(Note: February is Career & Technical Education Month. In recognition of the vital role vocational education plays in our schools and communities, this is one in a series of stories of success achieved by local students who participated in the CTE program through the Clare-Gladwin Regional Education Service District.)
When he was a teenager, Derick Roland had a pretty good idea that he’d work in health care someday. But the day-to-day time he logged job shadowing a local physical therapist sealed his occupational fate.
He couldn’t be happier about it.
Now a physical therapist himself for MidMichigan Health, Roland, a 2005 graduate of Harrison High School, credits the Clare-Gladwin CTE program with providing the hands-on skills and experience he needed to launch his career after high school.
“I joined the CTE program to help get an understanding of the health care field,” Roland said. “I was pretty sure that I wanted to work in health care, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, or even of all the options I had. I also felt like being with other students interested in the same types of careers would enhance my education and possibly prepare me for a transition to college.”
Roland discovered that it wouldn’t be long before he had his answer.
“The first day I spent job shadowing a physical therapist, I knew,” he said. “The most beneficial part of the CTE program for me was the job shadow. Being able to be on-site with a PT and see the day-to-day workings – as well as get some hands-on experience – that really helped me determine my career path.”
His interest in the subject matter got Roland on his way; his CTE instructor, Brenda Luckhardt, made sure to keep him interested.
“She was great,” he said. “She was laid back but enthusiastic, and had a great sense of humor. She encouraged group learning and discussion, and she had a wealth of knowledge about the health care field.”
A National Technical Honor Society Excellence in Workforce Education awardee, Roland’s enduring appreciation of the education he received through CTE leaves little doubt as to whether he would encourage today’s local teens to explore their opportunities.
“It is a great opportunity for a different form of learning,” he said. “It can help you decide on a career path or solidify your current choice. You gain knowledge in your chosen field with the opportunity for hands-on experience. You also have the opportunity to work and learn with peers who share the same interests. It is a great experience, and it should be taken advantage of. Because of the CTE program, I was able to find a career that suited my skills and my personality, and it was the beginning of my career as a physical therapist.”
Roland parlayed that early spark of interest into a career that now challenges and fulfills him, along with a happy home life that’s about to get a little more exciting – Roland and his wife Chelsea are expecting their first child in June.
“My career is important to me because it allows me to help people every day,” he said. “The thing I enjoy most about my profession is being able to make a difference in people’s lives.”