FLORENCE — Todd Nix smiled at the familiar surroundings Tuesday as he walked through the Florence High School halls.
"This really brings back a lot of fond memories," said Nix, who roamed those same halls as a student when it was Bradshaw High School.
Since those days at Bradshaw, Nix has gone on to become a medic in the Army, a Florence police officer, a students resource officer, an animal control director and a community services director for the city.
Now, as the Florence School System's new coordinator of partnerships and workforce innovations, he has shifted the focus of his career to helping high school students with their careers through such initiatives as the "12 For Life" partnership with Southwire, and the "Launch" program.
"Launch" provides internships and apprenticeships for students by allowing them to spend part of their school day working at a local company in a field that interests them.
"I'll develop partnerships with businesses," Nix said. "We have kids who work for hospitals, engineers, veterinarians — a variety of fields. We are moving forward to get more into the manufacturing side and trade side because we're living at a time when the trades pay so well.
"I'll be the advocate meeting with a business and telling them we want you to meet this student."
Nix told students Tuesday that everyone comes to an interview with a certain amount of cards to play. The more experience they have, the more cards they bring and the more likely they are to get the job.
"What we see is too many times we have people in their mid-20s without many cards to play in that interview," he said.
Through programs such as "Launch," Florence students are gaining that experience while in high school.
Nix said the students are able to learn exactly what it is like to work in a field that interests them, while developing important soft skills, such as good attendance.
A native of Florence, Nix considers himself fortunate to have a career that has included jobs with the city and school system.
He started as a police officer in 1990, became a resource officer at then-Coffee High School and was named Florence-Lauderdale animal control director in 1999.
Nine years later, he became community services director for the city, which was the position he held until retiring this year and accepting the Florence City Schools position.
His $46,000 annual salary in the new position is substantially less than the $100,000 he earned as community services director, but Nix said he is in a position where he can do that, and this was something he wanted to do as a way to help students and local businesses.
"This is an opportunity for me to go back to the school system," he said. "We all have something to gain by helping train these folks to replace us one day. In essence, we can put a down payment on the future today by helping promote an early career path."