My parents came up the hard way. With second-grade educations, they picked vegetables and cotton and worked in the factories of southern Texas. At one farm, my father was chased by the Ku Klux Klan when he tried to leave.
Father was a man of common sense and determination. He was smart as a whip. He learned early to never put anything on credit. My mother, who was born in Mexico, had the same strength and fortitude. The oldest of eight children, she was tough as nails and had a no-nonsense attitude.
Even working long hours, my parents didn’t make much. We children had to work too. But my parents never complained. Together, the family earned enough to raise me and my five brothers and sisters.
In the 1950s and 1960s, families like ours could get by with a strong back and work ethic. Factories that paid at least a living wage were hiring unskilled workers. Some employers would train their employees to do tasks such as welding.
Those days are over. The job market has changed drastically. Good-paying manufacturing jobs are hard to find — and all require training and education. Even back then, my parents stressed the importance of education to all of us. I’ve done the same with my three children and seven grandchildren.
One of my grandchildren, Trey Duran, 15, is a high school sophomore at Penta Career Center in Perrysburg Township, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Trey had a rocky start. At birth, his airway was obstructed, and he couldn’t breathe. He was rushed to the neonatal care unit, where a tube was placed down his throat and into his stomach. Thank God, after a couple of days, he was ready to go home.
Each of our grandkids has a unique personality and talent, and each has a special place in my heart and in the heart of my husband. Trey has a kind and gentle heart and soul. He wakes up every day with a smile. How many teenagers do that on a school day?
Trey also has a knack for physical therapy, and a strong interest in fitness. He plays high school football. Every time I get a hug from this 5-foot, 11-inch boy, I get a neck and shoulder massage.
At Penta Career Center, Trey is taking a course in health under the sophomore exploratory program, which enables students to take classes in fields that might interest them as a career. The exploratory class will lead him to a program in exercise science/sports health care, another Penta offering. His goal, at least for now, is to become a physical therapist.
I’m happy that Trey has found a direction in life, and that Penta has given him an opportunity to explore a career path.
Penta Career Center, and Ohio’s 48 other career centers, offer accessible programs to any high school student trying to decide which direction to take.
In today’s economy, many parents — single or married — struggle to make ends meet. Not all families have the financial ability to send their children to a college or university. And not all students have the aptitude or interest to secure a four-year degree.
Even so, unlike my parents, all young people today need not only a high school education but also something more. But that “something more” doesn’t have to be a university or four-year college, which can saddle young people with tens of thousands of dollars in student-loan debt. Many parents, kids, and guidance counselors still believe that’s the best way to go, but sometimes it isn’t.
Since its inception in 1965, Penta Career Center has served its students well, offering a range of programs, including agricultural environment, engineering, health, public safety, information technology, marketing, and construction trades.
Superintendent Ron Matter told me that more than 50 single-family homes have been built by Penta’s construction trades students. This is a wonderful program to get motivated young people started on the road to success. Programs such as these graduate students who can be immediately placed in a job that pays a decent wage.
Career centers, along with Ohio’s 23 community colleges, can steer students in the right direction and teach the skills for high-demand jobs. We should strive to make sure any kid who is willing to obtain the proper tools and education to make it in life has the the opportunity to do so.
I am so proud of my grandson for his decision to attend Penta.
Margarita Duran is executive assistant to John Robinson Block, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Blade.
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