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Forest Hills High inducts 21 students into AgTech Academy

Dalila Rorie is a freshman at Forest Hills High and was among the 21 students inducted into Forest Hills High AgTech Academy. Dalila has wanted to be a veterinarian since she was a child. She does not have to wait to learn about it. The school offers Agrotechnology (AgTech) pathways in animal science/pre-vet, sustainable plant systems, agricultural mechanical skills, food systems and AgriBusiness. 

The academy provides students with hands-on projects, field trips and guest speakers. Students explore career options while learning marketable skills to give them a competitive advantage in the local and global economy.

"I'm glad our school offers these pathways because it's a way for me to be prepared for when I go to college. I feel like I'm getting a head start," said Dalila. "I'm enjoying the animal sciences classes very much. I love animals. I have a snake, a rabbit and a dog at home." 

Dalila also went to East Union Middle School, where she took AgTech classes. AgTech expanded from East Union Middle, which began in 2019, to Union Elementary, Wingate Elementary and Forest Hills High School this fall due to increased demand and to create a K-12 program. 

During the induction ceremony, Superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan spoke to the ninth and 10th-grade students. He told them about the career possibilities and the partnerships with South Piedmont Community College and Wingate University. He emphasized how students can graduate ready to pursue a good-paying job or continue their education with college credits and affordable tuition. 

"This is a pretty historical day because you are the first to be inducted. The vision is to choose a path, and if you stay committed to it, that will help you prepare for college or a career by the time you graduate," said Dr. Houlihan. "As the founding cohort, you are setting a precedent and the direction for future students. We want to learn from you and get your feedback, too. Congratulations!"

Sophomore Mason Compton is in the sustainable plant systems pathway. One of the things he's liked learning about so far is graftinga horticultural technique used to join parts from two or more plants so that they appear to grow as a single plant.

"As a freshman, I took automotive and horticulture. I liked both but preferred horticulture. I like working in the greenhouse at school and plan to have a garden at home. I also took horticulture at East Union Middle so I was already familiar with it," said Mason. "I'm still exploring the different careers I might want in that pathway."

Both principal Dr. Kevin Plue and assistant principal Mallory Bricker are excited to see the program come to fruition. 

"It allows students to concentrate on what is meaningful and important to them. It gives them something to be excited about when they come to school. The skills they are learning are invaluable," said Bricker. "Our Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers are the cornerstones of this academy. The program wouldn't be possible without them. They generate excitement for the students."

Brooke Phipps, a CTE agriculture teacher, has taught at Forest Hills for seven years. She gets excited about teaching students where their food comes from and the process of getting it from the farm to the table. Phipps also wants students to leave high school with skills that can help them get jobs within Union County if they choose. 

"Union County has a big agricultural industry and is one of the top employers," said Phipps. "There is so much out there. Students often think agriculture is only about being a farmer, a vet or a welder. There are so many careers in between there. This academy gives us the opportunity to expose them to all the careers in Union County, North Carolina and across the U.S."

Union County Public Schools is thankful for the support of partnerships, which include the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, South Piedmont Community College and Wingate University. 

The students inducted into the academy are:

Agricultural Mechanical Skills

Ja'Marion Barrino - ninth grade

Nathaniel Glendening -ninth grade

Agriculture Business

Macey Courtney - 10th grade

Abigail Cruz-Cruz - 10th grade 

Skyler Jackson - 10th grade

Noah Porter - ninth grade

Chloe Wallace - ninth grade

Animal Science/Pre-Vet

Vetzi Ayala-Garcia - 10th grade

Daphine Alvarad-Macdonald - 10th grade

Allison Carrillo Morelos - ninth grade

Hailey Corona-Campos - ninth grade

Rigoberto Genao Collado - ninth grade

Kasey Kiser - ninth grade

Alvardo Melchor Cortes - ninth grade

Athziri Quintana-Andreu - ninth grade

Dalila Rorie - ninth grade

Shirley Urgell - ninth grade

Food Systems

Elizabeth Hernandez-Perez - 10th grade

Karen Izoteco-Carrera - 10th grade

Sustainable Plant Systems

Mason Compton - 10th grade

Bailey Lorenzana - 10th grade