Career Center of Southern Illinois director helps vocational students take charge of their futures
As director of the Career Center of Southern Illinois (CCSI), Mark Stuart loves having the opportunity to witness outstanding student achievement.
“We have a very dedicated faculty who truly put students first, as well as very hard-working support staff,” Stuart told SW Illinois News. “Seeing us send the Top Illinois HS Welding Student to Skills USA National Finals for the second year in a row, along with the Top HS Automotive Student in 2019 makes me incredibly proud of our students and staff. Year-in and year-out we produce some of the best LPN graduates in this region of Illinois, based on consistently seeing our students achieve passing rates on the State NCLEX certification at levels higher than typical state and national averages.”
Stuart has worked in the education field for more than three decades. His previous roles have included high school building administrator, high school principal, business teacher at the high school and college levels, and coaching football and baseball. Stuart joined CCSI in July 2012 and has served as director ever since.
“It is important to me to see our area high schools send more students into vocational education programs,” Stuart said. “There is becoming a huge employment need for skilled trade students and our program and teachers are second-to-none. It is my hope that we can both increase enrollment in current programs as well as provide new programs in demand for the corporate sector, including Aviation Mechanics and Operations and Flight Training Theory. These and other programs can be achieved with support from the private/corporate sector.”
Stuart, who lives in Columbia, holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and physical education from North Park University in Chicago where he was also was a Division III All-American football player. He is active at his local church, serves as a board member for the Metro-East Fellowship of Christian Athletes and is an active supporter of the Life Network of Southern Illinois. He just participated in his first Honor Flight as a sponsor/guardian for a very good friend who is a Vietnam veteran.
“It is important to give back to the community you live in and programs you believe in,” Stuart said. “We have to get away from the mindset that we are owed things from the government or other people, and as citizens take responsibility for our friends and neighbors. Like the song says, ‘Become a friend a friend would like to have’.”
Stuart will be retiring from his position at CCSI in June 2020.
“I hope to be able to spend more time seeing my grandkids and being involved in their lives on a regular basis,” he said. “My trophy wife of 36 years and I are blessed to have them all live nearby where we can be a big part of their lives.”