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Loyd Star ag first in state to be certified

It started with a fishing boat.

Shelby Sterling, 17, was just a little boy when he’d help his father work on his boat’s motor, learning how to keep the small engine going with a new spark plug, or fresh fluid, or the turn of a wrench. Then he started tinkering with lawnmowers. Next came four-wheelers, and automobiles.

“I just worked on anything with a motor,” Sterling said. “People who know me now know I work on this kind of stuff, so when something goes wrong with their mower or their four-wheeler, they call me up.”

This fall, Sterling will enroll in the diesel mechanics class at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, and he’s already a step ahead of other mechanics who will hit the job market after graduating from Loyd Star’s Agriculture Academy with a Principles of Small Engine Technology Certification.

The endorsement was earned through the program’s partnership with iCEV, an online career and technical curriculum provider that allows students to choose from numerous career readiness courses and work toward certification at their own pace. Sterling and 10 of his classmates became the first students in Mississippi to earn iCEV certifications, said Loyd Star agriculture instructor Billy Sumrall.

“This will give them an industry-based certification that will prepare them for entry into the job market, or give them a leg up in a similar college program,” he said. “They can focus on an area of interest to them after we’ve covered the basics and expand on that themselves. It’s a student-driven type of instruction.”

The 11 iCEV students — six seniors and five underclassmen — earned certifications in three areas. The certifications were Principles of Small Engine Technology, endorsed by the Equipment and Engine Training Council; Career Preparedness, endorsed by global staffing provider Express Employment Professionals; and Principles of Livestock Selection and Evaluation, endorsed by the National College Learning Center Association.

The company’s curriculum is aligned with state agriculture teaching requirements, Sumrall said.

The entire curriculum is online, and academy students use Chromebooks to connect to iCEV’s website to read the materials, watch instructional videos and take tests. Students are able to access the iCEV site from home.

“We don’t use traditional textbooks. Particularly in agriculture, you may end up needing 10, 12 different textbooks to be able to cover the course content,” Sumrall said. “The iCEV system is constantly updated with new information.”

Rising senior Gabe Netterville, 17, isn’t sure what he wants to do in college, or as a career — he’s thought about electrical engineering, or accountancy, since he’s a straight-A student in math. He earned the Career Preparedness certification, which consists of job interview skills and use of the Microsoft Office software suite, just to be ready for anything.

“I know I’ll end applying for college, and I know I will have to use Microsoft Word for just about everything, so I believe this has prepared me for the future,” he said.

The 2018 class is the fifth group to graduate from the academy, which enrolled 153 Loyd Star students this year.