NEWARK — Cianna Woltz-Yarnelli wants to be an aerospace engineer, work on a spacecraft and design a propulsion system.
The last two years at C-TEC of Licking County have enabled her to strike the perfect balance between academics, and hands-on experience in the engineering field, as she pursues her impressive goal.
Combined with her leadership ability, the Licking Valley senior has earned one of the nation's highest honors for high school students.
"Each year, schools across the country are asked to nominate students for the Career Technical Education Presidential Scholars award, and for the first time, one of our C-TEC students has been selected as one of four nominees from Ohio," said C-TEC superintendent Joyce Malainy. "We are very proud of her remarkable achievement, and celebrate her accordingly."
Woltz-Yarnelli was surprised with the news during one of her Architectural and Engineering Design classes last week at C-TEC.
"I knew about it briefly, knew I was nominated, but then I left for a Skills USA conference," she said, while fighting back tears. "I didn't think I would win. I am completely surprised. A big part of who I am, is really striving to learn and educate myself, and I don't expect the recognition. It means a lot to me, that my family and instructors, everyone I care about, sees that in me and is here to see this."
Those who know her certainly aren't surprised.
"She's very meticulous and loves to be a leader," said her Architectural and Engineering Design instructor Matt Howe. "She's constantly trying to expand her knowledge, is always learning, and wants to know why things work the way they do. She has high aspirations for herself, and has the drive and ability to accomplish them."
Cianna has been Architectural and Engineering Design (AED) class president for two years, and also serves as Skills USA Chapter President and C-TEC Student Council President. Last year, she led her team to first place in one of the Stem-Fest competitions sponsored by The Works, and was recently handpicked to meet with Rick Platt and Joel Kotkin, an expert in Urban Futures, who wanted to learn about Career Technical Education in Ohio.
"I've always been interested in engineering, and I wanted to get my foot in the door by learning engineering basics," she said. "I get valuable hands-on experience here and get a jump start in the field."
On the day she was honored, Woltz-Yarnelli's class was putting together plans on building a house, and last year, they focused on design, 3-D printing and a lot of engineering.
She has always been a very good student. Her 4.2 GPA currently ranks her 12th out of 153 in her Licking Valley senior class.
"She's been a 4.0-plus the last two years, and I'm not surprised," Valley principal Wes Weaver said of her honor, after attending the announcement with superintendent Dave Hile. "And she's at the top of the top because she takes weighted classes. We'll graduate 29 kids with a 4.0-plus GPA, and she's a great example of how you can combine a technical education with the academics. This is the right place for her."
The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964, by executive order of the President, to recognize and honor some of the nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors. In 1979, the program was extended to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts. In 2015, the program was again extended to recognize students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in career and technical education fields.
Each year, up to 161 students are named as Presidential Scholars across the country. Woltz-Yarnelli will be invited to be recognized at the 2022 Ohio Association of Career Technical Education Legislative Seminar in February. She would like to attend either Georgia Tech or Texas A&M to continue her engineering career.
The importance of the announcement last week was not lost on C-TEC staff members.
"This is one of the coolest things I've been a part of, in my eight years here," said Mike McNichol, secondary school assistant director of academics/FACTS.
"Cianna has been remarkable here at C-TEC, with all of her leadership skills, and is a great person to represent C-TEC," said Michelle Snow, secondary center director.
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Licking Valley senior makes C-TEC history as Presidential Scholar