Ulster BOCES means different things to different people. For Devon Ellsworth, it is a place where he can learn in the way that best suits him and develop the kind of skills that caught the eye of industry leader Frank Falatyn of FALA Technologies, Inc., which led to a well-paying, full-time job in the bearings department–all before he even graduates high school.
Devon came to Ulster BOCES from the Rondout Valley Central School District, and attends the Hudson Pathways Academy (HVPA) and the Advanced Robotics & Manufacturing program at the Career & Technical Center. He graduates this June with an Associate in Science in Individual Studies from SUNY Ulster, with a certificate in Manufacturing Technology.
Devon learned about HVPA, a PTECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) program from a teacher at his middle school. The program allows him to earn his high school diploma and an associate’s degree in six years at no cost to himself or family. “I decided to enroll and it was the best decision I ever made,” he said. At HVPA, which offers both secondary and post-secondary classes in manufacturing and engineering taken at Ulster BOCES and SUNY Ulster, Devon gains not only hands-on machinery experience and knowledge and the skills needed to succeed in the current workforce, but also valuable lessons about himself.
“HVPA is entirely different from any other school experience I had,” he said. “Because I am able to work at my own pace and figure things out, I got a much better idea of my strengths and weaknesses.” Whereas, he used to rely heavily on memorization and test-taking to retain knowledge, Devon said, he discovered that here, he applies more critical thinking skills.
“I started to understand HOW I learn and think,” he explained. Devon said he enjoys the personal attention the teachers give him, as well as the many workplace challenges the program offers, such as when students were asked by the management of Viking Industries, Inc. to design more attractive packaging for their products.
“I really gave it my all because these potential employers were watching us and looking at our products,” he said. “I wanted them to know that I could work reliably, and I saw a new part of myself that was motivated, that wanted to keep improving.”
Devon wasn’t the only one who noticed his positive growth. Steve Casa, Workplace Coordinator for Ulster BOCES did, too. When it came time to select students for an internship request last spring from Falatyn, the president of FALA Technologies and director and workforce committee chair of the Council of Industry, Casa knew Devon was the perfect choice. “Devon came to mind immediately,” he said. “He is a reliable, critical thinker, and an exceptional communicator who takes initiative and demonstrates self-direction,” Casa said. “He exemplifies the profile of an Ulster BOCES student.”
Devon began at FALA Technologies as a summer intern, tasked with creating videos that described jobs at the company and enticed young people to apply. “To address the growing need for a new generation of industry workers, I needed someone with a young mindset to explain what we do here,” said Falatyn. “I was immediately impressed with Devon’s ability to work independently. I knew right away that I wanted to hold on to him.”
Without any direction, Devon researched and utilized free software to make videos that Falatyn said “exceeded” his expectations. Falatyn offered Devon a full-time job in the bearings department because it’s an area that requires precision and the ability to think critically, he said. “We needed someone there who isn’t afraid to use their own ideas and is not afraid to ask questions.”
Falatyn would like to see Devon grow at FALA Technologies, Inc. and is pleased that he has recently joined an apprenticeship program that the company runs in order to train their technicians in every area, with the goal of them becoming a “master craftsman.”
He also looks forward to hiring more interns and full-time workers from HVPA who have skills such as the ones Devon possesses. “Students coming from HVPA can think through challenges and strive to improve,” he said. “Because their instructors allow them to make their own decisions, they learn to succeed, as well as fail. And failures can be just as valuable of a teaching tool as successes can.”
Devon is enjoying his current success and is thinking about earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in the future. As for his upcoming graduation in June, Devon said, “HVPA put me on a great path. I know for a fact that I would not be where I am right now if it weren’t for BOCES.”