Forty-nine post-high students of Grand River Technical School received certificates in the school's 49th annual graduation ceremony Friday evening at Gary Dickinson Performing Arts Center.

Forty-nine post-high students of Grand River Technical School received certificates in the school’s 49th annual graduation ceremony Friday evening at Gary Dickinson Performing Arts Center. Chillicothe R-2 Superintendent Dr. Roger Barnes welcomed those in attendance and introduced members of the Board of Education. “Grand River Technical School is a leader in Missouri and is highly respected by Missouri school districts,” Barnes stated. “The quality instruction and programs offered at Grand River Technical School is second to none as evidenced by the placement rate of its students exiting GRTS programs.” The superintendent cited a recent Times magazine online article in which the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that less than a quarter of new job openings will require a four-year college, bachelor of arts degree. “Contributing authors to the article state that career and technical programs such as the ones you have participated in not only prepare people to work but prepare people to be good citizens,” Barnes continued. “Career and technical education graduates who possess critical skills... tend to be better citizens than those without technical skills and that these are citizens who can problem solve and think critically.” Friday evening also included the presentation of the Outstanding Service Award to Kenneth Lauhoff and the Churchill Foundation GRTS Teacher’s Scholarship to Anthony Hinnen, automotive service technology instructor (see related stories, Lauhoff Award and Hinnen Award). Kaleb Gilliland, director of information technology at Pro Athlete, Inc., was the keynote speaker for Friday’s graduation ceremony. Pro Athlete, Inc., is home of justbats.com  Gilliland is a graduate of Southwest R-1 High School who earned a baseball scholarship to Maple Woods Community College, a bachelor’s degree from University of Missouri, and computer networking certifications from Grand River Technical School. Gilliland, as introduced by Jenny Hughes, GRTS business education instructor, is “just as comfortable sitting in a deer stand with buddies in Ludlow as he is on a corporate jet traveling to a baseball game in New York.” Gilliland graduated with a college degree in sports management and landed his first job as program director at the North Central Missouri YMCA in Brookfield where he worked for five years. “After finding out I was going to be a dad, I knew I wanted to do something different,” he stated. “Technology had always been an interest of mine so I thought I could make something out of that with some formal training.” Gilliland enrolled in the computer networking program in the fall of 2013 and landed his first job – an entry level desktop support engineer position – at Pro Athlete in April 2014 as a desktop support engineer. Since it was his first job in his new career field, he told the graduates that he wanted to focus on two things: getting to know the people he would be working with and doing his best at whatever was thrown his way. “I took every opportunity that was presented to introduce myself to someone new and get to know a little about each person,” he said. A couple years later, he became director of information technology, a promotion he largely credited to the relationship he developed when he first began with the company. The person who recommended him for the promotion had become the company’s chief operating officer. “The importance of people and building relationships is one of the five things I feel are the biggest contributing factors to being successful,” Gilliland said. “Putting your family first, creating fans through service, challenging yourself and keeping humor in your daily life are the others.” “Putting your family first is the foundation that all other components of being successful are built,” he said. “Regardless of what you do for a living, there will always be another job out there. There’s not going to be another family.” He told the graduates that when searching for a job, look for a company that also places value on the importance of family. “This will be mutually beneficial because you will have the opportunity to give the attention needed to that important, foundational relationship and the company will get the best version of you as an employee. “Do what you need to do to put your meaning of family first and enjoy the benefits that result in other parts of your life.” Gilliland also told the graduates that in whatever line of work they pursue to treat the customers well. “It’s easy and convenient to dismiss a problem as user error or the fault of the customer when, in many cases, if we take the time to understand and keep an open mind, we might learn something about ourselves that is the real issue. “Recognize who your customer is in your chosen line of work. Treat them right and treat them fair. Don’t be