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Career Day at RIVEROAK drew hundreds interested in their future

Suwannee Seniors at RIVEROAK on Career Day. L-R: Tat Van Ette, Jax Sansouci (on top) and Reagan Berry. After graduation, Tat said he wants to pursue a career in the medical field and has his sights set on becoming a registered nurse. Jax said he wants to attend college for wrestling and study criminology. Reagan, 6’ 4,” wants to play college football. - SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

By Tami Stevenson

Skilled workers have become a necessity, not a luxury in today’s globally-minded workforce. Education and training in various high-demand fields are key to creating better wages, self-sufficient families and less poverty in our rural North Florida communities. Technically skilled workers are in high demand in rural communities as well as large cities.

RIVEROAK Technical College (RTC), which serves the North Florida area, last year alone awarded 1,100 industry certifications and licenses to students and adults in fields ranging anywhere from welding and masonry to nursing and surgical technicians with everything in between.

Last week, February 13, RTC drew hundreds of curious students and adults from the community during its Fourth Annual Career Day where they showcased nineteen career and technical education programs available at the college, along with many other business and community agencies that set up booths to let everyone see what career opportunities are locally available to them.

RTC Clinical Instructor Tammy Cunningham leads Surgical Technology students in a classroom demonstration. -RIVEROAK Courtesy Photo

With the threat of rain looming in the forecast, they decided to move everything inside this year. Visitors were afforded the opportunity to see more hands-on demonstrations in their respective classrooms. Everyone enjoyed touring the kitchen in the culinary department, with all the various donuts and other culinary delights being whipped up by students, for instance, or watching a mock operation in the medical technician classroom or seeing the automotive garage where vehicles in various stages of repair were on display.

Stevie D from Big 98 was live at the college. Live Oak Mayor Frank Davis went on the air and proclaimed February, 2020 as Career and Technical Education Month for the City of Live Oak.

Abigail Corbin, Blanca Solis in the Culinary Department. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

In the culinary department Brian Selph, Devin Jones and Zerian Cromwell all are looking forward to a career in the food industry. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

RIVEROAK presented Mayor Davis with a certificate of appreciation recognizing his valuable contributions to the college.

Live Oak Mayor Frank Davis proclaimed February, 2020 as Career and Technical Education Month for the City of Live Oak. L-R: Mayor Frank Davis, RIVEROAK Director Mary Keen and Stevie D from Big 98.
-SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

Welding graduate Javier Cazarez was presented with a $1000 scholarship from RIVEROAK and Columbia County Builders Association matched that scholarship from a Build My Future event that was held in October of last year. Cazarez said he wanted to thank God and his parents for helping him achieve his goals. Bryan Zecher with the Build My Future organization from the Columbia County Builders Association said Build My Future is a hands-on event they put on in March and October of last year and this year the event will be held on October 14, 2020. It is an event where students are able to experience the trades, construction trades, industry trades, hands-on.

L-R Welding Instructor Kevin Mercer, RIVEROAK Director Mary Keen, Javier Cazarez who received a $1000 scholarship from both RIVEROAK and Columbia Builders Assoc., Bryan Zecher with Build My Future from the Columbia County Builders Association.
-SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

“So they can weld, they can run electrical wires, they can use heavy equipment, lay brick with masonry and change tires on vehicles. There are all kinds of disciplines that will be showcased that day at the Columbia County Fairgrounds on October 14, 2020,” said Zecher. The event is hosted by the Columbia County Builders Association and the organization is called Build My Future and can be found on Facebook.

Branches of the military and the fire department were there along with local and state law enforcement. The Suwannee County Sheriff’s Department had their SWAT gear laid out for students to see. Sheriff Sam St. John said they come every year and talk to students about the benefits of making law enforcement a career.

The Suwannee County Sheriff’s Department talks with students about a career in law enforcement. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

L-R: Chief Deputy Buddy Williams with Suwannee County Sheriff Sam St. John. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

Four different correctional institutions were there with eight correctional officers representing Suwannee, Mayo, Hamilton, Madison and Taylor. Captain T. M. Rowe said they were there to educate the students on having a career with the Florida Department of Corrections. To let them know this is a career they don’t have to be afraid of. To steer away from prison life, to join in to try to rehabilitate inmates and help them out while they are working there. Rowe has worked for the department 17 years.

