For Nancy (Hanson) White, the opening day at the brand new Eastland Vocational School in Groveport was life-changing. Coming from Canal Winchester High School in 1968, White would be among the first to experience vocational education in the region and a different way to learn that went against the grain of traditional high schools.
For White, the opportunity to discover a passion, a unique skill was more appealing than attending college, something she did not have any interest in pursuing.
“The school sounded very interesting and nothing like Canal Winchester. At that time, you were either in college-prep classes or kind of ‘left behind’. At that time I had no desire to attend college so I was open to anything that would get me out of school,” White said about her initial reaction to attending Eastland.
At the time, White, and other area students and parents only had information sessions and presentations to go on for what the “new” vocational school would be like. There were no first-hand stories of student experiences. For White, like so many students who have chosen Eastland-Fairfield over the years, it was nothing short of making a bold choice to follow their instincts and a pure focus on their futures. When the first day arrived, it changed the course of her life.
“The first day was amazing,” said White. “If I remember correctly, it opened a day or two late. The ‘final touches’ were still being done to the school. I remember there was no floor tile for a week or so.
I came from a school that had only manual typewriters. Walking into the data processing classroom was like walking into another world. It was exciting.”
It wasn’t a clear path, though. Pressure from White’s father had her maneuvering between two different career tracks while at Eastland and beyond.
“My father told me if I wasn’t going to college, I needed to get some sort of secondary education. I decided on cosmetology. I couldn’t take it at Eastland because I was a senior and couldn’t get the entire course in so I’d started cosmetology the summer before my senior year at Ohio State Cosmetology,” White reflected. “As soon as I started Eastland, though, I knew data processing was my future. I did complete cosmetology school after I graduated, but my heart wasn’t in it.
My data processing teacher found me several wonderful jobs before I graduated and he’d even found me a car to get back and forth to the jobs, but my dad thought computers were a fad and there wasn’t a future in data processing. That makes my dad sound bad, but he was nothing but a fantastic father. He died suddenly about a year after I graduated. Right before he died, he knew he was wrong and set me up to take the civil service exam to become eligible for federal government work. At the time of his death, I didn’t have the information, but applied on my own.”
Like most, White worked in multiple careers following high school. She began her career in cosmetology before moving into data processing. She eventually landed at the Chillicothe Veterans Affairs Hospital, where she stayed for 28 years.
“During that time, I received an associate’s degree in computer technology at the local business school. I retired six years ago, but started working for a VA contractor as an IT specialist,” White said. “I am still working, and I am still loving my job!”
White describes her one year as part of the very first group of graduates at Eastland with positivity and meaning. Fifty years after the start of her journey, she can look back on the moment as having a great impact on everything that happened during the past fifty years.
“The year I spent at Eastland was probably the best year of my life,” offered White, who today promotes career-technical education every chance she gets.
“My light switch was turned on day one. I knew I found knowledge and a skill set that I enjoyed and could see myself doing the rest of my life. The school made me. I can’t tell you what a difference it made in my life.”