For Topeka High senior Brianna Henderson, Wednesday, December 2nd shaped up to be a pretty good day.
When she arrived at school that morning, Brianna learned that she had been accepted into a Toyota mechanic training program at Ranken Technical College in St. Louis for the fall of 2016. An honors student who has spent the past three and a half years studying auto mechanics at both THS and Washburn Tech, Brianna is also part of a family of mechanics and has always hoped to carry on that legacy. “Ever since I learned about (Ranken’s program) back in September I wanted to do it. I’ve been talking to my teacher nonstop about it. I even got to job shadow there. I’m so excited,” Brianna said of her acceptance.
The program will require Brianna to regularly travel back and forth between Ranken in St. Louis and Topeka’s Lewis Toyota auto shop. Knowing that Brianna’s current vehicle isn’t highway worthy, her teacher, Dean Fairweather, gifted the teen with a much newer, more reliable vehicle. That morning, shortly after she found out she had been accepted at Ranken, she was presented with the car. Fairweather had received the vehicle as a donation from his father, fixed it up and surprised Brianna with it. “I kinda thought Brianna needed a good car, so we repaired it here at Topeka High’s auto shop. It’s running perfectly so she now has good wheels to go and carry on with her career. I just need her to come back and motivate my students when she’s certified,” Fairweather said.
The car and the Ranken acceptance follow years of hard work and tenacity on Brianna’s part. During her sophomore year, Brianna gave birth to her son, Zayl. Shortly after his birth, she was eager to resume her studies, eventually enrolling concurrently at Washburn Tech, where she will graduate with an associate’s degree at the same time she receives her diploma from THS.
According to Fairweather and her THS guidance counselor, Angela Locke, Brianna can expect to earn about $65,000 when she graduates from Ranken’s program. If she goes on to become a journeyman, her pay will increase.
Congratulations, Brianna, on your Ranken acceptance and on your new car. We know you’re going make a wonderful life for yourself and Zayl!