Plumbing and mechanical systems inspector Jothum Stallings recounts as a high school student being “on the verge of dropping out.” His career story interview illustrates the effectiveness of developing career-connected learning and the promise of solutions tied to integrating real-life applications into instruction and curricula. It supports the notion that ‘if a student can see it, they can be it.’ This builds on educational philosophies and constructivist theories that claim exposure to a subject of inquiry (in this case, careers) creates a scaffolding for students to understand better the range and variety of the topic (i.e., the type of occupations), as well as the related skills and the relevancy of obtaining those skills and the credentials (diploma).
Jothum does not directly state, ‘if you can see it, you can be it;’ he tells a heartfelt, relatable story, explaining how he was contemplating dropping out of high school and very close to choosing that path. He was at risk of not completing; he moved frequently and was raised (since age ten) in a single-parent household. He reached a point when traditional school, night school, and remediation failed him. His mother’s intuition proved extremely valuable as she intervened, setting her son up with a meeting with a plumber she knew. Jothum’s mom facilitated what we would call today an ‘informational interview’ with a small business owner and tradesmen. This meeting and conversation, according to Jothum, changed the trajectory of his life.
You can still hear the excitement in his voice as he recounts that first meeting with the plumber. That one interview inspired an at-risk young man to become excited over plumbing, over the potential for having a good job, and to find purpose in learning. That interview proved motivational, encouraging completion to earn a diploma. Jothum’s attitude toward education, high school, and the importance of obtaining his diploma seemed to do a complete 360° once he became career aware –going from “on the verge of dropping out” to persevering in high school and following a pathway to opportunity. Jothum enthusiastically recaps the day he graduated. He speaks about going up to his plumber mentor, showing him that he had done it, his diploma was in hand. Jothum would go on to learn and work as a journeyman and apprentice, practice plumbing, and later complete additional training to become a professional plumbing and mechanical systems inspector.