Pontotoc Ridge Career Technical Education teachers Barry Reeder, Clint Young, Chad Wisnat, Phillip Robbins, Rumae Stroup, Matt Powell, Amanda Wood, Judy Mills and Roger Dillard enjoy a light moment on the tractor in the new Ag Class.

In the latter part of 1968, interest in a total vocational program in Pontotoc was stirred up; and as usual the folks in Pontotoc didn’t let much grass grow beneath their feet before getting to work. The Career center was built and equipped during the year of 1969 with the first students walking the halls during the 1970-71 school year. 

Now, some 49 years later, the school continues to change and grow with the needs of the future job opportunities at the fore front of student education. There were nine classes at the start of the program growing to 12 by 1976. And today there remains 12 programs.

“We train these students day in and day out on the jobs that they are interested in,” said Patricia Ellison, director of Pontotoc’s Career Technical Education facility. “We are the pipe line to Itawamba Community College.” 

Ellison said the center can train students to further their education or go directly into the work force.

“One of the benefits of this center is the students can come her end see what they want to do. If they don’t like the class they are taking, they can switch to another one. It will save them time and their parent’s money in the long run so they aren’t taking up valuable time in the college realm on a career they will never want to pursue.”

Ellison said that in helping the students choose what classes to take, because they want them to be working toward a later goal in life. “We do sit down with them and see what they like. We don’t want to just stick them in a class.”

And in helping some of them achieve that goal and get some on the job training, so to speak, the director has brought some innovation to the table.

“When we needed a wall built to separate the food break room from the auditorium, we let the students in the construction class build it,” she said. “And our industrial maintenance class is taking care of the building and learning all the hands on things that come with taking care of commercial buildings,” she said.

“Our Ag Power and machinery class recently went to the county bus shop and changed the tires and learned about the routine maintenance of the buses,” she noted.

And speaking of that Ag Power class, it was formerly the automotive class and it has had some re-vamping. “Most of what is worked on around here has to do with farm machinery from tractors to four wheelers,” she said. “So we felt the expansion of the class was necessary. And several companies stepped up and helped us with this including Wells body shop, Jackie Tutor, Washington Haulcomb Tractors, WADE and Caterpillar. They all help with this program.”

And for further studies in this area Ellison said that Midway Marine donated a boat motor so the students could expand into learning marine machinery.

Ellison said her greatest challenge I getting students in the non-traditional classes, “for instance, getting a girl to take the construction class and the boys to take a health field related class.”

The center is evaluated on a yearly bases to determine whether or not a program stays open for students to teach or even whether or not the center itself is still viable.

The record of the school speaks for itself, now some 50 years later students still flock to the programs to further their education and prepare themselves for the work of tomorrow.

“We teach them work place skills and work ethic. It is very satisfying to see them go into a cooperative program or finish here and practice what they have learned,” Ellison said.

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