OPINION: Saline County voters swing, hit grand slam with Issue 6

Josh Briggs
Managing Editor

About five years ago a group of local leaders brought the idea of a Career and Technical Education Center to the people of Saline County.

With it came a load of questions — the most concerning being how to pay for the facility’s construction, maintenance, staff and other hurdles.
On Tuesday, voters turned out to cap a record-setting polling pace and made the sky the limit for Saline County’s future with the passing of a 3/8-cent countywide sales tax that will be used to construct the building.

The ballot item received 54 percent of the vote.
On a personal level, I was behind this proposal from the first minute. Helping our children should always be the top priority. They are our bricks and mortar that will continue to build the communities for years.

This was a proposal that was designed to reach far past our lifetime and to breath life into a community that will instill the needs and work ethic into our youth that will shoot Saline County to the forefront of Arkansas’ business economy.

Even more reason for my backing of this ballot item was the fact I used to be one of the kids this center will help.
I did not care for school as much as I should have. Other than band, sports and girls, I couldn’t care less. 

I held a full-time job during my junior and senior years, was a three-sport athlete and a “C” student at best — often worse until the last two weeks of each semester. I really didn’t care that someone else
had a 4.0 GPA. To me, that was overachieving. I was simply in search of passing.
I had no desire to attend college until I met my future wife while working 35 to 40 hours a week as a Walmart cashier.

I had made my mind up and was planning to pursue a career in retail management — which would have paid me more than I make now with a four-year college degree. I wanted to work and get paid. School was the last thing I wanted to do for four or five more years.

However, life changed and I followed by intelligent significant other to Arkadelphia where I graduate from Henderson State University — still with a C average.
But what will this center do for the kids that are on the same path I once walked?

It will build maturity, cut down on juvenile incarceration, give youth hope that there is more to school than good grades, perfect attendance and homework.
It will give that student that dreads waking up for an 8 a.m. math class the motivation he or she needs to provide for his or her family the second they graduate high school.

Full-fledged jobs are the focus for the CTE Center.

HVAC, automotive, welding, aviation, heath sciences, IT and computer engineering are only a portion of what will be offered to these high school students from across our county and beyond. 
When the courses are complete, the students walk straight into the workforce with the skills needed to perform. It is a win-win for them and the business of choice
One of the most helpful pieces to the entire project?

No cost to the student as the state will pay for every seat filled.
Who would not behind such a powerful investment, no matter the cost of a tax? No matter if you have kids that can take part?

Aside from my younger self fitting the mold of who this center will help, I have a nephew that fights with the struggle of school every day. He barely has the numbers to be in his respective grade and has no intention — nor should he — of attending college.
This center will allow him to become someone right away, graduating with a high school diploma days before walking into a career that pays anywhere from $35,000 to $60,000 at the age of 18.

This center is not about what it can do for you, but what it can do for our youth.
There are hundreds — if not thousands — of kids in this county that will benefit from being able to learn the jobs offered to provide for their struggling parents or siblings. 

Maybe they are being raised by a grandparent — as I was — who is working two and three jobs to make ends meet. 
What about little Johnny that goes home to no food, running water or clean sheets?

Or the kids that are being exposed to drugs, alcohol or abuse — or any concoction of the three?
This center will help them to break through the shadows and become strong parts of the working class of Saline County.

Voters for Issue 6 deserve a pat on the back as their decision has now opened the door and broken chains for many that at one time may have thought there was no hope.

Thank you for your support.
Josh Briggs is the managing editor of The Saline Courier and a
lifelong Saline County resident. He is a 2006 graduate of Harmony Grove High School and a 2011 graduate of Henderson State University.