For nursing student Jas’Lique Williams, speaking to a former presidential candidate is not a regular part of her day.
However, after explaining her role as a health science student at Memorial High School’s Career And Technology Education center, Beto O’Rourke would afterward refer to her as Dr. Williams.
O’Rourke, who won the Democratic vote for Texas governor in the March primaries, visited the high school Wednesday to speak with students, teachers and city leaders. While there he toured the classrooms at the CATE building including the practicum of health science class where Williams is a student.
Williams, a senior, is looking to enlist in the military then turn to a career as a trauma surgeon, she said.
Not yet old enough to vote, she was impressed by the candidate’s initiative to visit the high school and speak with students.
As a CATE student she feels the program is important and called it a stepping stone to use for the future and a way to get your foot in the door.
Fellow health science student Maria Ortiz plans for a career as a registered nurse. She appreciates the program for giving her the chance to advance to her chosen field and believes students should take part in the available opportunities the program offers.
The tour moved through the CATE building in and out classes where students were busy at work.
At the end of one hall was the large space for the welding class. Barbecue pits of various sizes including one approximately the size of a 55-gallon drum. John Pitre, 18, told O’Rourke he had been working on the pit for a couple of weeks and he had been in the program for three years.
“And what comes next? Are you going to be certified by the time you graduate?” O’Rourke asked.
Pitre answered in the affirmative and when asked if he has a job waiting for him in Port Arthur; he said he’s pretty sure he can find one.
Looking back at the pit, O’Rourke wondered what happens to it — does he keep it, give it away or is it property of the school.
“I would like to keep it but I wouldn’t be upset if somebody would want it,” Pitre said.
Edwin Flores, a senior in the welding course, said he is looking at going into the workforce after graduation, as he will have a two-year welding certificate.
Flores opted to take the course because he saw his dad as a welder and wanted to follow in his steps.
Port Arthur Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie said the district is excited to showcase the CATE facility and are proud staff and students.
“Our CATE department is preparing our students for the jobs that make up our economic growth; health care, manufacturing, and so much more make up the economic power of our community and we want our students to be able to move into those careers,” he said.