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GLENS FALLS — Area BOCES students donned their caps and gowns Friday night as they walked toward their futures in the workforce or in furthering their education.

The Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex (WSWHE) BOCES Career and Technical Education (CTE) program aims to close the skill gap, helping students gain employment and benefiting industries in need of workers.

Students who began their BOCES education two years ago are leaving the program with either a certification or an educational foundation that will accelerate their success in the workforce.

One of two graduations was held Friday evening at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls as parents watched their teens and their peers prepare for their first summer post-high school.

The students at the ceremony echoed the program’s objective of enhancing their skills in a particular trade or field of work before leaving high school.

Benjamin Ewald of Warrensburg was excited to walk across the stage. He studied welding through the BOCES program and will join the Navy after school. Though Ewald won’t be jumping from the BOCES program to the workforce, he values the education he was given.

“It’s awesome. I learned a very good trade,” he said. “I am certified for it in two years, so it will give me a boost.”

He said with confidence that his future will have welding in it.

Reagan Steves of Hartford entered the health occupations BOCES program two years ago. This upcoming fall, Steves said she will go to SUNY Adirondack to further her education to become a registered nurse, building upon her BOCES education. She spoke fondly about her time in the BOCES program.

“It definitely helped me come out of my shell,” Steves said of the program. “I was very quiet and reserved and it really put my passions through.”

Regional BOCES Director of Instructional Programs Nancy DeStefano believes this graduating class is special because of its high achievement. Seven students from this class are competing in Louisville, Kentucky in the national level of the SkillsUSA competition. Most years, DeStefano said around four to five make it.

The graduating class of 2018 consists of 579 students. The other graduation ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. Monday at the Saratoga Springs City Center. The graduations were split by education learning centers: Southern Adirondack Education Center or F. Donald Myers Education Center.

DeStefano said BOCES’ goal is to connect with industry leaders and align their needs to the students’ education. She also notices the trends that the workforce and industries are going toward. Programs like culinary arts, heavy equipment programs (in which students can pursue their commercial driver’s license and other certifications), welding and early childhood education are growing.

“We have a lot of programs that are year-after-year highly attended,” she said. “So, what we also try to do is work with our industry partners in the region to find out what areas they need students to be skilled workers for an entry-level position.”

DeStefano said the programs are growing in enrollment.

There is an archived feed online at the WSWHE BOCES YouTube page where parents can re-watch the moment their child received their recognition for two years of hard work — something that may stick with them for their life and career.

Andrew David Kuczkowski is the education reporter. Andrew can be reached at 518-742-3354. Follow Andrew on Twitter: @ByKuczkowski.

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