Supporters of the Bryan school district’s new Career and Technical Education Complex gathered in the facility’s construction technology space for the official open house and dedication Sunday.
The celebration comes two months after students began taking courses at the facility on Mumford Road. For some community members, it was the first time they had seen the building with equipment installed.
Bryan Superintendent Christie Whitbeck called the day’s event “a dream that’s becoming a reality.”
“It’s the realization of a true community-wide effort between the school district, local industries and higher ed to build a dream for our kids,” she said, noting the importance of ensuring students graduate from high school with skills they can take into the workforce or into higher education.
Rudder High School senior Jarvel Arteaga said the hands-on experience he and his classmates get at the CTEC is what sets it apart from other opportunities in the district.
“We would learn about it in class, but it’s not the same as doing it hands-on,” he said.
Fellow senior Luis Ramirez echoed his classmate’s sentiments, saying he was glad he had the opportunity to sign up for the program.
“I’m loving it. I want to do this in the future,” he said.
Both seniors are in the industrial engineering and robotics program and said they plan to pursue certifications that will help them as they get into college and after they graduate from their chosen university.
Ultimately, the CTEC facility is about the students, Whitbeck said during the dedication ceremony.
“We can build it. We can put equipment in it. We can fund it. We can come up with all these great ideas sitting around a table, but it is about you seizing an opportunity,” she said, speaking directly to the students attending the dedication. “It’s about you doing something different from [what] your friends are doing by trying something brand new that can open up doors for you in the future. ... Thank you for being brave and being innovative and thinking out of the box, because you’re going to set the stage for all the kids to come and we are proud of you.”
The former BMI Defense Systems facility was transformed over the last year to become the CTEC, made up of the Becky Seale Building for offices and classrooms and the Mike Kristynik Building for labs.
The facility’s first-year programs are industrial engineering and robotics, construction technology, welding and automotive technology.
Kristynik, who worked in Bryan schools for 27 years, said seeing the technology and equipment the students have at the new facility is mind-blowing. Although he had seen the facility, Sunday was his first time to see it with equipment in place.
“I’m really anxious to see the kids and how they’re reacting. They have to be impressed with this,” he said.
Kristynik’s former student Lester Gilmore, who is now an auto mechanics teacher at Rudder High School, said the new facility gives students what Kristynik gave him: focus, encouragement and direction. Not all students will take advantage of the opportunity the CTEC provides, but for those who do, he said, it will make an impact.
Kristynik’s hope for the future is that people from local and regional businesses do not just tour the facility but begin visiting to recruit students.
Hugh Seale, husband of the late Becky Seale, said “honor” was the only word he knew to describe the feeling of his wife’s name being on one of the buildings.
“She’s up there looking down,” he said. “To associate her with something that’s going to be out there for years, it’s just an honor. ... She would be totally honored.”
Bryan CTE Director David Reynolds said the community support he has seen for the facility has been “unbelievable.”
“The feeling is hard to explain when you get this much support on something that I’ve dedicated my life to,” he said. “To see a community come together and support an effort, it makes me feel good because this is my life’s work, so to see that support, it’s awesome.”
Not only is the facility for Bryan students, but it is part of the Texas Regional Pathway Network to serve students from the region. The first students from outside Bryan to attend CTEC courses are Snook and Caldwell students, but more are expected to be added.
The regional designation shows the commitment of the district and the school board to the education of students, no matter what district they attend, Reynolds said. It also shows an understanding that the need for a skilled workforce is not a local problem, but a regional and statewide challenge.
The 119-acre property offers space for more programs and buildings as the CTE department expands, Bryan CTE Coordinator Kevin Ross said.
Bryan Mayor Andrew Nelson called it a “100-acre campus for the next 100 years.”
“We are preparing elementary children today for jobs that don’t exist,” Whitbeck said, “and how wonderful it is to be right here in Brazos Valley where we have the space and the innovation and we have the commitment from the entire community to make great things happen.”