Students learn value of education

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 29, 2005

A former chemical engineer for NASA and the University of Alabama in Huntsville gave eighth grade career tech students at Greenville Middle School some valuable career lessons during a visit to the school last Friday.

John Cranston, who currently owns his own golf equipment business and works with the top golfers in the world, visited with four of career tech educator Chris Bennett’s classes on Friday morning.

Cranston utilizes his technical expertise and laboratory experience, combined with his considerable business know-how, to give students across Alabama some important pointers on planning ahead for the future.

With each of Mr. Bennett’s classes, Cranston shared how to form a company with officers, develop a budget, set up a department, produce a product by mixing a formula and determine the profitability of the project – all within a class period.

When asked, the students all agreed technology was an important part of life these days – especially computers.

&uot;I can remember when my wife and I bought our first computer. We spent $2,500 for a 300 Mhz computer and a printer – and that was the fastest thing they had in those days. That’s about the power you would find in this,&uot; Cranston commented as he showed a hand-held calculator to the students.

&uot;Now, do you remember the Dell dude?

He talked about a 3,000 Mhz computer with a printer – ten times faster than our first one – and all for only $699. That’s what I love about computers – you can get more and more stuff and pay less money,&uot; Cranston told the class.

The ever-expanding computer technology field may be the route to success for many of today’s young people.

And many in the GMS Career Tech classes raised their hands when asked if they plan to go on to college.

But whatever road they choose, Cranston encourages young people to make a plan – in fact, make two. And remember it’s never too early to start planning ahead.

&uot;Have you ever noticed how your weekend plans don’t go as you expected? Well, if things can go wrong in only 24 hours’ time, imagine how things can change in nine years,&uot; Cranston told them.

Cranston pointed out only 20 percent of those in the 8th grade who say they plan to attend college, actually go on to graduate from college.

&uot;You have to plan ahead, have the money to finance your education, go to class, study and get the grades before you can graduate. It takes a day-by-day effort and you have to be consistent and go out and do it,&uot; the businessman told the class.

He encouraged all the students to &uot;have a Plan B – investigate things you like and things you don’t like in terms of future work.&uot;

Cranston held up a job application for Waffle House. &uot;No matter what job you are applying for, they are basically going to want to know the same thing – how much education you have and what kind of work experience you have. That’s what they really care about,&uot; he said.

&uot;This employer is going to look at you as a prospective employee and say, ‘How is this person going to make me money for my business?’ – that’s all they care about,&uot; Cranston emphasized.

The former engineer admits he was a four-time college dropout who didn’t graduate from college until age 40.

However, he says he also gained valuable experience along the way, learning skills in the automotive industry, carpentry and masonry that increased job opportunities for him.

He told the students, his life really changed in big ways once he finally got that college diploma.

&uot;I went from being someone with no clue to being a rocket scientist, and then to having my own successful business. Experience plus education really can equal success,&uot; Cranston stressed to the students.

He then asked for student volunteers to hold different positions in his &uot;company&uot; – Bird, Inc. – which manufactures birds created from a special foam formula patented by Cranston himself.

In addition to being amazed by Cranston’s &uot;fabulous foam&uot;, the students learned the importance of keeping accurate records, following directions and adhering to safety rules at work.

They also saw how real-world businesses must determine how to increase worker productivity and to balance money paid out with money earned by the company, taking into consideration all the overhead expenses.

Cranston believes developing technical skills now could be the key to future job success for many area youth.

&uot;We are seeing more and more of the automotive industry moving to this area and there are many valuable skills you can start learning now that could benefit you in the future,&uot; Cranston told the GMS students.

Eighth grader Kevin Morgan, who played the role of chemical engineer during Cranston’s second presentation, was pretty happy about his &uot;work&uot; experience.

&uot;I was using my brain,&uot; he said as he tapped his head and grinned.

Both Bennett and Butler County Career Tech Director Johnny Autrey are excited over this learning opportunity for their students.

&uot;I feel like the students will certainly benefit from what they learned today from Mr. Cranston,&uot; said Bennett.

Autrey said support through grant monies made Cranston’s visit to GMS possible.

&uot;Because of these grant monies our students have gotten to go on field trips to colleges and universities, and to the Innovation Center in Sardis where they have a ‘business incubator’ that helps with growing young businesses,&uot; Autrey added.

The Career Tech director said the middle school Career Technologies program has proven an &uot;excellent feeder program&uot; for the high school’s own Career Tech Program.

&uot;This program gives these kids a great opportunity to formulate ideas about future careers and the programs they want to pursue when they do get to high school,&uot; Autrey said.