WOODVILLE-TOMPKINS HIGH SCHOOL: Preparing women for success

click to enlarge WOODVILLE-TOMPKINS HIGH SCHOOL: Preparing women for success
Kristy Edenfield
Serani Hassan

During Women’s History Month, we celebrate women who have chipped away at the glass ceiling - women who lived before us, upon whose shoulders we now stand.

Woodville-Tompkins High School is training the next generation of diverse and fierce women who will shatter that ceiling.

Serani Hassan, a sophomore at Woodville-Tompkins High School, is not what you might expect in an automotive pathway program - wearing a hijab as she is under the hood of cars that she is working on, next to her male counterparts.

Of the automotive pathway, Hassan says, “Funny enough, it wasn’t my first choice, I wasn’t expecting to get into the automotive program, but then once I got there, after my first class, I couldn’t stop, I was just so in love with the class, I was so in love with what I was learning.”

Hassan now feels confident in the skills that she has learned in her years at Woodville-Tompkins, “auto shops usually like to take advantage of women, but now I can do repairs at home for way less money.”

“One of my favorite things to do is rimming tires; we went from semi truck tires to passenger vehicle tires. I was specifically the leader for that unit so it was fun.”

click to enlarge WOODVILLE-TOMPKINS HIGH SCHOOL: Preparing women for success
Kristy Edenfield
Serani Hassan

Hassas states that her dad loves that she is in the automotive program, “he keeps telling me, you don’t know how important it is, fixing cars is a very important life skill.”

“My mom went to the automotive repair place and they told her that her cabin air filter needs changing and the price was $175.”  Her mom paid the bill, “I was like, are you serious, you can go buy the filter for $75 and do it in 5 minutes.”

Upon graduation from Woodville-Tompkins, Hassan wants to go to college to become an obstetrician gynecologist.

While Woodville-Tompkins has a ratio of 57 percent female and 43 percent male students, the ratio is much different in the automotive program, “my first class was two girls and 28 boys, but it feels like a family by the end of the semester because you learn so much together. Mr. Garrison likes to put the girls in charge.”

Her years of being in a classroom full of men will serve her well in medical school, “To be in a classroom full of boys is a lot of mental strength - boys be boys - they are a little immature, maybe they don’t want to focus now and then, maybe they want to make different types of jokes, you just have to not get distracted by what they are thinking or saying.” 

If you have a clunker of a car that you want to donate to the program, Mr. Garrison will gladly take it off your hands to use in the classroom, and you will receive a receipt to use for a tax deduction.  

Fact - In the United States, women earn 84 cents for every dollar a man makes - Black women, 64 cents - Latina women, just 55 cents.

Noemi Presa is a senior who works at the Members First Credit Union branch that they have on the Woodville-Tompkins campus. Students and staff can do their banking right there at school.  

Presa will graduate from Woodville-Tompkins in May having completed three pathways: marketing, accounting, banking and finance.

Members First Credit Union has offered Presa a full time position as a teller, and she will continue to work for Members First Credit Union while attending Georgia Southern for marketing and accounting.

click to enlarge WOODVILLE-TOMPKINS HIGH SCHOOL: Preparing women for success
Kristy Edenfield
Noemi Presa

“I really want to work closely with people who speak Spanish, because for me personally, there weren’t a lot of hispanic or Spanish speaking tellers when me and my family went to the bank. It was often disappointing and very stressful because we didn’t receive the same level of customer service. A bank wants to give really good customer service to their members, but as soon as there is a language boundary, suddenly it all falls apart,”  Presa explains of her childhood experience of going to the bank with her parents who immigrated from Mexico.

“I don’t want a kid like me to have to grow up so fast and need to translate for their parents because they can’t understand what the teller across the window is saying.”

Presa wants to remain in banking, “I do see myself working with Members First, and down the road in a more Hispanic culture community, that way I can provide the customer service that I want them to experience, the customer service that I wanted my parents to experience without any language barriers.”

“I’ve been able to work in business development and represent Members First Savasaurus Club at some elementary schools and general school events,” says Presa. “We created a game for them that teaches them how to save, and the kids really love it.”

While working at branch banks off campus during school breaks, Presa has gained experience working with multigenerational colleagues, “I feel part of the Members First team, it is like a happy family, a close knit family. I am excited to start working full-time in the summer; they treat the students as equals, and we bring a young spirit to the workplace.” 

