Krista Hussar’s expertise in career tech is making the South Stark Career Academy one of the most effective programs in local public education.

The academy, which serves students in the Canton Local, Perry, Sandy Valley and East Canton districts, offers guidance and preparation to students heading for college, as well as certification and training for those who wish to pursue vocational careers.

“When you have students who have an idea of what they want to do in the future, the best thing they can do is align with a career tech program.”

“It allows students to get a step ahead in the career pathway they choose,” Hussar said. “When you have students who have an idea of what they want to do in the future, the best thing they can do is align with a career tech program.”

Hussar graduated from Canton South High School in 1997 and acquired a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Kent State University in 2001. She went on to acquire dual master’s degrees in school counseling and mental health counseling from Walsh University in 2005 and a master’s in education administration from Concordia University in 2013.

Her first job was as a language arts teacher at Pfeiffer Middle School in Perry Township.

“I absolutely loved it,” she said.

She later worked as a counselor at Jackson High School, joining Canton Local in 2007 as a counselor before moving into her current position where she just completed her fourth year.

“l love career tech work so much,” she said.

Hussar said some of the academy’s programs prepare students for employment immediately. For instance, the cosmetology curriculum allows students to earn their state license while still in school.

College-prep, or postsecondary programs, Hussar said, include computer programming and software development, sports medicine and engineering.

“There is a tie-in,” she said. “They need to go to college before they can enter those pathways … Seventy percent of our programs are college prep.”

Hussar said it’s a mistake to view the curricula as “either-or.”

“There are pathways for every kind of kid. I see it now as ‘career’ prep,” she said. “Whatever careers students want to pursue, we’re trying to have the programs to prepare them for those careers. There are programs available that can align with them.”

The academy has proven so successful that there’s a waiting list. The most popular requests, Hussar said, are for welding (“twice as many kids as we can fit”), animal science and medical tech prep.

“It’s a great problem to have,” she said. “It’s taking off, and it’s an awesome thing to watch, but it’s hard to see names on the list.”

Hussar said much of the program’s credit belongs to her teaching staff.

“I trust my teachers so much; they are experts in what they do,” Hussar said. “I see them as the leaders of their programs.”

Hussar said it’s rewarding to watch teachers put together rigorous programs and students responding to the challenge.

“It’s awesome to watch a student who may have a history of being resistant to school, willing to put it all out there, to put in so much effort and time in an environment that is personalized, unique and hands-on,” she said, “and is able to have fun while learning incredible amounts of information, while doing amazing things. They don’t see it as hard work. They just live it.”

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Charita Goshay

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