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CCA Class of 2020: Jacquelyn Cress

Jacquelyn graduates early, serving humanity with her construction skills

Jacquelyn has attended CCA since kindergarten. In her commencement speech, she reminded the class of 2020 about everything that CCA has done for them.

“Even though this is the only school I’ve ever known, I have no regrets,” she told them. “We’ve all experienced true life. No matter what background you’re from, CCA always helps the students be a better them.”

Because of CCA, 17-year-old Jacquelyn is diving into life a year ahead of schedule and ready to follow her dreams. She took advantage of a CCA early-graduation program and, with CCA’s emphasis on career-ready learning, she enrolled in a program that introduced her to the construction trades. It’s the field she has always dreamed of pursuing as her pathway to a fulfilling career while also helping humanity through mission trips.

Jacquelyn, of Pottsville, entered CCA as a kindergartner because her older sister, now a CCA alumna, had enrolled for health reasons. CCA field trips became family affairs, and Jacquelyn felt comfortable in the independently driven learning environment.

“Some students need their teachers right in front of them,” she says. “I’m an independent worker. If I needed my teachers, obviously, they were there for me, but ultimately they wanted the students to be independent.”

Besides, “you never know what’s going to happen in a brick-and-mortar school. You’re really exposed to unnecessary elements of the world. People are depressed, and there’s bullying. With everything on the news about school shootings, you really don’t have to put yourself at risk if you don’t have to.”

Just before her freshman year, Jacquelyn learned about CCA’s early-graduation program. She had been on the verge of enrolling in a nearby technical school. Instead, eager to start working in construction, she seized the opportunity to accelerate her high school studies.

“I’m not the typical girl who likes to do nice, clean jobs,” she says. “I can go out there and do a man’s job if I have to.”

Graduating early required condensing her junior year into one summer of studies, but she’s grateful for the opportunity.

“It helped me grow up faster,” she says. “A lot of my friends are going to have another year of school. I’m going to be graduated and won’t have school to tie me down.”

Then another unique, no-cost opportunity came her way. CCA prepares students for the post graduation pathways of their choice, whether college or technical training, employment or the military. Jacquelyn learned that CCA juniors and seniors can enroll in a pre-apprenticeship program offered by Associated Builders and Contractors Keystone Chapter.

The hands-on course introduced Jacquelyn and her classmates — all boys — to the building trades and the skills they need in construction, math, blueprints, materials handling, using tools and rigging, along with lessons in communications and employability.  

Jacquelyn completed the course with an Occupational Safety and Health Administration certification, demonstrating her mastery of such workplace safety skills as picking up heavy objects and moving lumber. 

With that, Jacquelyn got a job painting at a factory, where she applied everything she had learned. Then the coronavirus pandemic upended daily routines, and that job turned into a gratifying pursuit when she was offered a position making face masks.

“I’m going to be completing something that needs to be done and helping others, protecting everyone,” she says. In the meantime, she took an online home remodeling course, on her way to becoming a certified home remodeler.

Her heart for people in need inspires Jacquelyn’s interest in the construction trades. As a Jehovah’s Witness, she wants to contribute her skills to mission trips rebuilding homes torn apart by natural disasters.

“It felt like this isn’t the permanent solution to all problems, but whenever I see people in need, especially fellow brothers and sisters who are in the same truth, it’s my love for them that wants to help them,” she says. “How can we be considered Christians if we’re not doing what Jesus said, to love our neighbors?”

Jacquelyn’s mother, Kathy, is extremely proud of her daughter, knowing that her hard work will enable her to support herself and volunteer her skills for lifesaving causes. With its flexibility and career-ready outlook, CCA “has helped so much” toward those dual goals.

“She is very detail oriented,” Kathy says. “Whatever she chooses is good. While her priority is her service to her God and devoting some time to volunteering, she has also learned very good skills to have. She has definitely been focused, and we attribute that to CCA.”




June 29th, 2020


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