What do you want to be when you grow up?

Published 1:58 pm Tuesday, November 30, 2021

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How many times did somebody ask you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Were you able to answer? How much time did you spend to see if, in fact, it truly was what you wanted to do? Wouldn’t it be nice to try on different ideas, with the only goal being to determine where you are really strong? Where is your real talent? Where is your real joy? Perhaps you still wish someone would give you a chance to answer the question. Maybe you invested much time and effort into procuring the skills to perform a job which leaves you feeling “blah.” In your teens, did you even realize you were making decisions which could be impacting your days decades later? Maybe you swam around in confusion while trying to determine the right direction for you. Perhaps, when you felt strongly about a certain profession, there was no mentor to give you the entire truth about the field. What if, when it really counted, there were people dedicated to you so you could boldly and confidently answer the important question? What is it worth to know you have what it takes to be successful in what will ultimately be about a third of your life?

Shouldn’t somebody take this on? Isn’t it an important enough question that somebody, somewhere, be adamant about helping you answer this question? There is. The Ignite College and Career Academy (CCA), right here in Sumter County, housed on the same campus as the Sumter County High School, puts their heart and soul into answering the question. The process starts young, so the student’s training can start at the earliest point. There is an assessment given. It considers what you like to do, what you’re great at doing, what isn’t for you, and ultimately points in the direction of meaningful vocational success. Out of curiosity, adults have taken the assessment as well.  Turns out, the assessment was valid for one of our local engineers who has enjoyed a career putting those skills to work. The engineer has very much enjoyed being an engineer for decades. CCA staff utilize the assessment to quickly put a student on the right track, because why not start training a young mind for success from the very beginning?

The CCA is a beautiful concept. It takes students, points them in a direction, offers courses in the particular field, surrounds them with mentors and gives real-time experience. To see the CCA on paper is exciting. What are the possibilities? How can the CCA be effective? How can the CCA get even the most oppositional student to enjoy their education? By making it relevant to their dreams. Once a hopeful healthcare professional knows they will have to be competent in sciences, the interest grows as the dream does. Once an agricultural student understands she needs to know what nourishes the soil, she is far more likely to invest in classes which train her in cultivating the earth. Want to be a mechanic? The CCA has an automotive shop where a budding mechanic can be nourished at this very moment. A CCA experience can bring credit towards a high school diploma, perhaps some college credits, give resume growing experience and even earn a little spending money. The CCA has the potential to change everything in preparing a student for an enriching career. Some of the Americus Times-Recorder staff, like many other community members and businesses, have been involved with the CCA since its embryonic phases. The community has long been excited about the potential the CCA offers Sumter County. To talk about the possibilities is exciting. To realize “we can make this happen” is a rich experience. But it didn’t breathe with vitality until students were witnessed growing their passions and enriching their futures. Active and engaged students are a beautiful sight. There are no bored faces. There are no sleepers. There are no behavioral problems. There are simply youth, passionately involved in their education and in their futures. Just as we want our students to be. Sometimes the way a thing is presented makes all the difference. The CCA makes a very inviting presentation.

If you haven’t toured Ignite, or spoken with their leader, Don Gillman, then get your feet through their door. The CCA has the power to transform both our students as well as the Sumter County Schools experience and our local workforce. We have a true gem in Ignite. Go take a look at their audio-visual, culinary, health, engineering, agricultural or educational labs.  Appreciate the workmanship coming out of the wood-working classes or the precision of young mechanics learning the details of engines. But above all, look for the important thing. Look at the students. They are living out their passion right now. They are wide eyed, excited and challenged. They are getting a solid answer to “what do you want to be” and they are going after it with joy.