Crenshaw County Schools collaborates with Lockheed Martin to offer “ready to work” program

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

There is a feeling of uncertainty high school students sometimes face when making decisions about their futures. However, for Luke McCrakin, a Luverne High School senior, and 19 other Crenshaw County seniors, this anxiousness was replaced with tenacity and confidence after they completed the inaugural Lockheed Martin Manufacturing 101 program.

McCrakin has always envisioned a career in welding. Before completing the program, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go into business for himself or join the workforce as an employee.

“The hands-on aspect was my favorite part [of the program] and what made me decide to pursue a career with Lockheed Martin,” McCrakin said. “I’m still set on having a certified trade and will pursue a welding certificate. However, I plan to make my career with Lockheed Martin with hopes I can use my welding abilities there someday..”

Crenshaw County Schools superintendent Dodd Hawthorne opened a signing day ceremony held May 11 at the Dei Center in Luverne by addressing the graduates. 

“I’m extremely excited about this opportunity that has allowed you all to grow and prepare to join the workforce,” Hawthorne said. “It is a significant achievement for you young men and women to have been part of the first-ever Lockheed Martin 101 class..”

Hawthorne thanked those that made this pilot program and first-time collaboration between Lockheed Martin and Crenshaw County Schools an overwhelming success.

“I’d like to thank our folks at Crenshaw County Schools, counselors, teachers, Mrs. Ashley Catrett, our career tech director, and Mrs. Haley Kilcrease, our career coach,” Hawthorne said. “They’ve done a fantastic job of organizing this. I certainly want to thank Lockheed Martin, and the representative who came to us with this idea. I hope this partnership and friendship continues to grow.”

The Lockheed Martin representative that instructed the class said that the initial Lockheed Martin 101 course was a wide success and that future classes will prove to be very beneficial to Crenshaw County Schools and the entire area. 

“These students hit the ground running and have all been tremendous,” the representative said. “They asked questions, interacted, advised one another and displayed great teamwork. They are potential Lockheed Martin employees that can start receiving full benefits on day one of employment that include 168 hours yearly paid time off, 100% tuition reimbursement, and employer-matched retirement. 

“Being a Crenshaw County native, I know what it’s like to not have a plan for after high school and to have few opportunities. I’m not sure where I would be without Lockheed Martin and my bachelor’s degree they paid for. It’s an honor to be involved in this collaboration and Lockheed Martin hopes to continue this partnership for years to come.”

Steven Frailey from Lockheed Martin emphasized the tremendous amount of effort necessary  to ensure the success of this pilot class.

“The amount of investment put into this program by Marvin, Mrs. Kilcrease, and the administration shows,” he said. “The fruits of your labors are these students that now have an additional option, a huge nationwide gap that needs to be filled. Often college or military are the only choices for after graduation. Both are great choices but not for everyone. More options should exist for our future workforce and for the benefit of our nation’s future.”

Haley Kilcrease, College and Career Coach with CCS, said that the program made a positive impact in the students’ lives that goes beyond the benefit of a quality career.

“It is very exciting to have an opportunity to enter the workforce right out of high school with significant pay and great benefits including options for college tuition reimbursement,” Kilcrease said. “However, the unity, teamwork, life, and job skills emphasized in the program go beyond the technical skills of actually assembling a missile. Often, we’re the ones that come out with a blessing and I’m better at my job for this experience. I listened and learned from our Lockheed Rep as he poured into these students his life lessons and shared his opportunities at Lockheed Martin. It was a reminder that if you chose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life.”


Editor’s note: The identity of the unnamed Lockheed Martin representative is not disclosed to ensure the security of the operation.