Education feature: Texico school renews vocational arts program

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Texico’s Lucas Walthers practices soldering with teacher Terry Whitener observing at Texico High School.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Texico High School is reviving its vocational arts program.

For years, one teacher taught the vocational arts and was in charge of the Future Farmers of America and leadership programs. This year, community and school board members decided to give the vocational arts program the attention it deserves.

The school decided to bring back the program after a survey of the students showed that the students wanted vocational arts classes.

To lead the program, the school brought on Texico alumnus Terry Whitener. Whitener taught FFA, leadership and vocational arts in Anthony, Texas.

“It is difficult to do both well,” he said.

Whitener took welding and carpentry classes while he attended Texico High School.

“There was a lot more activity back in the ’80s (in the workshop) than when I came here this year,” he said.

The school has purchased new equipment for the metal working and carpentry workshop for Whitener’s classes.

Whitener said the classes are to give the students a leg up when they leave high school.

“Not all students are going to college,” he said. “Even if they do, this program provides them with helpful skills.”

In the program, students will learn skills such as carpentry, welding, soldering, masonry and how to read construction plans, as well as how to repair agricultural machinery.

Whitener said he approaches both metal and carpentry classes from a career standpoint.

“I tell them, measure twice, cut once. I tell them no employer is going to want to pay them to do a job twice, when they could do it right the first time,” he said. “Traditionally, all the guys (were) going to be farmers. That’s not true anymore. More kids will use these skills in a career instead of on their own field. The classes are ag based because that is our community base, but these skills can be used on more than farms.”

“This is something I’m going to do after high school,” said Zayne Meeks, one of Whitener’s students, of the welding skills he is learning in the class.

“This class will look good on my transcript,” he said. “It gives people better opportunities to get better experience and then a better job.”

Another student, Lucas Walthers, said he is unsure of what he wants to do after high school, but that the skills learned in Whitener’s class will be helpful either way.

“This is something I’ll know how to do if I ever need to do it,” he said.

Whitener said his classes will also help students keep up with technological advances.

“You can’t just turn a wrench and fix something anymore,” he said.