Jefferson Area Technical Career Center has undergone some recent changes in its ongoing mission to provide new opportunities for Jefferson County high-school students.

Jefferson Area Technical Career Center has undergone some recent changes in its ongoing mission to provide new opportunities for Jefferson County high-school students.

To anyone passing the organization’s administrative offices located 221 S. Beech St., the name above the door is one of the most obvious changes. Formerly known as Jefferson Area Vocational Center, the center has a new name to reflect a more accurate description of available programs, according to Director Johnny Handley.

When people think of a vocational school, they normally think of programs for lower-achieving students, Handley said.

"A lot of what we do is preparation for technical careers and that requires a lot of knowledge and training," Handley said.

"We are the best kept secret in town."

Handley became director three years ago after retiring from a 30-year career in the Pine Bluff School District. Motivated by his "great love for working with kids," Handley said his new role "fits like a glove."

JATCC now features an enhanced Clinical Nursing Assistant Program. In addition to students learning basic nursing and personal care skills, restorative services and safety and emergency care, those completing the course can now receive a CNA certification by taking the state test.

Through a partnership with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, students are provided an opportunity to participate in the Student Health Careers Exposure Program (SHEP — an internship and shadowing program that provides exposure to and hands-on learning experience in the health-care field.

Another program, The Criminal Justice Program, has also made a recent collaboration to broaden its students’ capabilities. Criminal justice students can choose from courses relating to law enforcement or corrections and learn a variety of professional techniques such as evidence collection, witness interviewing, traffic and crowd control, public relations and basic crime prevention.

The program is "a way for students to explore their interest," said class instructor Kurwin White.

Student Keyshawn Brinkley said he has gained a new respect for the field.

"I wasn’t thinking about criminal justice before I took the class," said the Watson Chapel High School sophomore. "But now I am more concerned about helping my community."

For the first time, the Criminal Justice Program has teamed with the Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management, adding OEM’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training to the eight-week curriculum. The Teen CERT training, taught by Wesley Hunt, is a national Homeland Security initiative designed to ensure that students have the skills needed to protect themselves and help others in the event of an emergency.

"This is good for the environment," Brinkley said. "I feel prepared for any disaster. "Training includes disaster preparedness, fire safety, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue operations, CERT organization, disaster psychology, terrorism and disaster simulation.

Programs in Business and Marketing Technology, Medical Assistant, Computer Aided Drafting (CAD), and Welding are also available through JATCC.

All programs are open to students enrolled in grades 10-12 throughout Jefferson County and include the option to transfer earned credits to SEARK College upon high school graduation.

For more information about programs, contact 870-534-1944.