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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 30, 2010

BKW senior
Mr. Gonyea goes to Washington

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — Berne-Knox-Westerlo senior Jordan Gonyea returned recently from a trip to Washington.

There, he met United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, along with the national officers of SkillsUSA, the program that brought him to D.C., and he took part in skill-building and leadership activities.

“Basically, the reason we went to talk to her was because the Perkins Grant, which funds career and technical schools, is about end in 2012,” Gonyea said. “And we wanted to let Kirsten Gillibrand know the importance of career and technical schools, and how they help kids progress through school, and eventually through the workforce.”

Gonyea thought that, given his academic experience in the last two years, he would be able to get the message across.

“I told them I was supposed to graduate last year, but I’d decided my life was going nowhere, and I wanted to join a career and technical school because it’s something I’ve always been good at,” Gonyea explained. He used to help his uncle with home construction projects, and found he had a knack for it.

In his junior year, he decided to enroll in the Board of Cooperative Educational Services career and technical school in Schoharie, and got involved with the local chapter of SkillsUSA, an organization that prepares teachers and college and high-school students for careers in technical and service occupations.

Eventually, Gonyea was chosen as the treasurer for the local SkillsUSA chapter; now, he is the state treasurer. And, through his course, he has gotten to operate heavy equipment, like excavators and bulldozers.

“The thing I’ve always liked about construction is, at the end of the day, you can see the progress you’ve made, and you’re getting something done,” said Gonyea. “I worked as a cook for a while, and it’s the same thing every day, and you don’t feel like you’ve accomplishing anything. With construction, you can go in and physically see what you’ve done. It’s like a reward for me at the end of the day.”

After high school, Gonyea plans to go to the State University of New York College of Technology at Alfred, where he will study in the school’s heavy equipment, truck, and diesel technician program.

“So, not only will I have operations under my belt, but I can be a technician and be able to repair these things,” said Gonyea.

He said his trip to Washington taught him to use his voice “to connect with important people.”

And he thinks that this skill, combined with those gained though his career and technical education, will carry him forward.

“Before I joined career and tech, I was heading nowhere; my grades were honestly fairly poor; I just couldn’t find anything that interested me in school, and the last-minute decision to join career and technical school totally changed my life,” Gonyea concluded. “Now, I feel like I can take on the world, and I’m not afraid to do it.”

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