Not many 18-year-olds know what a supply chain manager is. But Brandon Irving does. 

He has strived toward that career for the past four years in his early college high school classes at Crowley Collegiate Academy. He just earned his associate degree from Tarrant County College. This summer, he will work at an internship with Walmart to dive deeper in his field.

“Hopefully, I can come out of that internship with a full-time opportunity,” Brandon said. In the fall, “I’m going to be involved in an accelerated course at Texas Wesleyan University, and I’m going to come out with my bachelor’s degree — in a year.”

A new city of Fort Worth committee plans to produce more students like Brandon: Teenagers who graduate high school with an associate degree or industry certification and are ready for the workforce. Mayor Mattie Parker announced her Council on Education and Workforce Development at a May 25 event in the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex in south Fort Worth. 

“We need more of these students sitting right here in front of me,” Parker said, pointing to rows of students who will graduate high school with a postsecondary credential.

The council has 14 members who work in education and business. Tom Harris, executive vice president of Hillwood, is the chairman. Together, they are expected to better link the business community with education institutions in Fort Worth to increase career readiness.

“Business and industry need to connect more than they do today,” Harris told the Fort Worth Report. “Part of the roles and responsibilities for the business people that are on the mayor’s council is to help facilitate more of that happening.”

Who is on the mayor’s Council on Education and Workforce Development?

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker announced a new group focused on boosting workforce development in K-12 education in the city. The group is called the Council on Education and Workforce Development. Here are the 14 members:

  • Council chairman Tom Harris, executive vice president at Hillwood
  • Brent Beasley, president and CEO of Fort Worth Education Partnership
  • Shannon Bryant, executive vice president at Tarrant County College
  • Jay Chapa, principal of J Chapa Strategic Solutions, 
  • Dr. Bill Coppola, president of Tarrant County College Southeast Campus 
  • Jeanelle Davis, executive director of public affairs at BNSF 
  • Eric Fox, director of government relations at Lockheed Martin 
  • Michael Gagne, executive director of employer partnerships at Greenlight Credentials 
  • Melody Johnson, former Fort Worth ISD superintendent
  • Jay McCall, program manager at Rainwater Charitable Foundation
  • Brian Newby, managing partner at Cantey Hanger 
  • Eric Reeves,  managing director at Greenlight Credentials,
  • Dr. David Saenz, Fort Worth ISD’s chief of innovation
  • Natalie Young Williams, executive director of Tarrant To & Through Partnership

No goals were announced for the council. However, Parker expects to roll them out in the next few months. She described them as being realistic targets that can be raised incrementally over time. Fort Worth’s workforce and education are intrinsically linked and cannot be separated, Parker said. 

The council will look for ways to bolster programs that allow students to earn their associate degrees or industry certifications at the same time as they complete their high school education. Parker expects to push state and federal lawmakers to make funding available so school districts can make more career-focused classes available to students.

Some examples of programs in which a student can earn a postsecondary credential include early college high schools, Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools, dual credit courses and more technical classes. 

“My vision is that every student in Fort Worth who wants to do the work and put the time in can graduate with a postsecondary credential as they graduate high school at the same,” Parker said. “This is a true difference maker.”

The 70 students gathered at the Bob Bolen Public Safety Center attended early college high schools in districts serving Fort Worth. She reminded the graduates that they are part of a select group of high school students. Tarrant County College is expected to have 3,282 graduates who have earned their associate degree or industry certification this spring. More than 500 of them are students who attended early college high schools.

Jose Almaguar is about to graduate from the Collegiate Academy at OD Wyatt High School in Fort Worth ISD. He will be the first in his family to graduate with a college degree — and he’s just 18. He knows he is better prepared for college after years of hard work. His success has inspired his younger siblings to follow in his footsteps.

Jose’s algebra teacher encouraged him to enroll in an early college high school.

“She pushed me,” he said. “Now that I graduated with my associate degree, I’m very happy she pushed me.”

Kendyll Locke is Fort Worth Councilman Jared Williams’s district director. He told students he was like them a couple years ago, when Locke was part of the inaugural graduating class at Crowley Collegiate Academy. The classes were tough for Locke. At times, he felt like he wasn’t prepared, but he persevered and earned his associate degree.

“With that degree, I landed a job with one of our council members,” Locke said. “He could have chosen a lot of other people — mind you I’m still 19. But I already had the skill set from an early college high school.”

Locke looked out to the group of students sitting in front of him. He told them he is living, walking proof of what they can do after their first step in life after graduating from an early college high school.

“But it doesn’t end here,” Locke said. “Continue to keep pushing.”

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Avatar photo

Jacob Sanchez

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University.