LCHS to expand ag program; receives SPARC grant

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Lake County High School is a Supporting Postsecondary Attainment in Rural Counties (SPARC) grant recipient for the second year in a row.

The grant, which comes from Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), is for $75,000.

Last year’s grant

Last year’s grant established a welding program. At present, 23 of the school’s 210 students participate in the program. In addition to providing new welding equipment, the grant paid for an instructor from Tennessee College of Applied Technology Newbern to send a welding instructor.

This year’s grant money will continue to contribute to the cost of the TCAT instructor and provide new equipment for agriculture classes.

Wednesday, November 20 officials from THEC toured LCHS’s facilities, including the welding facility, agriculture shop, and greenhouse.

Bruce Ing, LCHS welding instructor with 39 years of welding experience, showed the officials around the welding facility. Last year’s grant provided safety equipment in addition to welding equipment. Students are assigned their own safety equipment and tasked with keeping up with it.

“Everything here is commiserate with a TCAT,” commented Mike Krause with THEC.

The welding program has thus far been a success. According to LCHS staff, ERMCO has already looked into two students, showing interest in hiring them immediately after graduation.

“Our welding [program] is on point,” said Principal Preston Caldwell. “Especially with such an experienced instructor.”

This year’s grant:

This year’s grant money will expand the school’s agriculture program as a whole. After touring the school’s welding shop, THEC officials toured the agriculture department. The agriculture shop will receive an electrical upgrade and receive new equipment such as a car lift, parts washer, and precision measuring equipment. According to agriculture instructor Gary Butler, the school will try to purchase the new equipment locally.

“When people think of agriculture they think of driving a tractor, but that’s just two percent of it,” Butler told THEC officials.

The SPARC grant has a focus on career and technical education. It aims to remove common postsecondary education access barriers in rural counties.

The goal in Lake County is to prepare students as much as possible to continue their education with TCAT or other higher learning institutes or even directly enter the work force. While touring LCHS, Mike Krause suggested working with Yolanda Jones, LCHS’s TCAT connection, to figure out how students could be earning credit toward certification from TCAT while still in high school.

Lake County is one of 39 counties to receive a SPARC grant this year. In total, the second round of SPARC funding is a $2 million investment.   

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