Of her family she says, “I see my dad working so hard in construction, I want to make things easier for him and my mom too. He is always working, so many days out in the sun, it is having an effect on him. I hope that as I start working full-time, I can bring in more money and pay those extra bills that my parents are stressing over; even if I just take one bill like the water bill or the phone bill so that they don’t have to worry about it, and they can put their money into taking care of themselves, that is what I really want in the end.” 

Presa was born in the United States, and she will be voting for the first time in November, “I feel like a grown up now - I am a working woman.”  

“I am so lucky to get the opportunity to learn important life skills, because I know that my parents didn’t get that opportunity.  I am realizing every day how lucky I am to be at this school and I am grateful that I got to experience my education here.” 

Of her future, Presa says, “I really want to work in business development, with kids and Hispanic speakers.”  

Fact - A 20-year-old woman just starting full-time, year-round work stands to lose $407,760 over a 40-year career compared to her male counterpart.

Kamryn Middleton has been accepted to 16 universities, she has narrowed her choices down to Clemson or Mercer.

After completing both the healthcare and culinary pathways, Middleton has decided that she wants to be a doctor.

“There are some similarities between healthcare and culinary,” Middleton explains. “Especially when you get to the sanitation side. When I was in the healthcare class we had to wash our hands a lot, that’s also what you have to do in culinary; you have to know how long to wash your hands.  Things like that transfer over to healthcare from culinary.  Also certain viruses and pathogens, we go over that both in healthcare and culinary.” 

Like Persa and Hassas, Middleton will also be a generation changer, “I’ll be the first to graduate college in my family.”

“I’m not going to lie, when I first got into the culinary arts program my sophomore year I thought that it was going to be a lot different than it actually was,” noting that she thought it was going to be a lot of eating, “but we don’t get to eat that much of what we cook.” 

“I’ve learned a lot of the things about culinary that I didn’t know beforehand - a lot about food safety, such as what temperature certain foods should be cooked to and held at.”

“What I like about culinary is that if you pass the test, you get the ServSafe Certification, which prepares you for a career immediately after high school”. 

click to enlarge WOODVILLE-TOMPKINS HIGH SCHOOL: Preparing women for success
Kristy Edenfield

“I like making the biscuits, they are really hands-on - that is what I like about culinary, it is hands-on and you get to make it yourself.”  Paired with her healthcare certification, those hands-on skills will translate to the medical field.

“You learn patience even more in culinary because a lot of times for cooking you have to wait, you have to wait on the food. If you are making bread from scratch you have to wait for it to rise, or you have to wait for something to cool off before you can wrap it. You have to have a lot of patience; and even with my classmates, you have to have patience with the people around you because sometimes it can get intense in the kitchen, so you have to have patience and learn how to be calm under pressure.”

“Another thing that I like about culinary is that you have a lot of opportunities for community service,” she says about her years at Woodville-Tompkins. “I get to not only work with people my own age, but also people older, and that is a very nice skill to have, working with people of different age groups.” 

Middleton says, “All of the pathways are very interactive.  When I was in healthcare I went to clinicals, we went for three days during the week.  We went to the hospital and we actually got to work with patients.” 

“In all of the pathways you get certifications to help you build your resume.”  Middleton will graduate with three certifications from two pathways - nursing assistant, ServSafe manager, and NOTCI (National Occupational Competency Testing Institute).

Woodville-Tompkins has had a 100 percent graduation rate since the school’s first graduating class in 2015, with the exception of 2016 when it had 99 percent - compared to the state averages of 79 to 84 percent over those same years. No other SCCPSS can boast that rate of success. 

Along with the 100 percent student graduation rate, 93 percent of the students earn at least one certification, and 97 percent have AP or dual enrollment credits - giving them both workforce and college choices.

Woodville-Tompkins is a SCCPS Choice School with 691 students, 22 of them being PreK students enrolled to work with high school students in the early childhood education pathway.

Pathways include: Hospitality Tourism Marketing, Automotive, Cosmetology, Early Childhood Education, Culinary Arts, Welding, Aviation, Engineering Robotics Manufacturing, Business Department, Healthcare Sciences.

