Two students will be representing Walker County Schools on the national stage.Nathaniel Clark of Dora High School will travel to the National SkillsUSA Conference this June to compete in electrical …
Two students will be representing Walker County Schools on the national stage.
Nathaniel Clark of Dora High School will travel to the National SkillsUSA Conference this June to compete in electrical construction wiring, and Andrew Taggart of Oakman High School will compete at the same competition in CNC turning.
Both Clark and Taggart placed first in the SkillsUSA state competition.
The young men were honored at the Walker County Board of Education meeting on Thursday, May 9, for their accomplishments.
"Nathaniel done what he was trying to do," Walker County Center of Technology electrical instructor Mark Palmer said in an address to the school board. "We're extremely proud of him. He's a really good student."
Clark recently signed with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to go to work after graduation. Palmer said the job offer includes a $50,000 scholarship, and IBEW also gave Clark $500 to go toward his national SkillsUSA trip.
"In the next four and a half years, he's going to earn $234,000 that he's going to put in his own pocket," Clark said. "If Nathaniel works 20 years, 40 hours a week, he will accumulate, in the largest pension, $1.5 million. That's not a myth; that's fact. None of that money comes out of his pocket. That's all paid for by the Southeastern Electrical Contractors."
Upon hearing of Clark's accomplishments, board members agreed to fund the remaining cost for him to travel to the national SkillsUSA competition — $1,250.
Clark expressed his gratitude to the board and to Palmer for his three years of instruction.
"I came to Mr. Palmer's class three years ago not knowing anything about electrical construction wiring," Clark told the board. "I got through that and started having fun, and I figured it was something I wanted to do. Thanks to Mr. Palmer I am now a state champion going to nationals. I am really proud of myself and thankful to Mr. Palmer for teaching me."
Taggart also received $1,250 from the school board to pay for his trip to SkillsUSA nationals.
"He's put a lot of effort into it this year, and I'm very very proud of him. A big accomplishment," his instructor, Ted Alexander, said at the meeting.
Taggart presented board members with their own placards that he made using computer numerical control technology to operate machines.
Alexander put Taggart and Clark's impressive accomplishment into perspective for the school board.
"There's 435,000 Skills USA members in the nation. We're going to compete against each state and four territories," he said. "If you make it there, you're in the top 1 percent of skills trade."
District 2 board member Todd Vick commended the young men for their hard work.
"Skills is important to me. You use your hands to make money. I work at the railroad. I'm a chicken farmer on the side," Vick said. "I didn't go to college, and I'm not knocking whether you do or you don't go, but I think it's important you guys represent us going out there and show people that it's not always just about a college degree."
An unnamed representative from Alabama Power spoke up at the meeting to praise the Walker County Center of Technology (WCCT) and all technical programs afforded to students.
"The Walker County Center of Technology is producing excellent employees. We appreciate the job that the center of technology is doing," he said. "What I'm impressed with is it's not so much the knowledge they have or the skills but their work ethic. They work hard."
"No doubt about it," Superintendent Dr. Joel Hagood responded. "We've got a lot of folks doing some great work at WCCT and out in our schools as well."
"I'm proud of you two," board Chairman Brad Ingle added, "and I wish you the best of luck at the competition."