Time to get to work

May 20, 2019 GMT

La PORTE COUNTY — Students in the La Porte County Career and Technical Education programs at the A.K. Smith Area Career Center have been busy preparing for the next phase in their life – and their hard work has begun to pay off.

According to CTE Director Audra Peterson, her students have earned 86 college certificates and 2,470 college credits from Ivy Tech just this year.

In fact, 26 of this year’s seniors each earned two college certificates, giving them the unique opportunity to walk the stage in their college graduation last weekend, a few weeks before they’ll accept their high school diplomas.


And 28 seniors were honored Friday during the third annual CTE Signing Day, which recognizes students who are moving from high school directly into their chosen career fields. Much like a student-athlete signs a letter of intent to attend a specific college on an athletic scholarship, the CTE students at Friday’s ceremony signed letters of intent with area employers.

“What we’re doing and what our students do in Career and Technical Education is just as important as what a student athlete would do,” Peterson said. “Oftentimes, they’re working just as hard – if not harder – than what those students are doing. And I think it’s important to recognize them by doing some sort of a signing day so that they can sign off that they’re committed to this profession that they’ve been working towards.”

The students who signed on Friday have been hired in various fields of work – carpentry, welding, culinary arts, cosmetology, automotive technology.

Some have been accepted into trade unions, some by the military, and some by businesses across Northwest Indiana. And most will be entering jobs that pay living wages or better.

Diedrich Drill in La Porte recruited three seniors from this year’s CTE class to fill welding and fabricating positions.

“To me, A.K. Smith has got a great program going there, and what we’re finding with the students coming out of there is that they’ve got a lot of great skills,” said Marc Brunner, director of operations at Diedrich Drill. “They don’t have bad habits yet, they’re willing to learn, and we really value that.

“We’ve got good business growth potential in general, and welding and fabricating is key to that. Maintaining that relationship with A.K. Smith is an important piece of our staffing plan.”

Michigan City Area Schools Superintendent Barbara Eason-Watkins shared that enthusiasm.


“It’s an exciting day for all involved in today’s signing ceremony. The students have worked hard over the past two years to gain technical skills, earn college credits, and demonstrate a strong work ethic,” she said.

“These traits are so valuable in the eyes of the employers and trade association representatives who are here today, and have partnered with the A. K. Smith Center to build a future workforce.”

La Porte County CTE offers 14 different programs to students who attend any high school in the county, as well as an adult education program for high school equivalency. For more information, visit mcas.k12.in.us/careertech.

Signing up to get to work

La Porte County Career and Technical Education graduates by program, with high school and employer, who signed on Friday.


Alec Adrian, Michigan City, Indiana Kentucky Ohio Carpenters Union

Adam Armstrong, Michigan City, Indiana Kentucky Ohio Carpenters Union

Emilio Granacki, Michigan City, Indiana Kentucky Ohio Carpenters Union

Tim Slagle, Michigan City, Indiana Kentucky Ohio Carpenters Union


Gavin Hicks, South Central, Iron Workers Local 395

Michelle Kazmierzak, New Prairie, Local 172 Plumber and Pipefitter Union

Drake Kluge, New Prairie, Iron Workers Local 395

Lucas Rotzien, Westville, Diedrich Drill

Alex Toth, Westville, Diedrich Drill

Natalie Tuholski, La Porte, Diedrich Drill


Ryne Stormer, La Porte High School, IBEW Local 531


Sebastian Schnick, La Porte, Bartlett’s Fish Camp


Colin Nale, Michigan City, Integrative Flavors


Hayley Catchings, Michigan City, Platinum Designs Barber & Hair Salon

Mackenzie Nehl, La Porte, Hair Fitness Salon


Jacob Goodwin, Michigan City, Discount Tire

Jamie Marvel, Michigan City, Discount Tire

Jacob Pittman, New Prairie, BIG Ford/Lincoln

Alexandria Stone, La Porte, Jiffy Lube

Christian Surma, New Prairie, Pyramid Equipment


Collin Boyd, South Central, Energy Academy, U.S. Marine Corps

Hunter Cox, La Porte, Energy Academy, U.S. Marine Corps

James Huffman, Michigan City, Criminal Justice, U.S. Navy

Gage Koepke, La Porte, Welding, U.S. Army National Guard

Jonah McVay, La Porte, Criminal Justice, U.S. Marine Corps

Julie Myers, South Central, Health Careers II, U.S. Air Force ROTC at Indiana University

Josh Pear, La Porte, EMT, U.S. Marine Corps

Justin Price, New Prairie, Automotive, U.S. Army Reserves