Career tech gives Whitmer students head startWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
Whitmer students involved in the engineering program are now able to earn college credits at big-name schools.
Project Lead The Way Engineering, one of 16 programs offered through Whitmer Career & Technology Center, has been awarded national certification.
The recognition will allow students to receive college credit at The Ohio State University, Purdue and Duke University among dozens of others.
“All the students in our engineer program will have the opportunity, and in all honesty, they are all going to because they are very high-grade-point-average students, to receive automatic college credit if they take an end-of-course exam and pass it,” according to Deb Heban, director of Whitmer Career & Technology Center.
Junior Ashley Parsons became interested in the field because her mom told her an engineer made the costumes for Disney On Ice.
Laughing, Parsons said she’s grown up since then, and her goal is to become a chemical engineer, something she determined through the career tech center.
“It helped me figure out what I wanted to do,” she said of first wanting to become an electrical engineer.
Parsons said students in career tech are taking high-level math and science courses. They take core classes and are still part of Whitmer. They are involved in school sports, musicals, honor societies and foreign language clubs. It’s not what everyone thinks, she said.
“It is all about re-educating our community and our parents,” Heban said. “I was a product of vocational education. I went to Clay [High School] and went through two years of dental assisting and worked in dental for 18 years.”
Heban said the on-campus center is so popular that there is a waiting list. Fifty-four percent of the juniors and seniors at Whitmer participate in one of the 16 programs.
“We have gotten to the point where it is an application process because we have so many students interested, and we pick the students we want,” Heban said. “They have to meet criteria of attendance, their grades and their discipline records.
“Our students are going onto college. In some programs, we have 100 percent going onto college. If they don’t go onto college, they go to an apprenticeship program or directly into a related job,” she said.
In addition to engineering, Whitmer offers programs in digital graphic design, criminal science, cosmetology, culinary arts, computer networking technology and medical office management, among others. Students who complete the programs can leave school with a variety of licenses, including those for cosmetology, the nursing aide profession and welding.
Next school year, Heban said a track in biomedical sciences is set to be offered. The student course schedule will include biology or honors biology, as well as principles of biomedical science, human body systems and medical interventions. Those who graduate could go onto careers in medicine, pharmaceutical research and radiology, among others.
“The percentage going onto college is much higher than the kids who are not career tech, and they are staying in college,” Heban said.
“They are focused; they are doing hands-on projects and they are getting internships,” she said.
Chef Michael DuShane teaches culinary arts and helps students run the school-based cafe. In addition to a degree in culinary arts, he earned a bachelor’s in middle school education and a master’s in physical education.
“I advertise this class as how to run a business, and our business happens to be a restaurant,” DuShane said.
Students are encouraged to come up with ways to market the cafe, such as selling leftover desserts for 75 cents or taking eggs benedict to teachers as a way to remind them about eating lunch at the cafe.
“They work on special projects like mini wedding cakes, gingerbread houses and designing breakfast menus,” he said.
Recently, student Perry Mitchell was making his homemade goulash. DuShane creativity is encouraged.
Heban said she thinks the popularity of career tech will continue to grow because of the sagging economy, and because parents and students are realizing the stigma has been lifted.
She said teachers in career tech are well educated, too. Career tech teachers have five years’ experience in their particular industry and then have to earn 27 credit hours from UT to learn teaching skills. Many teachers come in with bachelor and master’s degrees.