MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Park Crossing High School student Ardonnie Jones wasn't shy to raise his hand at a news conference when Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange sought a volunteer. The sophomore went on to steal the spotlight, getting a standing ovation from those in attendance and a promised gift from the mayor for his impassioned response.
MPACT, short for Montgomery Preparatory Academy for Career Technology, is partnering with the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce and local businesses in October to take part in Montgomery Manufacturing Month.
Strange, in an unplanned move during the kickoff news conference, decided he needed a student volunteer, and Jones' hand shot up before he even knew what he'd be volunteering for.
"Why did you choose this program [MPACT]?" the mayor asked at the podium before stepping back to let the student answer. Jones repeated the question, cleared his throat, adjusted the microphone, smiled and proceeded to explain his reasons.
"...something about it that really spoke out to me," the student started. "They were talking about all these different opportunities and, you know, really invoking messages and saying that if this is something that you want to pursue, you should come over at MPACT to more focus and get a right idea for what you want to do for your whole future."
The 2020 graduate ended up choosing fire science as his field of focus.
"Firefighter. I don't really know much about it," Jones admitted, "that's just a fact. I just know they go in the big ole red trucks, put out the fire...carry out two, three people on their shoulders, put them in the truck, and then go back in."
Despite allowing for a moment of humor, "It's a real hot job...", Jones was quick to get serious about his reasons for MPACT.
"I was like, this could really be something that could help me and my future, to ensure that when I get out of college, and when I go to college, I know what I want to do. I know what I need to learn, I know what I need to study so I can have a better future for myself and possibly my family. So that's why I chose MPACT."
The crowd jumped to its feet and cheered Jones on as the mayor stepped back up to the mic, beaming and throwing his arm around Jones' shoulder.
"I gotta tell you guys, that wasn't a plant," the mayor said. Before allowing Jones to speak, the mayor ribbed him, telling him that if he got the question right, he would recommend his teacher give him an A in the class. When it was over, the mayor had a plan.
"Let's arrange with the fire chief for him to get to a station and him to go run with the chief on a fire call," Strange stated.
The news was a bit stunning for Jones as he walked off the stage and is certain to be a moment he won't forget anytime soon.
Montgomery Manufacturing Month is coordinated by the National Association of Manufacturers to inspire the next generation of manufacturers and gives companies the opportunity to show their communities what they do, highlight the economic importance of manufacturing and draw attention to rewarding manufacturing careers.