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A year to remember: MNTC graduates share challenges, successes of attending school during pandemic

Written by Sharla Bardin for 19th St. Magazine, November 2020  


Hundreds of students will graduate in May from Moore Norman Technology Center, capping off a unique year of pandemic protocols and practices, schedule changes and health screenings.

Students say that while there were challenges posed during this academic year, they have gained knowledge, experience and confidence as they move into the work force or college.

“The hands-on training and the other students I have come to be friends with, along with opportunities and goals my professors have helped me achieve have made my experience very enjoyable,” said graduate Jesse Bottoms, in an email response.

Bottoms, of Norman, is a graduate in the automotive service technology program. He is one of approximately 500 students from the center who will graduate May 19 at the Moore High School football field. The ceremony is in-person with mask requirements and social distancing measures in place for attendees, said Terri Helvey, executive director of instruction.

Helvey said she’s proud of how students and center instructors and staff have navigated this academic year and adjusted to new practices to respond to COVID-19. That has included masks, health screenings, temperature checks, online learning opportunities and adjustments to in-person class schedules to accommodate smaller groups of students.

“Our students are amazing. Our teachers are amazing,” Helvey said. “They have just adapted and made it work.”

She said instructors and staff “really went out of their way to be creative and find ways to continue what they needed to teach.”

Chantel Goldsmith, a senior from Moore High School and a pre-nursing student at the center, said it was challenging initially to adapt to changes for this academic year “because we all had to go through the sudden shift of doing everything online,” Goldsmith said in an email response.     

“But, in a way, this was an amazing experience because I got to learn a lot about myself, especially how I learn and how to help others.”

Bottoms, 19, said when the center had a hybrid schedule in the late fall – which included groups of 10 or less coming to campus for hands-on training, while other students did online classes – “the challenge to stay focused and continue my studies did put a damper on my progress. The need for in-person training was important for me and learning automotive virtually was a tough task.”

As of March 29th, the center was back to 100 percent in-person classes, Helvey said.

Bottoms said he was able to work as an intern with Fowler Honda throughout his training at the technology center, which helped enhance his abilities and experience.

“The internship in the auto industry and gaining the technical and life skills training, like resumes and preparing for an interview, have helped me be confident as I move forward in my personal life and career,” he said.

Bottoms said he wants to continue a career in the automotive field after graduation. His future plans are to attend Oklahoma City Community College and he’s considering participating in a specialized training program with Honda and Acura.

Goldsmith, 17, said after graduation she wants to attend the University of Central Oklahoma and become a registered nurse.

She said she has enjoyed attending classes at the technology center for the last two years and the change of pace it offered from her high school schedule.
Goldsmith said the center also has prepped her for her professional goals.

“I have gained tons of experience on how to approach a health care setting and how to interact with others,” she said. “MNTC has given me a chance to get my feet wet in the health field and I really appreciate that. Now I know for sure that I want to be a nurse.”

Jobs outlook

Health care remains an in-demand career field for the region and Moore Norman Technology Center has a variety of health programs available for students interested in the field, said Terri Helvey, executive director of instruction.
The programs include practical nursing, dental assisting, medical assisting, pre-nursing, surgical technology, physical therapy aide, veterinary assisting, nurse aide and a diagnostic medical sonography program.
Another workforce need on the horizon is in aviation, and the center will start an aviation maintenance program in the fall of 2022, Helvey said.

Job prospects in that field include positions at Tinker Air Force Base and jobs with commercial airlines, she said.
For more information on additional programs at the center, visit