The three Erwin High students sit at the signing table with Erwin High logos in the background.

BCS, Buncombe County, and the State of North Carolina are collaborating to set high schoolers on the path to fill the community’s early childhood education needs.

During a special ceremony on Dec. 14, three Clyde A. Erwin High School students signed a pre-apprenticeship agreement as part of the Early Childhood Education pathway through Buncombe County Schools Career and Technical Education (CTE). Joselyn Plascencia, Tania Reyna, and Aaliyah Bowers smiled and laughed at each other as they took turns signing the pre-apprenticeship paperwork in front of an Erwin High banner, reminiscent of a high school athletics signing ceremony.
“I feel super excited and enthusiastic,” Aaliyah, a junior, said. “It feels like a big accomplishment, and it’s really important for us to do this to educate the next generation.”
By committing to pre-apprenticeships, she and the other students will start paid apprenticeships right after graduation and receive reimbursements for education related to their apprenticeships, including the opportunity for a tuition-free associate degree. Each student will also receive a $300 stipend from Raleigh-based Building Bright Futures.
“They’re making a commitment to furthering their education and experiencing early childhood education beyond the classroom,” said BCS Early Childhood Workforce Coordinator Caitlin Johnson. “Our high school students walk out of this program ready to take on the challenges of the world because of their experiences here.”
Several BCS high schools have top-quality pre-K programs that serve 3- to 5-year-old children of teachers, staff, and community parents. That means some students can fulfill their pre-apprenticeships at their own schools. CTE teachers and liaisons work with other students to find good placements where they can grow their early childhood education skills.
“We’ve got to do so much more to encourage more of our young people to go into pre-K,” said Buncombe County Commissioner Al Whitesides, who has been a strong advocate for robust early childhood education. “It’s critical to our workforce.”

View more photos on the Erwin High Facebook page.