, includes a mix of traditional classroom learning and 40 hours of observation in a wide variety of K-12 classrooms. The second course, Initial Field Experience, requires students to get involved in those classrooms, spending a total of 60 hours writing lesson plans, working with students and assisting teachers with various tasks.
“By the time they get done with both classes, they’ll have 100 hours of observation in schools,” said Bolton. “That should give them a good idea of if they want to be a teacher or not.”
In the past, students have visited multiple different schools in the area including Panorama, Audubon, Adel, Dallas Center-Grimes, Perry and Jefferson.
When observing, students connect what they’ve learned in their education classes to what they see happening in the classroom.
“If we’re reading a chapter on classroom management, then they’re going to look at how the class is arranged and how the teacher deals with classroom management,” Bolton explained.
While Bolton may love being a teacher, he understands that the job isn’t always pleasant, and he strives to share true teaching experiences with his students. They learn what to expect during college, job interviews and their first year of teaching.
“I’d rather try to tell them the reality of it,” Bolton explained. “I want them to know what it really is and what to expect.”
A few short months ago, senior LeAnna Stringer had no idea what she wanted to do after high school, but she knew she wanted to help people. On a whim, she decided to sign up for a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) class, a decision that helped her discover her passion for nursing.
“I gave it a chance, and I love it,” said Stringer, who now plans to study nursing at DMACC this fall and specialize in pediatric oncology.
Much like Bolton’s education classes, the CNA class is a mix between traditional classroom learning and 33 hours of clinical experience. In class, students practice their skills and learn essential information through PowerPoint slides. During clinical, students leave the classroom and learn through experience by working at a local nursing home.
“Sometimes we follow a CNA around, or we do simple tasks like making the bed,” Stringer explained.
Currently working at the New Homestead as a dietary aide, Stringer will take the state test to become a CNA in May. She plans to work as a CNA at the New Homestead during the summer before attending DMACC in the fall.
Stringer believes that taking nursing classes helps students figure out if it’s something they truly want to pursue. She notes that being a CNA takes a big heart, but for those with a desire to help others, it’s a rewarding job.
“It’s definitely not for everybody -- If you don’t know if you want to go into the medical field, this is good because you can figure that out early on before college,” said Stringer. “It helps save you a lot of time and helps you figure yourself out.”
Now, the CNA class, which Stringer almost didn’t take, has become one of her favorite classes and has inspired her to pursue a career in nursing.
“It’s more than a regular class,” she said. “You’re actually helping people. You’re going to take this into the future with you.”