I walked in to the Porter County Career and Technical Education Center to find Director and Principal Jon Groth speaking with two former students. They were very excited to tell Groth about their continued success after graduating from PCCTE and their future endeavors, and Groth was just as excited to listen.
"They are both going to Ball State," Groth explained. "Both continuing in the fields they started here, both just super kids, the kind of kids that make you really happy to get to know the next generation because the world is in great hands with people like that."
Most of Groth's life is based on working with kids to inspire them to be that kind of people. He has been the Director of Porter County's vocational programs for nineteen years and the Principal of Porter County Career and Technical Education Center for seven years. Groth's desire to help kids also extends into his community service. He is President of the Valparaiso Kiwanis Club and President of the State Associate over all of the Directors in the state. In this role Groth upholds the mission of the club, "To improve the lives of children in your community, one child at a time." He also serves as President of Porter County's Merit Board, which is in charge of hiring and disciplining police officers for the Porter County Sheriff's Department, and served on the YMCA board during their building project. He also served as President of Rebuilding Together for sixteen years, leading over 30 building projects in the community.
When I asked what cause was most important to him, Groth explained, "Helping kids get through some tough teenage years, when there's a lot of difficult pressures on them. Sometimes adults don't understand or consider it, but I get to know them, understand them, and try to help them get through those issues. Not every kid has a wonderful nuclear family, or a family who cares, or a family who is capable of caring, in some cases, so anything we can do to help those kids survive, get through their life, become good citizens is pretty important to me."
Groth has a great strategy for teaching and inspiring his students. He believes the best way to help someone improve is to point out their strengths, rather than focusing on their shortcomings.
"It doesn't help to point out their deficiencies," Groth said. "They know what those are. Point out their strengths, where they can achieve more."
Through employment of this technique, Groth and the other instructors at PCCTE have been able to inspire their students to achieve a lot of really wonderful things. Groth explained how the students have been working to make the building as energy efficient as possible, even creating a network of solar and wind energy that currently powers about half of the lights in the building. He also mentioned some upcoming excitement.
"We are always doing something here. We've got something coming up that's probably going to be a big splash here. I can't even talk about that yet, but we'll be able to in about a week, hopefully," Groth hinted.
Information will be posted online at PCCTE.org next week.
Groth's influence on our community can be seen in many places, but the deepest impression must be on the hearts of the students who have learned from him, not only to be successful in their education and careers, but to believe in their ability to be helpful and productive citizens. Jon Groth is blessing to the community and certainly A Valpo Life in the Spotlight.