Hamilton HS Students Can Earn Ag Certificate From Sandburg Through New Dual Credit Offerings

  Aaron Frey
  Friday, March 27, 2020 3:34 PM
  Campus News

Galesburg, IL

Justin Reneau was signing up for classes for his senior year at Hamilton High School when he heard about a new set of dual credit agriculture courses offered there through Carl Sandburg College.

“I was at registration and said, ‘Take me out of the other classes and put me into these,’” Reneau said. “I figured these classes would help me later on in life.”

Because dual credit classes allow students to earn high school and college credits for the same class, the swap has Reneau on track to earn a certificate in agriculture from Sandburg at the same time he graduates from Hamilton later this spring.

“That was just double the reason to do it, because I get two credits for something I can take one time,” Reneau said. “And it’s better to take it now than have to take it later or look it up online and try to figure it out that way.”

Brad Hartweg, a member of the Hamilton School Board, helped spearhead the movement to bring the classes to Hamilton after seeing the shop building at the school was

unused last year. Ellen Burns, Sandburg’s dean of career and technical education, and Ellen Henderson-Gasser, director of Sandburg’s Branch Campus in Carthage, worked with the district to help implement the agriculture certificate program. They also revived dual credit classes at Hamilton in Sandburg’s automotive technology program. A selection of the automotive technology classes are available at Hamilton, and students can continue at Sandburg after finishing high school if they want to earn a certificate.

“The shop was empty for a year, and there were too many kids who were missing out on opportunities if this sat here empty,” said Hartweg, who now teaches the agriculture courses. “I looked into what it would take to come here and teach something.”

Hamilton students can enroll in any of the seven agriculture classes offered there: Introduction to Agriculture Industry, Agriculture Sciences, Agriculture Cultivation, Introduction to Natural Sciences, Computer Application in Agriculture, Agriculture Machinery & Technology and Agriculture Welding. If they complete six of the courses, they’ll also walk away with a certificate from Sandburg.

“Welding is something hands-on, and I thought it would be kind of fun,” Hamilton senior Addison Monroe said. “This is my first time welding, ever. It’s been really fun, and I’ve learned a lot. You actually learn something that you can use in the real world.”

In addition to learning skills like welding in the shop, Hartweg makes it a priority to take students on as many excursions as possible.

“Any excuse to get out of the classroom,” he said, “we like to jump on it.”

Within the first few months of the class, students had gone to a water plant to learn about soil erosion and electrical safety, visited the site of a grain bin being constructed, toured a hog confinement, saw a tile machine in action and explored an auction site the day before a sale.

“If it’s hands-on and you can see it and feel it and do it, it’s just way better than looking at pictures and trying to read about it,” Hartweg said. “Even understanding the little pieces and parts. You drive by and see a tile machine running, and now the kids in their minds can picture what they’re actually doing.”

It’s especially helpful in an area like Hancock Country — where the number of farmable acres greatly outnumbers the population — and for students like Reneau, who hopes to become an electrician and one day take over his father’s farm.

“Most everything around here is ag-related in one form or another,” Hartweg said. “If you can work it around to where you understand the whole picture better, it helps you more in the future.

“When it’s all said and done, they’ll be able to get a certificate with just the dual credit classes. It was huge because that gives the high school kids a place where they can go and learn, and it gives them a step up if they go to college. Or, if you get a certificate, that helps in the workforce when you go to get a job.”

To learn more about dual credit opportunities at Sandburg, visit www.sandburg.edu/DualCredit

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Aaron Frey