Back in the second grade, when Heather Fitzgerald and her classmates started declaring what they wanted to be when they grew up, she said she wanted to be a nurse.
"I even have papers from when I was little that say I wanted to be a nurse," said Fitzgerald, now 18.
Fitzgerald culminated her school years by winning a national award for practical nursing in Louisville, Ky., at the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America competition last week.
Among the skills she had to demonstrate for the competition were taking vital signs, catheterizing a dummy and making a bed -- with someone lying in it.
Alumni and students of the Carroll County Vocational and Technical Center have been raking in awards this month and last. One other graduate and a senior placed second in their fields at the VICA competition, and 13 other students competed there after all had qualified at the Maryland state competition this spring.
Also, 1991 graduate Robert Clark Jr. of Westminster competed in the VICA/Electronic Industries Association trials in late May in Chicago. Clark placed fourth out of six contestants, who had been invited to compete for a chance to represent the United States in the international contest in Taiwan later this year.
Although Clark did not qualify to go to Taiwan, he said the contest results will be a boost to his career. He is a student at Fairmont State College in West Virginia, working toward a bachelor of science degree in electronic engineering technology.
"It got my name known," he said. "I've been offered jobs in different places. I was a nobody, now I'm somebody."
However, Clark said he'll continue working on his degree rather than take a job in electronic repair. "I want to go into prototype and design of electronics," he said.
Among the schools representing Maryland in Louisville, the Carroll technical center did best.
"Maryland [students] received a total of four awards: three medals for the Carroll County students and one trophy to another Maryland program," said Catherine Engel, principal at the technical center.
Mark Mosley, 17, placed second in the nation in residential wiring at the VICA competition. He will be a senior at the technical JTC center and at North Carroll High School next fall, and is the son of Sam and Linda Mosley of Manchester.
Benjamin Eyster, 17, placed second in plumbing. He graduated in June from the technical center and from Liberty High School, and is the son of Harry and Michele Eyster of Sykesville.
Fitzgerald is the daughter of Gloria and Royce Fitzgerald of Winfield. She graduated from the technical center and South Carroll High School this spring.
She hopes to pass the board exams in September to become a licensed practical nurse, and to begin working on a bachelor of science degree in nursing at the University of Maryland at College Park.
Like Fitzgerald, Mosley got an early start on his career. At an age -- he can't remember how young -- when most children were being told by their parents to stay away from electrical outlets, he was helping his father put them together.
Sam Mosley is a master electrician who works at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, and several other family members are electricians, Mark Mosley said.
Among the remaining students who competed, Joseph Clark, 19, placed fourth in machine technology-action skills demonstration. He is a graduate of the technical center and South Carroll High School, and the son of Loretta and Wilson Nauman of Woodbine.
Other technical center seniors who competed in the nationals were Calley Lee, Michael McGuire and Scott Moyle. Graduates who competed were Allen Jackson, Valerie Hough, Jacki Baxter, Juliana Farrell, Mary Ann Swope, Phyllis Showman, Donna Armacost, Sal Miciche and Mark Maiello.