Captain T. M. Rowe with eight area officers from corrections. -SVT Photo By Tami Stevenson

The K9 unit brought their dogs but were unable to hold a demonstration without being outside, due to the rain threat, so they walked the halls and visited classrooms. Peg Hickey, Owner/Trainer of Von See Stadt Kennels in Lake City, where the K9s are trained, was there with the officers for Career Day. She has been training dogs for 45 years and said they also train service and rescue dogs. She explained they come to the school as a team, the officer and the dog. They also train dogs for citizens as well and do the same thing, the owner comes and they train the owner and the dog as a team. They also work with seizure patients. Hickey said dogs can detect when someone is going to have a seizure. They train the service dog to alert their owner before the seizure happens so they can get in a safe place.

K9’s - They couldn’t do a demonstration because of the rain threat so they took the dogs around to various classrooms and walked the halls greeting students with the dogs. -RIVEROAK Photo

Health and Safety Officer Adam McCook from Suwannee County Fire and Rescue said, “We are reaching out to the young people to attract more local kids to start a career in fire rescue and paramedics. We have had several conversations with kids today and handed out a lot of flyers.” They run five stations and have 60 line personnel. The stations are located in Wellborn, Beachville (Branford), Dowling Park, McAlpin and Live Oak.

Photo: Firefighters Pease, Lt. Schneider, Firefighter Raines. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

The Suwannee County Airport was there with Airport Facility Manager Nathan Smith and Carson Rhodenizer. They run a school at the Suwannee County Airport where they teach people how to fly powered paragliders. It is a five day class. Rhodenizer explained, “These (motors) are attached to a parachute, you spin the propellor and run and the wind takes you up even on flat ground. Legally, these can reach an altitude of 18,000 feet. Only a couple people have been that high.” He said the highest he has been was a little over a mile. But normally he likes to fly about 100 feet off the ground.
Look for them at Wings Over Suwannee, March 28, 2020 at the Suwannee County Airport.

Carson Rhodenizer from Suwannee County Airport talked to visitors about paragliding classes available at the airport. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

RIVEROAK’s classrooms and hallways were jammed-packed throughout the event. All in all, it seemed everyone enjoyed the day checking out the various careers available and talking with representatives.

Adult Basic Ed Teacher Tracey Henderson was walking with a beautiful three month old K9 trainee who was handling the crowds of students very well.

“They were going to train her as a service dog, but they needed an older dog so “Up For Grabs” will need a good home. I’m calling her “Up For Grabs” because that is exactly what she is, they will be selling her and she is up for grabs,” commented Henderson. Henderson will be retiring June 1, after working 39 years for the school system. She will be sorely missed by students and staff alike.

Tracey Henderson letting students pet the 3 month old K9 trainee. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

RIVEROAK Director Mary Keen said, “RIVEROAK’s Career Day and Program Showcase exceeded our expectations, with an estimated 700 in attendance during the day. Attendees were able to speak with area businesses and community organizations and learn first hand about career and technical education programs offered at RTC. We are appreciative of the community’s continued support for our college and we can’t wait for next year’s event, which promises to be even larger!”

L-R: Terry Vickers, Julie Ulmer and RIVEROAK Director Mary Keen talk about the day's programs. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

Students can earn a meaningful career in less than a year with some of the classes offered at RTC, at truly affordable prices.

It is never too late to change or start a new career. For anyone wanting to know more about the opportunities, don’t wait for the next career day, call RIVEROAK at 386-647-4200, located at 415 SW Pinewood Drive in Live Oak for more information.

North Florida College representatives handed out a lot of flyers on Career Day at RIVEROAK. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

L-R: Andrew Graham, playing guitar, Miriam Halabi and Garionna Reed, Andrew brought guitar. They said they enjoyed career day. Graham wants to be a lawyer but picked up some info for a pilot, Miriam also wants to become a pilot and Garionna wants to be an actress. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson