The Gulf Coast Trades Center’s new principal Greg Shipp has entered into his new role with enthusiasm and devotion.

Shipp, a Huntsville resident, began his duties at the center Nov. 30.

Shipp said his time at the center so far has been positive.

“This center has a caring staff who is focused on helping young people,” Shipp said. “The past four days have been fast and furious for me and fun as well. It’s been a wonderful experience getting to know the staff and the students.”

The Gulf Coast Trades Center “promotes the social economic independence of disadvantaged youth, 16-18 years old, who are adjudicated and at risk of lifelong dependency,” according to its mission statement.

As a man committed to service with a passion for working with youth, Shipp said the job is a perfect match for him.

“It’s a very unique opportunity and experience for me,” Shipp said. “I’m here by choice. I missed working with students and I’m extremely excited to be here. I hope to help continue the great services this center provides.”

Shipp spent the last 16 years working for the Region 6 Education Center — the technical assistance and training branch of the Texas Education Agency — in the career and technical education department.

He was also a counselor for the Windham School District as well as an agricultural science teacher for three years.

“I also worked in administration at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for two and a half years so that’s a pretty good match for this campus,” Shipp said.

In his new position as principal, Shipp said he will be responsible for a variety of duties.

“I will be responsible for the instructional side of house,” Shipp said. “I’ll be working with the teachers as well as the administration. But my most important role is being a resource to the students.

“I’ve already been going by the shops and labs to visit with the students. I want them to see that I’m here as an advocate for their future, helping and working with them.”

Shipp said students will always find help in the principal’s office.

“I’ve been a counselor so I have a unique view of working with students,” Shipp said. “I’m a big believer in planning. We all face barriers but as long as we have a plan and are willing to work hard, we can get through those barriers.”

The center’s students, Shipp said, are challenged in different ways.

“I applied for this job because of the unique nature of this school,” Shipp said. “I’m a full partner of education and I don’t know another school like this one. We have the neediest of the needy. These students, through situations in their lives, have somehow along the way been knocked off track.”

“We can be the saving grace for these students,” he said. “It’s our job to help them rebuild the structure of their lives. I truly believe that one person, giving them that extra push, attention and skills they need, can make a difference in a student’s life.”

Shipp said the center’s focus is to teach students not only through academic education but also the workforce.

“We want students to leave with a GED, a marketable trade as well as college credits so they can pursue secondary education,” Shipp said.

The Gulf Coast Trades Center offers students education in trades such as horticulture, building maintenance, painting and decorating, bricklaying and stone masonry, mill and cabin making, auto technician, building trades, culinary and basic computer information systems.

“We’re a well-kept secret,” Shipp said. “This is a dynamic school. I wish the people of the community could come and listen to the students and their parents at graduation.

“I attended the last graduation and it was a moving ceremony. Parents spoke about what the experience has meant to their child. It makes a difference when you hear that and see those things happen.”

Thomas Poe, executive director at the Region 6 Education Center, once said something to Shipp that stuck with him.

“He told me, ‘We have to hold on to these students as long as we can,’” Shipp said. “He cares deeply for students and he’s right because the alternative is brutal. We’re in not in the business of dealing out students, but in the business of helping them.”

With an excellent staff, Shipp said he can’t wait to see what the future holds in store for the Gulf Coast Trades Center.

“Our executive director, Bill Gholson, is fantastic,” Shipp said. “He is student-focused and has high expectations for his staff and students. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”

Shipp said he looks forward to working with the staff and students to move the center to further success.

“There’s a lot I want to do,” Shipp said. “I feel extremely lucky to have this opportunity.”