While most high school students were enjoying the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, Culvain Strang was taking apart a boiler in Mississippi. He was hired to work a plant shutdown at an hourly pay rate of $23. With overtime pay at $34.50 per hour, plus per diem and travel expenses, the high school student received a hefty paycheck for the 15 days he worked during the holidays.
Strang picked up the welding skills he needed to land this in a unique program started in 2009 at Thomasville High School (THS). The Dual Enrollment Program is a collaborative effort among Thomasville City Schools, the City of Thomasville, and Alabama Southern Community College (ASCC), which allows a student to take college classes while still in high school. Strang entered the program during his junior year of high school and began taking a 15-unit series of welding labs on the THS campus. An ASCC instructor taught his classes.
During his senior year, Strang has taken two courses at THS each term and then traveled to the ASCC campus, which is less than a mile from Thomasville High School. Each day, Strang takes welding and other related courses on the ASCC campus. When he finishes in May, he will only need to take two more courses at ASCC to receive his certification.
Strang's welding instructors were not surprised when they heard about the job he landed during school holidays. "Culvain wants to learn," says Jeff McCutcheon, Strang's welding instructor on the THS campus. "I never had to tell Culvain to do anything. He always came in and got right to the job he had to do.”
Brian McIntosh, Stang's instructor at Alabama Southern, echoes McCutcheon's words: "If I had a shop full of Culvain Strangs, my job would be easy. Culvain follows the safety procedures and the rules of the shop 100 percent. Teaching Culvain is not really teaching. It's coaching."
In May, Strang will graduate with a 4.0 average in the Advanced with Honors Diploma Program at THS. He credits his 9th grade science teacher, Stephanie Wright, for encouraging him to stay in the more rigorous academic diploma program. "I wanted to drop out of the Advanced with Honors Program, but she convinced me not to," he says. "Mrs. Wright kept telling me that I could do it and urging me to try."
Strang attributes his work ethic to the way his parents raised him. He grew up working on his family's small farm in the rural community, just south of Thomasville. The Strang brothers also have their own lawn care business.
Strang says the person who has most influenced his life is his dad. "My dad lives what he says," said Strang." He always told my brother and me that 'if you don't work, you don't eat'. I've worked all my life," he says, "but I like to work!"
"I like working with my hands," Strang adds. "I don't like sitting in a classroom. I really want to work construction, like my Dad did," he explains. "Then, I can see where this takes me."
Welding teacher, Brian McIntosh, has no doubts Strang will succeed at whatever he tries. "He's just a natural. If he stays at what he's doing, he will be one of the best."
Submitted by: Carolyn Drinkard, Thomasville City Schools
Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education | P.O. Box 302130 | Montgomery, AL 36130-2130