Updated: Aug 23
Student representatives from the three Linn County school districts and program director Jay Allen (holding the large scissors) sliced through the ribbon in a open ceremony for the STARS facility last Friday. Those students included, from left, Cooper Snyder from Jayhawk-Linn High School, Bryce Johnson from Pleasanton High School, and Alyssa Coyer from Prairie View High School. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)
PLEASANTON – More than 100 people turned out for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Southeastern Technical Academy for Rural Students (STARS) vocational training center opening on Friday, Aug. 12. The ceremony, which included a speech by State Education Commissioner Randy Watson as well as local officials, also included an open house where visitors could get a look at classrooms as well as training areas.
Sponsored by the Pleasanton USD 344 school district in conjunction with Fort Scott Community College, STARS also has backing from both Prairie View USD 362 and Jayhawk USD 346. Classes at STARS began on Monday, Aug. 15.
Classes available at the facility include welding, carpentry, emergency medical technician training, certified medical assistant training and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) installation and maintenance. Other courses, such as heavy equipment operation, are expected to be offered at some point as well.
Stetson Kern, who attended the STARS opening, sits in the operator's seat on a virtual backhoe training machine as Curt Meyer, a Caterpillar Inc. representative walks him through its operation. The machine mimics the real experience of operating a backhoe, including bucking when the bucket is too full. Meyer said his company is hoping to place the stimulator in the STARS facility. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal).
In his opening remarks, Pleasanton Superintendent Travis Laver noted that the desire to provide the kind of training STARS will allow has been on the district’s wish list for a while. Interest in pressing forward with a technical training center occurred about a year ago when Jay Allen, a Pleasanton school board member and physician, got involved.
“This time things fell into place, and here we are today,” Laver said, adding that in addition to support from other members of the Pleasanton school board and the district administrative team, and the decision by Fort Scott Community College officials to become involved was important as well.
Laver cited his personal experience when his son came back from college and told him that academics was not for him. He instead went into a carpentry trade program and now is employed by Nabholtz Construction.
“Our desire with the STARS program is to provide students a leg up, and they enter the workforce much more prepared than he was,” Laver said.
He also said the goal is provide the students with multiple employers and provide internships and job connections tailored to each individual student.
“Overall the best part of this process has been seeing our communities draw closer together while partnering with our friends and colleagues in all three county schools to put this together for the Class of 2023,” Laver added.
Fort Scott Community College President Alysia Johnson reminded those who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the STARS facility that the students there will be college students, earning college credits. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)
Alysia Johnson, president of Fort Scott Community College, told those gathered that the college felt very fortunate to be partners with the STARS project.
“I can tell you that what they’re doing here is going to make a huge, positive difference for these students,” she said. She also emphasized that by attending the STARS classes, those students will be attending college.
“The young people who attend here are college students as well as high school students,” she said. She added that this will be a great opportunity for them to not only get college credits, but also be allowed to enter into the industry with the recognized credentials that will allow them to move into a good paying job without accumulating debt.
Laver also thanked donors and companies for their contributions. He thanked the Patterson Family Foundation for the funds that helped renovate the former car dealership building, Nabholtz Construction for safety equipment, Enerfab Inc. for providing materials for welding booths plus wiring, Lennox for multiple HVAC units for training, A to Z Plumbing for assistance in making renovations, Johnson Construction and the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce for concrete work in front of the building, Heartland Electric for a grant for energy-efficient lighting and the Blu-Jay Booster Club for donating the signs.
He also noted that school board President Tanner Ogden spent a considerable number of hours power washing and board member Jay Allen for using his equipment to help remove debris from the building and site.
Those participating in the ribbon-cutting included Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce and city officials, the Pleasanton school board, officials and teaching staff from Fort Scott Community College, representatives from Pleasanton, Jayhawk-Linn and Prairie View high schools, state education officials, and STARS students. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)