NCTAI concludes successful year with new course additions

Published 4:21 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2023

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CREEKSVILLE – The Northampton Career and Technical Academy of Innovation (NCTAI) first opened in January 2022, offering several “pathways” for students to pursue.

In the time since, the program has added some new pathways – including cosmetology – and bid farewell to its first group of graduates this year.

“I’ve seen them develop a passion for things that I bet they never thought they’d have a passion for,” said Dr. Amy Draper who serves as the NCTAI Director.

Though it is housed at the former home of Northampton County High School-East, NCTAI isn’t a separate school in the district but an extension of the high school’s Career and Technical Education programs. Participating students attend the campus two days a week for classes taught by instructors from Roanoke-Chowan Community College.

“The kids can earn community college credit, but they also earn certifications for entry level positions in the workforce,” Draper explained.

For students who aren’t interested in pursuing a college degree, this helps give them more options for the future.

Currently, NCTAI is offering courses (called “pathways”) in HVAC, industrial systems, cosmetology, EMS, and nurse aid.

Cosmetology is the newest course which was certified to begin in February. Draper said 12 students signed up for the two-year program. By next spring, she plans for those students to have enough experience that they’re able to open it up to the public to book appointments for haircuts and hairstyling.

That will be under the supervision of the instructor, of course, but it will also give the students more hands-on experience.

That hands-on experience is one of the reasons NCTAI has been successful so far, Dr. Draper explained.

“We’ve got a beautiful facility,” she said. “It’s very modern-looking. I’m really excited for the opportunities that it’s going to offer our children.”

The building, which underwent renovations before NCTAI began offering classes, is decked out with specialized equipment for the different pathway courses.

Dr. Draper also credited the RCCC instructors as another factor in student success. The teachers, she said, are very supportive and help boost student confidence by building relationships.

There are 18 NCTAI students graduating with their diplomas as well as college certificates this year – the first since the program began. Of those students, Draper said that seven are planning to continue studying their “pathway” at Roanoke Chowan Community College.

The ones who aren’t interested in pursuing more education have the skills to pursue a career instead as they enter the workforce. Draper said the NCTAI program offers trades that are needed in the local area.

Many of the students weren’t interested in college or they struggled with traditional school experiences before joining NCTAI.

“But they come here, and it’s hands-on. It’s something they’re interested in. They really find their passion and they really blossom,” Draper said proudly. “It benefits everybody, but most importantly, it benefits the students. It’s just a wonderful, positive experience.”

“I’ve seen the growth,” she continued. “I’m just beyond proud and extremely humbled. And grateful for the opportunity that I’ve been given to lead this adventure because it’s such a needed service in our school district.”

Dr. Draper thanked the county’s Board of Education as well as Northampton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins for their support along the way.

She said they’ll continue to adjust and add offerings to the NCTAI program based on student interest and the job market. Welding is one course, in particular, they’d like to add in the future.

“We’ve decided that growing slow is the way to do it,” Dr. Draper concluded.

For more information about NCTAI, contact Dr. Draper at 252-642-4065.