“I thought I wanted to study medicine,” said Nathan Keyes of Norwood. “I took chemistry and anatomy during my first years of high school, and then realized that field wasn’t for me.” Keyes recalled a conversation with a family friend at his father’s funeral several years before, and decided to give welding a try.
He came to Scarlet Oaks Career Campus as a senior.
“I figured that if I got there and didn’t like it, I could do something else,” he said. “That’s the beauty of doing this in high school.”
But he liked it, and he stayed. “I had no experience working with my hands. In fact, I had barely swung a hammer before. Now, though, I’m fully capable of working on my own.”
Keyes said that he enjoys seeing the results of his work, as well. “I can work on something for a week, and look back and think ‘this was 50 feet of tubing a week ago, and now it’s a trailer.’”
He’s found his passion and his future. After testing with Local 392 Pipefitters in March, Keyes will begin work in June, after graduation.
Keyes is one of more than 1,100 seniors who will be honored at Great Oaks Senior Ceremonies this spring. He and the others will go through graduation and receive their high school diploma from their original high school, but from Great Oaks they will receive something additional: A Career Passport.
The Career Passport includes the professional certifications they have earned, a listing of the college credit they may have completed, and documentation of the skills they learned during their time at Great Oaks.
Seniors who are finishing their time at one of the four Oaks campuses — or who completed a Great Oaks satellite program at their high school — have earned hundreds of hours of college credit. They are licensed as practical nurses or cosmetologists, or are certified in a wide range of areas—from robotics to veterinary assisting to culinary arts.
Watching the seniors graduate is a bittersweet time for instructors, who typically work with the same group of students every day for two years.
“This is just as difficult for us as it is for the students,” said welding instructor Phil Moore. “But that’s what we’re here for; that’s what we do. We’re here to watch them leap into the real world.”
Meanwhile, Nathan Keyes has some advice for the next group of Great Oaks students. “Try a career field you think you might enjoy. Go for it while you’re still in high school. If you don’t like it, you’re young — there’s plenty of time to try something else.”
He’s ready for the next step. “I’ll miss Scarlet Oaks, but I’m excited to graduate. I just want to keep learning.”