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ICON students recognized for achievement

Posted on Wednesday, March 13, 2024 at 8:00 am


Students were recognized at a reception last Thursday for their participation in the ICON program. (Photos by Zoe Watkins)

The Innovative Career Opportunity Network (ICON) program is an initiative in Bedford County Schools that has the goal to empower local high schools students by providing them with real-world, paid work experiences that match their career goals.

Through this program, students are given the opportunity to gain valuable skills and knowledge that will give them a head start in their chosen careers. Additionally, local employers benefit from the prescreened candidates for entry-level positions.

“It means a lot to this nation to know the next generation is moving into the workforce. That is extremely important,” said Shane Hooper. “It is important for people to graduate with skills that are employable. It is important for our industries to communicate back to our schools the types of skillsets they need.”

A reception was held at First Community Bank Thursday evening to provide students with certificates and plaques for participation in this ICON program.

As of today, this program has over 6,285 hours of work by the students, according to Hooper. “That represents over $31,000 in savings to the employers,” said Hooper.

The program is supported in part through a $5 million Innovative Schools Grant from the State of Tennessee that BCS is using to expand Career and Technical Education at the high schools and middle schools.

Scott Blevins

Scott Blevins is the ICON Program Coordinator and interacts with community partners. He said the program also runs because of the two career coaches which help guide students forward.

“I go out and find the placements that our coaches recruit students to fill,” said Blevins. He explained the “seeds” of the ICON program started eight years ago when Michael McCoin, SCHS CTE principal, suggested starting work-based learning at the high school.

“We had success over those eight years, but I never felt like it was a complete bridge from you guys leaving high school to that fulltime employment,” said Blevins.

This is an essential bridge as more than half of Bedford County student enter the workforce immediately after graduating (versus going to secondary education).

“Our local community has been wonderful in welcoming our kids in and that is what our focus is…We can graduate them on a Saturday in May and on Monday morning they’re going to work with all the skills they need,” said Blevins.

Blevins said they have 17 employers across the county and nearly 30 students placed in those positions. Many of the students honored at the reception work for various companies around the county, like Musgrave Pencil, First Community Bank, Bedford County Schools, WLIJ radio station, local daycares and mechanics.

From left, Assistant Superintendent Tim Harwell, CTE Director Lori Sexton, and Central High CTE Principal Michael McCoin.

Speaking to the students, Bedford County Mayor Chad Graham said, “I want you to believe in something greater than yourself. I want you to chase your dreams whatever they are — if they’re in Bedford or even if they bring you back to Bedford, that’s most important.”