Woodville Tompkins Technical & Career High School gives students the opportunity to excel academically while gaining invaluable hands-on experience in real work, real world environments. Students benefit from an intensive level of guidance and instruction designed to equip students with the skills needed to succeed in both secondary education and highly competitive job markets. This advanced technical training provides students with the skills needed to compete in a global economy and become leaders in their field.  

What people are saying about Woodville-Tompkins High School:

Alfred McGuire - Principal - Woodville-Tompkins:

“Woodville Tompkins is a tremendous place where a school really becomes a family. Faculty and staff are committed to student success and strive everyday to make sure students are prepared for life beyond high school. This unique and supportive school environment has been a catalyst for our students’ success.”

Roger Moss - School Board President - SCCPSS:

“Woodville is a shining example of a high school that lives up to our superintendent's goal of education that gives students "choice filled lives".  Those choices transcend gender. At Woodville all students are encouraged and empowered to pursue those choices and you are likely to see young women in welding as well as other programs.”

Molly Lieberman - Executive Director - Loop It Up:

“Mr. McGuire is an amazing principal. He and his team at Woodville-Tompkins are absolute warriors for opportunity, making sure that the students of Woodville-Tompkins have a chance to experience so many layers of the world through hands-on learning. Between the impressive programs offered by the school, and the web of vibrant and diverse community partners that Mr.McGuire has built to support his school community, students at Woodville are receiving not only a fantastic education, but connections to leaders and career opportunities throughout Savannah and beyond.”

Denise Grabowski - School Board Representative, District 1 - SCCPSS:

“I’ll never forget when I first met the welding instructor at Woodville-Tompkins, he spoke about the first Woodville-Thompkins student that graduated with the certifications and expertise needed to go straight to work for JCB – a young lady who made him beam with pride as he shared her story.  Although known for their exemplary trade programs, Woodville-Thompkins is also preparing students who wish to continue their education for success, as demonstrated through their recent recognition as an AP Expansion School.”

Connie Hall - School Board Representative, District 3 - SCCPSS:

“Woodville-Tompkins has become one of our premier high schools thanks to the commitment and dedicated leadership of Mr. McGuire and his outstanding faculty and staff. Our Woodville-Tompkins women graduates have gone on to stellar careers. Kudos to the depth and breadth of the curriculum offered at Woodville-Tompkins which provides many options for academic and personal growth.  As a board member, I am elated and encouraged by the achievements I have witnessed over the past decade.”

David Bringman - School Board Representative, District 6 - SCCPSS:

“Woodville-Tompkins is a hidden jewel of SCCPSS, steeped in CTAE programs that offer Chatham County students direct pathways to gainful employment.  Under Mr. McGuire's leadership this school has achieved a 100% graduation rate for many years. My son hopes to attend this High School to focus on welding.”

Michael Johnson - School Board Representative, District 7 - SCCPSS:

“Woodville-Tompkins has created a supportive environment where young women feel empowered to explore diverse interests and pursue their passions regardless of gender stereotypes. I am hopeful that the District will continue to show all of the young women within our District that no matter what their passion is, they are motivated through Woodville-Tompkins' education pathway and show leadership development, entrepreneurship skills, and a drive to do what they are called to do, not what they are told to do.”

Stephanie Campbell - community member - candidate, District 7:

"As a teacher, I know that receiving early technical skills is vital to success in the workforce.  That’s why Woodville-Tompkins, which offers students career pathways while they are still in high school, is so valuable to our community.  They are preparing students - a majority of whom are women - for a bright and promising future!"

Tonia Howard-Hall - School Board Representative, District 8 - SCCPSS:

“The commitment of Woodville-Tompkins to academic excellence is evident in the exceptional achievements of its students. From consistently high standardized test scores to impressive college acceptance rates, Woodville-Tompkins continues to set a standard of excellence that is truly commendable.

One aspect that particularly stands out is Woodville-Tompkins's dedication to preparing young women for success in the workforce. By providing a comprehensive curriculum that not only focuses on academic subjects but also includes practical skills and opportunities for real-world experiences, the school is equipping its students with the tools they need to thrive in today's competitive job market.

The supportive and inclusive environment fostered at Woodville-Tompkins plays a crucial role in empowering its students to break barriers and pursue their dreams without limitations.

I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Mr. McGuire, the faculty, staff, and administrators at Woodville-Tompkins for their unwavering commitment to academic excellence and preparing both young men and women for the workforce.”

Kristy Edenfield

Freelance Correspondent
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