River Road Independent School District has put the finishing touches on a project to give its high school students more alternatives to the traditional college path.
The district, which serves parts of Amarillo and Potter County, officially opened the doors to its new vocational training building at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday. A new cosmetology program will be offered there, and new welding and nursing assistant certification courses will be taught across the street at River Road High School.
“The No. 1 goal of all three of these programs is for kids to graduate high school with the same licensing that a person graduating from junior college would get — and have no debt,” said Richard Kelley, River Road ISD superintendent.
“The cosmetology students will graduate with their state license and they won’t owe anyone anything except maybe a thank you.”
At the completion of their vocational training, graduating students will be either licensed cosmetologists, American Welding Society-certified welders or certified nursing assistants.
“This country was built on trades programs, this country was built with vocational hands and this country will become great again because of trades programs and vocation education,” Kelley said.
About 60 students are enrolled in the training courses, which are offered to sophomore through senior students.
The programs are the first phase of a new direction for the district, according to Kelley. The second phase will start in the fall of 2019.
“We’re going to come together and decide what’s next,” he said. “What does Amarillo need and what can we do to fill that need?”
Curriculum could expand to include avenues to become certified electricians, plumbers and veterinary and pharmacy technicians, “things that would allow our kids to graduate and if they don’t want to go to college … they can go get a really good job and start their careers in that way,” Kelley said.