Getting Technical: Tolles helps students build doors when opportunity doesn't knock

Emmy Beeson
Guest columnist

No one could have imagined the 2020-21 school year and how it would affect all of our students.

I know each school district has had significant challenges and opportunities. We certainly are living by this quote from Milton Berle: “If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door."

With so many doors having been closed to us over the year, we have been trying to build doors everywhere we can.

Emmy Beeson is superintendent of Tolles Career & Technical Center.

The end of the school year provides educators all across the state the opportunity to reflect on the work of the year, and this year is definitely a time we need to stop, be still and reflect.

Join me in a moment of reflection about how career-technical education in general and Tolles Career & Technical Center specifically build doors for students every day.

Our mission is to launch students into their successful futures. We focus on the individual interests and abilities of each of our students. And this year, we are excited to announce that 262 graduating seniors will not only earn their high school diploma, but they also will earn industry certifications and credentials for employment, college credit, the opportunity to go on to additional training and education and possess leadership skills developed specifically through and for authentic working experiences.

Tolles students have earned district, regional and state recognition in their career and technical student organizations, and every senior who attends Tolles participates in an interview contest.

Each student has the opportunity to practice an authentic interview with industry professionals prior to graduation, when the stakes are low. They had the opportunity to practice virtually and in person.

Likewise, more than 80 students participated in the internship program with the support of amazing business partners.

We are very proud of the class of 2021. We honor their work and their flexibility during this time.

As an example of this perseverance, this is an excerpt from a letter written by a Tolles parent:

"The one person who played the biggest role in her 'transformation' from a shy, awkward teenager with low self-esteem to a strong, accomplished and successful young woman is Chef Gregg Needles.

"Her favorite time was spent in her culinary lab with Chef Needles, Chef Nick and her classmates. In his class, Chef created a safe and supported environment, he made kids feel comfortable to talk to him, a place where kids wanted to show up, but he also fostered an environment of teamwork, discipline, accountability, flexibility, allowing for growth through individual and group activities in the lab. Chef Needles had the perfect balance of work and play, where kids felt safe, yet were growing as individuals and professionals.

"Most importantly, Chef Needles became a mentor and the biggest supporter of the kids. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from. He shares genuine interest to understand the kids, what they want to do and invests significant time to help them achieve their goals and potential. During the times where there is tremendous pressure for teens to find their path in life and who they are, he created a space for kids to grow without being judged.

"As a parent, I could not be more grateful to someone for taking a personal interest in not only giving my daughter great culinary skills but giving her the biggest gift of all – belief in yourself! Knowing you are worth it and you can do anything you put your heart and mind toward is an incredible gift."

We hear this story from parents and students repeated every year, each month and on a regular basis.

Each day, we try to create this story for all of the students who walk through our doors at Tolles Career & Technical Center. Our mission is to create an experience that goes beyond our students’, families' and partners’ expectations, with marketable skills and positive relationships to ensure all Tolles students are prepared for their successful futures. We aspire to live this out every day, and for this student, it sounds like we did.

My heart goes out to all of the moms and dads of seniors right now and all of the students in the class of 2021.

And to the graduating class of 2021, remember, it isn’t the cards you are dealt in life that matters the most. It is how well you play them.

Emmy Beeson is superintendent of Tolles Career & Technical Center, which includes students from the Dublin and Hilliard school districts. Contact her at ebeeson@ tollestech.com.