HANCOCK COUNTY — Though students from all four Hancock County public school districts are on fall break this week, a handful still report to class bright and early as usual.

While their peers are enjoying the time off, 55 juniors and seniors from Eastern Hancock High School have shown up for classes from 8 to 10:40 a.m. each day this week at the New Castle Career Center, which provides training to students in a variety of job fields, such as cosmetology and welding technology.

Vocational schools like the one in New Castle offer real-world experience alongside experts while allowing students to earn college credit. They take classes at the center part time while maintaining a course load at their home school, which educators say makes for a well-rounded resume as they explore potential careers.

It can be hard work, but they’re not complaining.

At the career center this week, Kenny Bunnell, an Eastern Hancock senior, said he doesn’t think of the hours he spends each weekday morning in the engineering workshop at the center as a burden. It’s a way to get a head start on the same kind of work he hopes to do as in a career, he said.

“Usually, I wouldn’t be doing anything productive at this time in the morning anyway,” Bunnell said.

Keaton Gray, an Eastern Hancock senior enrolled in a graphic design class at the career center, said he looks forward to the time he spends in the facility’s computer lab. It’s not a chore, he said.

Would a break be nice? Of course — but the atmosphere at the center pushes him creatively, Gray said.

“When I come here, I get to do what I love for three hours and hone my skills,” he said.

After all, Gray said, he can’t access the same advanced computer programs he uses in the center’s graphic design lab on his personal computer.

“The more time I can spend in the lab here, the better,” said Gray, who plans to enroll in a graphic design program at Ball State University.

Dave Pfaff, principal at Eastern Hancock High School, said that, when students apply for the career center’s offerings in the spring, it’s made clear that, if accepted into a program, they’ll be required to follow New Castle’s school calendar, even if it doesn’t mesh with Eastern’s.

“It says a lot that these students are willing to make this sacrifice to take advantage of these programs,” Pfaff said.

Robert Hobbs, director of the New Castle Career Center, said many of its graduates receive transferable college credit through its programs. Because of that, he said, the students recognize the opportunity they’re provided.

“One of the hardest steps for kids is mapping out a pathway for their careers so that, in five years or so, they can end up where they want to be,” Hobbs said. “Most of the students here are beginning to figure that out, and they see the value this provides.”

The rest of students from all county schools will return to class Monday. Students from Mt. Vernon and Greenfield-Central schools are coming off a two-week break, while students from Southern Hancock and Eastern Hancock schools have been on break since Monday.

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Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.