Prepared Remarks by Secretary DeVos at Butler Tech's Manufacturing Recognition & Signing Day

Prepared Remarks by Secretary DeVos at Butler Tech's Manufacturing Recognition & Signing Day

April 12, 2019

Thank you, Jon Graft, for that kind introduction and for your hospitality. I enjoyed visiting with you in Washington and continue to be impressed with the ways Butler Tech is rethinking education—among them the new "Fifth Day Experience."

And students, I'm so pleased to join you for "Signing Day!" What an exciting and fitting way to recognize what you've accomplished. What you're doing here today is as important and notable as any other signing day.

You've made your families and all of us proud. And your achievements go far beyond a fancy diploma.

Some 40 years ago, then-superintendent, Russel Lee, identified a need in his community and then he did something about it. He took advantage of a new statewide initiative to organize education options around career-readiness. What a forward-looking move!

Today, Butler Tech has five campuses, plus programs in 50 school buildings throughout Butler and Hamilton counties.

Now, all of you are interested in manufacturing, which is what this place is known for. But dozens of other apprenticeship programs here in biomedical science, graphic design, mechatronics, public safety, and theatre (to name a few) provide students with a wide menu of opportunities.

Partnerships with local employers make a difference for the local economy and for you. Just look at the names atop those offer letters for evidence of that.

Your Precision Machine program works with more than 30 local industry leaders to find out what they need and then develops pathways for you to put your talents to use.

These apprenticeship opportunities offer real-world, hands-on experiences: over 400 hours in a machine lab! How cool is that?! And who wouldn't be happy to get paid while they learn, also.

You've invested your time, energy, and effort. Today, these companies—and your communities—celebrate you!

So, let's take a moment to appreciate all you have done.

Students who are signing today, will you please stand?

Look around you. Some have helped you learn something new, others you helped succeed, and still others have been there to support you when things were tough. Family, friends, mentors, teachers—all people who have been there for you during this formative time.

Thank you all for coming together to make your community an even better place to live!

And there's something that each of you have in common: determined pursuit of your passions.

Passions you're turning into professions. At some point or another, you realized that learning only at a desk didn't work for you. So you grabbed the opportunity to learn differently.

Every student in America needs that kind of freedom. What Butler Tech offers isn't yet widely embraced, but it should be! Every student should have the opportunity to have a signing day.

Your success here is evidence of what happens when students are empowered to pursue the education that is the right fit for them.

Take Caitla, for example. Caitla is in the welding program. She continues the family tradition in both profession and education. Her father and her mother both graduated from Butler Tech career programs. She also joins her uncle and cousins in this career.

Caitla's apprenticeship will now turn into a full-time job at Rubber Duck 4x4, crafting one-of-a-kind accessories for H1 Hummer and Humvee vehicles!

And Kyle, who is signing with General Tool today, is another great example of empowered students. Not only does he compete in the CNC Milling competitions, he also taught himself how to program a 3D printer.

You've all had time to hone existing skills and learn new ones at Butler Tech. I know it hasn't always been easy. Each of us encounters different challenges. What matters is what we do about them.

If you asked Robby, for instance, about his apprenticeship with Feintool Company, he would candidly say the hardest part was the initial learning curve. But he is as determined as anyone to pursue his passion. With the help of Butler Tech's dedicated teachers and mentors, Robby acquired new skills, found his niche, and proudly joins his classmates today.

The obstacles you face are no match for your willingness to learn and grow. Though you will continue to confront challenges, you are better able to respond to them because of your experiences here.

Butler Tech has given each of you opportunities to practice what you've learned in real-world settings—to sharpen your capacity for critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. These important skills will serve you well no matter what careers you pursue in the future.

My late father-in-law was a wise and wonderful man. He had some phrases he used regularly, and he encouraged others to do so as well. He called them "Powerful Phrases for Positive People." I think they may be useful for you too as you navigate your next steps.

Here they are:

I'm wrong. I'm sorry. You can do it. I believe in you. I'm proud of you. Thank you. I need you. I trust you. I respect you. I love you.

Sometimes it's hard to say these things—and mean them. But they do make a difference in relationships and interactions with others.

You are leaving here with skills that can take you anywhere. And remember, your education is not static. Nor are your careers. That's why your lifelong learning journeys are about much more than just acquiring "skills" or diplomas.

You are your most important resource. Your ingenuity—and what you freely do with it—is what gives life to your education.

So, do it. No matter what you want to do, now is the time to start. We're all pulling for you.

Congratulations to each of you. We are all eager to see what you'll do next!