2018 Top News Story #3: Connect 4 training program opens for students
By Kelby Newcomb
The Connect 4 program officially opened the Carroll County Career Center this year and began training students in industrial maintenance to prepare them to enter high-paying skilled labor jobs right out of high school.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson attended the grand opening on Monday, Oct. 1, and described Connect 4 as an “Arkansas success story.” He said he was impressed by the partnership between Berryville, Eureka Springs and Green Forest school districts and local industry that made the Connect 4 program possible.
“Getting the three schools working together on a project very important to young people is going to give them opportunities they never had,” Hutchinson said. “The other part of the equation is the industry partners that are a key part of this story here, especially in converting this armory into the Connect 4 industrial maintenance program.”
Berryville, Eureka Springs and Green Forest schools are all represented among the 19 students enrolled in the Connect 4 program’s first year.
“Congratulations to Green Forest, Berryville and Eureka Springs for the partnership and success here,” Hutchinson said. “I’m anxious to see what this partnership will bring in the future.”
C4 administration assistant Jennifer Winkle announced at the C4 advisory board meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 12, that the program will be adding another eight students in the spring semester.
“We’ve got one coming from Eureka Springs, two from Green Forest and five from Berryville,” she had said. “That gives us a total of 27 students, up from 19.”
C4 director James Knight said he had spoken to the students and told them they will all be starting behind a semester and will have to do extra work to catch up to the rest of the class.
The Connect 4 Board hired Knight as director in January after interviewing the five strongest applicants for the position in December. The board later searched for an administrative assistant in June and hired Winkle before the start of the new school year.
Knight said money is not what drove him to take the job. He said he is excited to help Carroll County students train for the future of industry.
“If you can help somebody, you should help,” he said. “That’s the whole reason why I’m interested in this C4 program because we’re helping kids get an education and training them to take part in the future.”
Knight said Tyson Foods and other local industries have invested in the program because they know training students in industrial maintenance will help prepare the next generation of workers for the community.
“It’s very smart. People have been saying this in technical education for years,” he said. “I really see the need in this area and across the United States for more blue-collar workers.”
Knight said he hopes he can inspire his students to succeed and broaden their horizons, just as his mentors did for him.