Jesse Smith one of many TCAT success stories

Partnerships between our school system and Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCATs) in Pulaski and Hohenwald give students in welding, residential plumbing & wiring, construction, and industrial maintenance programs an early start and a convenient finish.

High school seniors can earn credit toward graduation and those TCAT certification programs simultaneously. After graduation, they can return to their high school classroom, working with the same instructor and that year’s seniors, to finish their TCAT requirements. County-wide, 208 high school students are enrolled in classes that offer that opportunity.

Loretto High School has 30 in welding and 13 in residential plumbing & wiring from TCAT Pulaski. At Summertown High School, 42 are taking building construction technology from TCAT Pulaski and 54 are enrolled in a new welding program from TCAT Hohenwald. Lawrence County High has 55 in residential wiring & plumbing and 14 in welding, both from TCAT Pulaski. Five more LCHS students are part of a TCAT Hohenwald industrial maintenance technology program at the former Murray building.

Finishing postsecondary work at their high school is the right choice for many students, for many reasons. For 2019 Summertown graduate Jesse Smith, it offered an opportunity he might not otherwise have had.

“Being able to return to the high school setting where he was comfortable, extremely independent and had already achieved so much success only strengthened his ability to finish his TCAT course,” said his mom, Brenda Smith.

He graduated high school with one TCAT trimester under his belt and finished three more with TCAT/SHS instructor Joe Chapman. In June 2020 he received his Building Construction Technology certificate.

Jesse found his calling in Chapman’s DE Carpentry classes early in his high school career. “Jesse was always early, stayed late, and never missed a day. He would always make sure the job was complete before he would leave,” Chapman said. “He is always positive no matter the situation. His attitude is on spot and he is a great role model for my other students.”

Jesse’s classmates elected him Prom King and Mr. SHS, and Summertown’s principal and faculty members still sing his praises. They remember him as the school greeter – his mom dropped him off at 7:15 every morning.

“He started every day by opening the door and greeting everyone by name. We are pretty sure he knew the name of every person who attended or worked at SHS,” said art teacher Corey Lazarowicz. “There was something special about knowing every day at least one

person was going to say, ‘Good morning, I hope you have a good day,’” counselor Lisa Ambrose added.

“He was and is valued beyond measure by those of us who were fortunate to cross paths with him,” said SHS principal Lain Henson. School counselor Clarissa Huntley declares “everyone needs a Jesse Smith in their life.”

“Reminders of Jesse’s kindness are all over our school,” said Lazarowicz. He made every teacher a wooden name plate as a freshman in DE Carpentry, and two years later made them pencil-shaped pencil holders.

He also impressed his Ayers Foundation counselor, Hope Perry. Every local high school student has at least one at their school, who are there to help them take advantage of post-secondary education opportunities. She kept him on track to meet paperwork and community service deadlines.

“Jesse is one of the most motivated students I have had since I have been at Summertown High School,” Perry said. “Anytime I needed extra help, he was the first one to sign up.”

He received the Lawrence County Education Foundation’s William & Doris Guthrie Scholarship, earmarked by the donors for graduates of Summertown High School. He got his license in order to drive himself to school, and was pleased that his graduate student status afforded him iced tea with his cafeteria lunch.

The best thing about his Building Construction Technology (BCT) certification? It helped him get a job at Lawrenceburg’s Tractor Supply Company (TSC) and better serve his customers there. BCT covers carpentry, plumbing, electric, and masonry, so he can give informed advice to people looking for tools and supplies.

TSC manager John Harmond hired him as a custodian but his attention to detail and attitude earned him a spot on the store floor. “Whatever I give him to do he does to perfection. He always gives 150%.”

“I do anything they ask me to,” Jesse said. “I enjoy everything.” In addition to helping customers, his duties include filling propane tanks, stocking shelves, making price changes, gathering online orders, caring for plants in the new garden center, and answering the phone.

Harmond won’t let him set up a cot and live at TSC, but Jesse said he will sometimes “let” him work over or fill in for an absent co-worker. He typically arrives at least 30 minutes before his shift begins.

Customers and co-workers love him. “Jesse is part of a family here,” Harmond explained. “So many team members come to me and say, ‘it doesn’t matter what kind of day I’m having, he brightens my day.’ I hired him, but I thank him for choosing this company to work for.”

Jesse’s future plans include more volunteer work in the community. He hopes whatever he does gives him knowledge to help his TSC customers more.

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