TENNERTON – More than 150 program completers at the Fred Eberle Technical Center celebrated their accomplishments Tuesday evening at Buckhannon-Upshur High School with their families, friends and school officials.
FETC serves Upshur, Lewis and Barbour counties and students completed the requirements in programs including automotive technology, collision repair technology, cosmetology, diesel equipment technology, electrical technician, allied health, therapeutic services, computer systems repair technology, robotics and welding.
Rebecca Bowers-Call, director of FETC, welcomed those gathered and said the FETC administration and students are very pleased to be ‘back in their tradition.’
“Last year, we did get to have our graduation and it was in Barbour County where it was supposed to be, but it was held out-of-doors,” Call said. “This year it was to be held in Upshur County and that is where we are but we were not sure if we would have to be outside again. But we are here and things are feeling normal again.”
Call said the students receiving their certificates were adults, high school seniors and adults.
“It is a really exciting evening to have them all in one place to celebrate their accomplishments,” she said.
During her welcome, Call told those receiving their completer certificates the night was about them and then told of the legacy of the Fred Eberle Technical Center.
“Did you know the Fred Eberle Technical Center is one of only seven schools like it in the state?” Call said. “There are 55 counties, but only seven multi-county vocational centers in the state.”
She said FETC opened in 1968.
“Fred Wilson Eberle was an educator, in fact, he was a math teacher,” Call recounted. “He worked his way through the ranks, supporting students in various roles with technical and industrial education throughout his career and became assistant state director of vocational education and assistant state superintendent of schools for vocational, technical and adult education. He worked with his staff, leaders in education and legislators to establish technical centers all over the state. FETC was the first to demonstrate the effectiveness, efficiency and comradery that can be achieved when counties work together.”
Call said 11 of the 13 FETC instructors present and giving out diplomas had attended vocational-technical schools, and seven of those 11 are alumni of the FETC.
“They sat in the seats you are sitting in tonight,” Call said. “Each of your instructors started where you are. They spent time in their industry and came back to teach you. Each of them has worked in the real world where you are headed or already are. They know what you need. They know what industry needs and they want to help make your dreams a reality.”
The winner of the John Williams Scholarship was Kaitlyn N. Shannon, who was a Health Sciences – Allied Health student at FETC.
“John Williams was a local businessman here in Upshur County,” said FETC Assistant Director Michael Murray, who presented the scholarships. “His company became one of the largest independent drilling companies east of the Mississippi River. Upon the sale of Union Drilling in the 1980s, Mr. Williams retired to Florida. The John Williams Scholarship was started by his three children upon his death in 1995. It was their vision for the scholarship to help Upshur County Vocational Students support their needs with the thought of furthering their education. Williams knew the value of a vocation and an education.”
Kaitlyn is a senior at Buckhannon-Upshur High School and her parents are Sheila Reynolds and Mark Shannon.
Murray then presented the Rotary Scholarship to Brooklyn M. Watson who was a completer in the FETC Cosmetology program.
“The Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur provides this scholarship and it is funded through a large donation to assist students in their vocation,” Murray said. “The amount of the Rotary Scholarship is $500.”
Brooklyn attends Philip Barbour High School.
FETC Electrical Technician Instructor Robert Lowther said it was nice to get back to ‘normal’ during the year.
“We started out in masks and the mask mandate was finally lifted,” Lowther said. “It was enjoyable to get to know our students without a mask and to get to interact with them. COVID put a damper on things – it put a damper on things for students as well as instructors and for parents – but we persevered.”
Lowther said he is finishing his 13th year at FETC and said he wanted to be a CTE instructor because he sat through the electrical technology program at Randolph Technical Center and thought being a CTE instructor would be a fun job.
“Ever since I was a high school junior, I watched my instructor, Jeff Broschart and some of the other instructors at the center including Curtis Corley and Steve Purdum. I watched them and I thought it would be a fun job,” Lowther said. “Really, from the time I was a junior in high school, I decided that was what I wanted to do. Not too many people decide to be a CTE Instructor in high school, but from that point, I knew it was what I wanted to do.”
Lowther said he gets a lot back from helping students become career-ready.
“I love watching them succeed,” he said. “For me, it is the satisfaction of watching the kids grow and mature and watching them become productive members of society.”
Lowther said, especially today, CTE classes are much needed.
“All of our students are capable of going on to college, but a lot of them do not want to take on the debt associated with attending college,” Lowther said. “They use our classes as a stepping stone to other careers. CTE is near and dear to my heart and it is important. I see our students change for the better and some kids do go on to college and go on to other careers while some go out into the world and use what we taught them. College or career – I feel either one is acceptable and respectable.”
Electrical technician completer Brock A. Mitchell, who attends Lewis County High School, said he decided to attend FETC and take electricity classes because he felt people will always need electricity and felt it would always be around.
“I thought if I choose electric, I will always have a job,” Brock said. “I enjoyed my two years at FETC and I just passed my Journeyman’s test. I am ready to get a job and start making money.”
Brock is the son of Helen and Bobby Mitchell of Roanoke, WV.
The Fred Eberle Technical Center is located at 208 Morton Ave. in Buckhannon. Additional information about the center is available on Facebook, online at https://fetc.edu or by calling 304-472-1259.