Ferris State University Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration sophomore Brook Oliver received the Breaking Traditions Award for Excellence from the Michigan Department of Education, as the Belmont native was honored in Lansing on Thursday, May 16.
Oliver, who will enter her second year of HVACR studies in the fall, said she first took an interest in facility infrastructure while observing renovations at the Waters Building in downtown Grand Rapids, when her mother, Barbie, worked in an office there.
“I would go into town with her when I was out of school in the summer. One of the project supervisors was happy to explain their work to me,” Oliver said. “He told me there were lots of opportunities in their field. I thought it looked interesting, something I might want to do for a living.”
As a junior at Sparta High School, Oliver took HVACR classes at the Kent Career Technical Center from an alumnus of Ferris’ Career Technical Education and Refrigeration/Heating programs.
“Jeff DeMeester encouraged me to continue at Ferris,” Oliver said. “The classwork at KCTC increased my interest in these systems. I am very glad about the choices I have made, and look forward to where my learning could take me.”
Jill Trinklein, HVACR’s public relations, marketing and distance learning officer, nominated Oliver for the award and accompanied her to the ceremony, which was held in The Forum in the Library of Michigan, in Lansing. Prior to receiving the award, Oliver said that accepting the honor will be a new experience for her.
“I am a little nervous about this,” she said. “It will be fun to go with my mother and grandmother to the ceremony.”
Oliver hopes to build on her proficiency in this field through job shadowing during the summer, having reached out to a mechanical contractor and a hotel/conference center in the Grand Rapids area.
Oliver’s honor means a Ferris student has received the award in consecutive years. In 2018, Zambia native Marjorie Banda, who is also in the HVACR program, was selected.
Students who are in high school and collegiate programs, in areas nontraditional to their gender, are eligible to be considered for the MDE’s Breaking Traditions Award for Excellence. The department’s Office of Career and Technical Education administers the process, which required a nomination and application process, along with a narrative from Oliver, detailing her accomplishments and efforts to achieve her goals.