afraid to empathize with their problems; have patience, and talk to them like a friend.” He also encouraged the graduates to challenge themselves. “It’s really easy to get comfortable in our daily lives,” he said. “As humans, we’re attracted to a routine and we like things that are familiar. The problem that arises from that approach is complacency. The day we stop growing personally and professionally is the day we accept the current positions we are in our lives.” Challenge yourself to do things you never thought were possible or are out of your skill set. This applies to your career and your life outside work. Gilliland noted the need for humor in one’s life. “Humor is a powerful tool and is often forgotten in the workplace,” he said, citing a recent survey that asked vice presidents of Fortune 500 companies how important humor was. The results showed that 84 percent responded that they felt employees with a sense of humor were more effective at their jobs compared to those with little to no sense of humor. It’s OK to have a sense of humor and laugh at work, given it’s appropriate. Laughter is the predecessor of happiness. The fifth and final contributing factor for success, he noted, was the importance of building relationships. “It is important to learn and be the best you can possibly be at your chosen skill or trade,” Gilliland said. “The certifications, trainings and your overall ability are all vital and needed. However, when it comes time to apply for jobs, everyone is going to have those credentials and a similar resume. What can you do to differentiate yourself? ... Use every opportunity you can to build a relationship with someone. You never know when that might come in handy someday.” He offered tips for building relationships, such as: asking people about themselves, looking people in the eyes when you are talking to them, putting your phone away, being engaged in the conversation, and listening with the intent to understand, not with the intent to reply. “Be really good at what you are doing but be even better at building relationships,” he said. Following his remarks, Debby Peery, GRTS vocational counselor, announced graduates who maintained perfect attendance. They are Blake Breckenridge, Zachary Hampton, John Kelsall and Brett Willis. She also announced students with straight “A”s. They are Jacob Caughron, Kelton Diggs, Jordan Williams, Justin Smith, Gabriel Reichert and Zane Smith. GRTS Assistant Director Adam Wolf stated that between 95 and 98 percent of GRTS post-high graduates are placed in jobs or enrolled in additional post-high training and this year’s class is no different. “This is our 49th graduation ceremony for GRTS and we, ironically, have 49 graduates in GRTS post-high programs that are graduating tonight,” he noted. “We have additional students in our emergency medical services program that will graduate later this year and most of our programs at GRTS have high school students in them from 16 area sending schools.” Of the 49 post-high graduates receiving certificates Friday evening, 46 are entering the workforce, with 35 already having a job in their field; and three are continuing their education at GRTS in an advanced course. GRTS Director Jayme Caughron presented certificates to the graduates in the following fields of study: auto service technology, collision technology, computer/networking technology, industrial maintenance technology, building trades, diesel services technology and industrial welding. Grand River Technical School graduates are as follows: Auto Service Technology – Austin Cordray (Purdin), Brad McGill (Brunswick), Jared Poore (New Cambria), Robert Tanner (Breckenridge); Collision Technology – Corey Adams (Chillicothe), Samantha Gericke (Cameron), Jeremiah Hibner (Chillicothe), Joshua Schempp (Hamilton); Computer Networking Technology – Jacob Caughron (Hale), Tommy Gladbach (Mendon), Colter Richardson (Cameron), Triston Walmsley (Spickard), Miles White (Chillicothe); Industrial Maintenance Technology – Caleb Cagle (Trenton), Logan Carlson (Ridgeway), John Kelsall (Trenton), Garrett Pettit (Gallatin), Justin Smith (Unionville), Joshua Vestal (Livonia), Bryce Whitney (Trenton), Brett Willis (Braymer), Trey Wilson (Mercer); Building Trades – Jesse Blakely (Chillicothe), Bradley Campbell (Unionville), Dalton Condron (Dawn), Ethan Dameron (Center), Andrew Davis (Chillicothe), Evan Failor (New London), Quincy Neighbors (Unionville), Brenden Smyser (Livonia); Diesel Services Technology – Tyler Anderson (Lathrop), Trent Bell (Carrollton), Blake Breckenridge (Lathrop), James Gray (Kingston), Zachary Hampton (Nelson), Kevin Harvey (Browning), Michael Leamer (Braymer), Matthieu Myers (Unionville), Travis Tranbarger (Hamilton), Jordan Williams (Carrollton); Industrial Welding – Dustin Billups (Marceline), Kelton Diggs (Chillicothe), Dylon Ewigman (Marceline), Evan Felton (Chillicothe), Casey Homann (Livonia), Dakota Neill (Holden), Gabriel Reichert (Brunswick), Zane Smith (Chillicothe), Raymond Walker (Hamilton).