PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Rows of plastic chairs in front of a podium and table lined up for visitors at Woodruff Career and Technical Center Friday.

For the first time, the trade school hosted “Signing Day,” honoring graduating seniors from the Woodruff career pathway program.

The 14 recognized students had all been offered a full-time job upon high school graduation. At Friday’s ceremony, each student took their turn signing their letter of intent to each company.

Part of Peoria Public Schools (PPS), Woodruff offers high school students an alternative educational path that is centered around learning a trade, rather than preparing for college. Among other opportunities, the students can get school credit for paid internships.

The seniors honored include:

  • Ana Chavez, signing with Cafe Santa Rosa
  • Kristopher Dykeman, signing with Fritch Heating & Cooling Inc.
  • Dusti Faichney, signing with Downing’s Campustown Autobody
  • Terrell Farmer, signing with Peoria County
  • Chaniya Ferguson, signing with Vanilla Sugar Face & Body
  • Taylor Ghidina, signing with Apostolic Christian Skylines
  • Alexis Henderson, signing with Sous Chef
  • Adam Long, signing with the Mid-Central Illinois Regional Council of Carpenters
  • Kobe Oliver, signing with M&O Insulation Co.
  • Omar Orduna, signing with Jim’s Autobody & Refinishing
  • Salmai Oseguera, signing with Great Harvest Bread Co.
  • Talon Rose, signing with Maaco Collision Repair & Auto Painting
  • Ethan Travis, signing with Koenig Body & Equipment Inc.
  • Zachory Yancick, signing Childer’s Eatery

Woodruff encourages students to pursue the trades. One of the seniors, Kristopher Dykeman, will be working in HVAC.

“I got into it because I thought it would be interesting, and you can make a lot of good money from it,” he said.

On top of his guaranteed full-time job with Fritch Heating & Cooling Inc., Dykeman will also go to Illinois Central College (ICC) in the fall for HVAC education.

Another graduating senior, Adam Long, signed with the local carpenter’s union, and will eventually get an apprenticeship after further schooling in Pekin.

He said he got into carpentry because he enjoys the hands-on work, and the idea of taking out student loans to get a bachelor’s degree did not appeal to him.

 “I feel like it gives me a jump start,” Long said.

Long said it is one of few tasks where he can focus, and that helps calm him down.

“I feel like I have a really good advantage just in life in general, because a lot of people who go to college don’t even use their degrees,” he said. “I feel like I’m set up pretty well.”

His mother works at the school, Long said, and he said he is grateful he was able to go through the career pathway program.

“When I found out I had this opportunity, I feel like I had to take for the people who didn’t have that opportunity,” he said.

As each student took their turn signing their letter of intent, their families and, in many cases, their future employers joined them at the front of the crowd while they signed.

“I haven’t really gotten the feeling of ‘oh hey, I’m actually going to be doing this for the rest of my life yet,’” he said. “But really putting the pen to the paper, I think it felt good to have all these people watching me.”