The Whiteside Area Career Center is a cooperative endeavor of sixteen member school districts and four parochial schools located in Northwestern Illinois. WACC is located at 1608 Fifth Avenue in Sterling. The regional system encompasses approximately 1,450 square miles and has a population of 110,000 plus. Students come from five counties: Bureau, Carroll, Lee, Ogle, and Whiteside. The major concentration of population is in the tri-cities of Sterling, Rock Falls, and Dixon with the remainder residing in surrounding rural areas, small towns, and villages.
WACC currently has about 700 students enrolled in its eleven programs: Auto Service, Building Trades, Early Childhood Education, Commercial Food Service, Computer Technology, Criminal Justice, Digital Media Arts, Health Occupations (CNA), Allied Health, Pre-Engineering, and Welding. Juniors and seniors are in attendance at WACC for one hour and fifty minutes daily. All students travel to WACC as their home schools (except Sterling who is across the street) buses them to the site.
Planning for Whiteside County Vocational High School began in 1965. Whiteside County Vocational High School became the first area vocational school in the state of Illinois as it officially opened its doors at the beginning of the 1966-67 school year with Erie, Fulton, Lyndon, Morrison, Newman, Prophetstown, Sterling and Tampico as the original eight participating high schools.
In 1969 the cooperative was reorganized into the Whiteside Area Vocational Center (WAVC) with Rock Falls, Polo, Milledgeville and Thomson becoming additional members.
Additional school districts were added to the membership during the 1970¹s and 1980¹s bringing the membership to eighteen by the end of the 1980’s. In 1987 control of WAVC was transitioned to the Whiteside Regional Vocational System Board of Control. Consolidations of the mid 1990’s reduced the membership to seventeen high schools and when Ashton and Franklin Center consolidated in 2004, that number dropped to sixteen high schools.
On July 1, 2001 the name of Whiteside Area Vocational Center (WAVC) was officially changed to the Whiteside Area Career Center (WACC). Members and participants of WACC presently (2012) include Amboy, Bureau Valley, Dixon, Eastland, Erie, Forreston, Ashton-Franklin Center (AFC), Fulton, Milledgeville, Morrison, Ohio, Polo, Prophetstown, Rock Falls, Sterling, Newman Catholic, Sterling Christian, Unity Christian, and Faith Christian.
The purpose of the name change reflects a changing image and changing mission that has evolved over the past several years. The term “vocational” has had a negative image for students, parents and business partners, perceived as being directed toward students not going on to post-secondary education. Narrow in scope, the term vocational gave primary emphasis to occupational skill training for entry-level jobs immediately after high school.
Career education, on the other hand, is a broad term encompassing career awareness, career development, and skill preparation for ALL students at ALL levels of education. It integrates and reinforces academic and employability skills while at the same time preparing our students for careers in an increasingly technological and service oriented economy. And, career education is for students of all abilities whether they choose to begin their careers immediately after attending high school, trade school, community college or university.