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Mac Beaton

Director of career and technical education, Henrico County Public Schools

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The idea came to him as he watched young athletes accept scholarships and sign letters of intent to top institutions on national television.

“I thought, we need to do something like that to truly celebrate our students,” says Mac Beaton, the director of career and technical education for the Henrico County Public Schools.

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Beaton, whose career path included a period of working before attending a university, wanted to make graduating seniors entering the workforce feel just as valued as those packing their bags for college. So in collaboration with a couple dozen companies across a wide indistry spectrum, Henrico held its first letter of intent signing day for students who successfully completed the program and had jobs lined up after graduation.

“A career is not a straight line,” he says. “I’m a firm believer that it’s our job to help every student look at all the different options that are out there.”

The first signing day took place in the spring of 2018, and since then, Beaton says the list of businesses wanting to get involved has grown from about 25 to more than 150. The program’s exposure has facilitated relationships with industries that students may otherwise never have discovered, he says, such as a scaffolding company that hired two students who expressed interest after a hands-on demonstration.

Beaton has also been fielding hundreds of calls from school districts and companies across the country wanting to duplicate the program and hold similar events celebrating trades and the students who choose them.

“Any time anyone has called, I’ve sent them everything we’ve done to help them get it off the ground to be successful,” Beaton says. “It’s really about all of us across the country helping young people find those options that are out there, and I’m very willing to share all of it.” — Laura Ingles

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