(Note: 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 Career & Technical Education program through the Clare-Gladwin Regional Education Service District.)
Sometimes, you find your career. And sometimes, your career finds you.
Haley Forbes doesn’t really know why she chose to study Criminal Justice for two years in the Clare-Gladwin Career & Technical Education program. But the 2014 Beaverton graduate is sure glad she did.
Today, she’s a full-time college student and working in emergency services and security for The Dow Chemical Company. And she’s drawing on her CTE experience in high school to maximize both opportunities.
“In CTE, I can definitely say there were moments when I thought, ‘Wow, this is what I want to do,’” said Forbes. “D.J. Newman, our instructor, told us on the first day that his job was to either push us away from Criminal Justice or pull us in. Due to his teaching and guidance, he pulled me in; I was intrigued after Chapter One.”
Newman’s instruction provided a potent mix of on-the-job training and life’s lessons; both appealed to Forbes.
“The thing that I liked best was that he pushed me; I needed someone to push me,” she said. “I was a naïve girl who thought that when someone tells you you have to do 30 pushups, it meant you really only had to do 10. But if Mr. Newman said to do 30 pushups, he meant do 40. Through all the reading between the lines that I did with Mr. Newman, I ultimately learned that the only person holding you back from being great is yourself.”
Forbes also developed a deep appreciation for the men and women working in criminal justice.
“The material I studied and the people I met really helped me decide I wanted to go into this field,” she said. “The women and men working in the field are a service to our community; they risk their lives every day, whether they’re corrections officers or road officers or judges or prosecutors. They’re helping people who may not even want help.
“This is a selfless line of work, and you do it for the lives you change every day,” she added. “I’m not saying that other fields don’t change peoples’ lives, but if you aren’t a police officer, you don’t have much room to tell a police officer how to do the job.”
Although she attended CTE as a high school junior and senior, the class often felt like the next level; it still does.
“CTE helped prepare me for college, tremendously,” she said. “Actually, sitting here in college right now, I kind of feel like I am still in high school CTE because it feels exactly the same. It was like a family, and I loved how I got to meet new people from different schools – that also helped me with college, because it is a familiar situation.”
Forbes has attacked college and work with the same zeal that earned her the Breaking Traditions Merit Award, given to students who surpass obstacles and stereotypes to achieve success in CTE programs by the Michigan Department of Education.
“I’m a female excelling in a male-dominant field,” she said. “This is very hard, to go above and beyond and be able to fight all the biased norms in criminal justice. But I did, and I’ll keep breaking traditions because I believe that I’m good enough.
“I’ve been in Dow’s co-op program for two years now,” Forbes added. “At work, our goal is to put everyone’s safety and security first. I work in the access management end of the department – working with foreign nationals, granting and controlling restricted access and patrolling the Midland site. Knowing that my job is important to the smooth operations of The Dow Chemical Company is gratifying every day.”
It’s little surprise that Forbes believes in CTE’s potential to help students determine career possibilities. She also believes in those life’s lessons she’s picked up along the way.
“Without CTE, I would most certainly not be where I am right now, and I know that for a fact,” she said. “Because of CTE, I got a huge head start in my college career. That program was the gateway to my future. If you want to know what college is going to be like, do CTE. You’ll really regret taking your sweet ol' time and putting things off in high school. Don't put on a front that you can handle the world when you don't even know what’s out there. People are trying to help you. You can be your own self, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take others’ wise advice.”