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42 shape new futures

Published Sep. 9, 2009

Brad Bennett used to daydream about another life as he folded shirts in the menswear department of Macy's.

On Wednesday night, Bennett, 29, took the first step toward his new career as a television cameraman.

With 41 other adult students, Bennett received a diploma from the Pinellas Technical Education Centers during a ceremony at Pinellas Park High School.

"I'm about to enter a new chapter in my life," he said. "I'm very nervous, but very excited."

Since August, 806 students have graduated from the 35 programs offered at the Clearwater and St. Petersburg PTEC's, which range from six weeks for nursing to 1½ years for drafting.

"There is life after final exams," Richard Hayes, a graduate of the commercial arts program, said during his commencement speech.

Hayes is president of Digital Lightbridge, a Tampa-based firm that ran the marketing campaign for the $260-million Trump Tower Tampa.

Many PTEC students don't return for the ceremony. Others, like Valerie Cobb, 23, received their diplomas Wednesday but have until July to complete their programs.

Cobb, a former manager of a movie theater, studied culinary arts. "I'm nervous, but I'm prepared to work my way up to chef," she said.