KANSAS CITY, MO — The Kansas City Public Schools district is working to let students know they have a future here in their hometown.
KCPS is partnering with the Kansas City Water Department in the Water Management Systems Program.
“This unique program started roughly about four years ago in partnership with the water department and Kansas City Public Schools,” Christopher McNeil, director of career and technical education for KCPS, said. “We’re all about really trying to create those opportunities for our students to be college and career ready.”
Nasson Toban, 22, was one of the first students in the program just a few years ago. Toban now enjoys working at the Kansas City Water Department.
“I do, I love my job,” Toban said.
Toban works as a Waste Water Treatment Plant Operator, something he realized was possible while keeping his head above water in high school.
“In the area I’m assigned, I inspect and make sure everything is working properly,” Toban said. "I think it was the benefits, I was in a point in my life that I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school.”
However, Toban said he was recruited thanks to the partnership.
“A lot of benefits on the medical end," Toban said. "I didn’t have Medicare at the time, so I needed some coverage. I needed something that was sustainable and reliable."
McNeil said students do a lot of their training at the Manual Career and Technical Center.
“The career center, which is called Manual Career and Tech Ed," McNeil said. "And so the students, they are dually enrolled into their home school, and also into the area career center.“
McNeil said the program allows students to do traditional high school while learning technical skills.
"So they will do their core at their traditional, comprehensive high school, and then they will do their technical skills training over at Manual Tech," he said.
McNeil says this program helps students roll directly over into a career after high school.
“The goal for our district is by 2030, all of our students will graduate with one market value asset that ultimately prepares them for their future endeavors,” McNeil said. “That can include an industry recognized credential internship, at least nine college credits, some kind of client connected project.”
According to Toban and McNeil, the program is creating a ripple effect for current seniors like Edwin Godoy.
“In my freshman year, we took a field trip to Manual tech and I heard about that class and I'm like, 'This is kind of interesting,'” Godoy said. “Because it’s like a necessary job that we all need, because we all need water. So I’m like this is fun.”
Godoy says he was unsure about attending college and this program gave him a pathway to a successful future.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to study and I didn’t want to waste money and stuff like that," he said. "So I found this job with great pay and great benefits, I’m like, I think I gotta do this.”
Godoy is now preparing by taking classes, involving a lot of math and science to work alongside Toban in uncharted waters.
“We were talking a lot about like chemicals and Chlorine, Oxygen, UV, Ozone 2, stuff like that,” Godoy said.
In the meantime, Godoy and Toban want students to know that there is a path to success for them out there.
“I wish that a lot of people our age would realize that the traditional route is not always the route for everybody,” Toban said. “I’m in school as I work here as well, but some people don’t like school or don’t go to school and they just don’t know what to do with it. So I wish people would have more exposure to jobs like this.”