Northeast Technology Center serves students from high schools, private schools and home schools across eight counties in northeast Oklahoma. A lot of kids and adults come through NTC’s programs every year to receive career and technical training. But it’s not often that four successful students are all from the same family. However, such is the case with the Hunter, Jordan, Jack and Grace Smith. The four siblings and their mother are proud to be advocates of the Oklahoma CareerTech system.
Both of the older brothers, Hunter and Jordan, completed the Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) program at the Claremore Campus with Instructor Brook Easton. Both went on to college, with Hunter now at Rogers State University working toward a degree in Applied Technology and Jordan just transferring to OSU to finish his degree in Aerospace Engineering after completing three years at RSU.
“Many people may consider NTC an alternative to college,” said Claremore Student Advisor Paula Reed. “But the Smith family serves as a great example of how it doesn’t have to be an either/or scenario. These kids got a great start here at NTC, earned some college credit with us and then went on to earn college degrees. We are honored to have been such an integral part of their path that they encourage others to apply to our programs.”
Their mother, Janie Eaton, is a fourth grade teacher at Sequoyah. She is very proud of her kids and their accomplishments and thankful that NTC was a part of their journey.
“They just really enjoyed it,” said Eaton. “They loved the atmosphere and the set up and structure of the program. It was really great for them to be around other students from all over Rogers County who had similar interests as they did.”
The youngest brother, Jack, opted to follow in his brothers’ footsteps and is currently enrolled in the EAST program.
“Jack was having a rough time with school,” said Eaton. “He just wasn’t enjoying it, it was difficult for him to connect and understand, and therefore he wasn’t able to reach his full potential there. I was so happy that he opted to follow Hunter and Jordan because I knew this would be the way to get him to really engage and successfully complete school.”
“I didn’t enjoy high school,” said Jack. “After watching my brothers go through EAST, I knew there was more opportunity to have a more tailored experience through NTC.”
The hands-on style of learning offered through CareerTech programs is very appealing to students who learn through a more tactile or kinesthetic style.
“NTC offers students who may learn with a different style a chance to excel,” said Reed. “Sometimes students may be a C or D student in high school. But when they come here, they quickly become A or B students who go on to earn specialized certifications, degrees and careers in a field in which they have a definite interest. We can really help those students who don’t learn well from textbooks, lectures and testing become just as successful as their peers who do by offering hands-on, project-based opportunities.”
Grace is the only sibling who went through a different program. She attends the Health Careers program with Instructor Nancy Harris, also at the Claremore Campus.
“My brothers always talked about how much they enjoyed it here,” said Grace. “They really like the people at NTC. So I knew I wanted to come, but I’m not into the same things as my brothers. I’m interested in the health field and graduating from high school already having my CNA will give me a better foot in the door than those who didn’t take advantage of the opportunities NTC offers.”
“With Grace, it was her stepmom who actually encouraged her to look into the possibility of becoming a nurse’s aide,” said Eaton. “And I fully supported her pursuing the Health Careers program, because if she does decide the health care field is something she wants to go into, NTC is just a really great place to get a start. It’s a good stepping stone into college or any career.”
As a classroom teacher herself, Eaton obviously values education and wants the very best for her children. For Hunter, Jordan, Jack and Grace, that was NTC.
“My kids have learned so much, made amazing friendships with like-minded students and even earned college credit in high school,” said Eaton. “I feel like they have really found their place there. The teachers seem to rally around them and really care about them. And because the teachers get more time with each student than in high school where they change classes hourly, they are able to form a more special bond with their instructor. For my kids, that has translated into a more individualized learning experience.”
She encourages other parents to keep an open mind and really consider NTC as a viable option for their students.
“For those parents who may be concerned that sending your kids to tech may cheat them out of the full high school experience, that’s just not true,” said Eaton. “They still spend a half day in the traditional high school setting. They still meet the course requirements for graduation and can participate in high school sports or extracurricular activities. So if anything, it enhanced their high school experience by opening more doors for them and allowing them to make great close friendships with students from other schools they wouldn’t have otherwise met.”
In addition to the four siblings, the Smiths have a few cousins who have also completed training at NTC. One of those cousins, Eillee Hatfield, graduated from the Culinary Arts program at the Pryor Campus and is currently employed by that NTC campus as a Culinarian.