Some hands-on courses prepare students for a career
SALISBURY — At high schools across Rowan County, students aren’t just cracking open the books.
Public high school CTE programs
What’s being offeredThere are several Career Technical Education programs offered to high school students in the Rowan-Salisbury School System. Classes within each program vary based on the school.Agriculture (South Rowan, East Rowan, West Rowan and Carson high schools)• Agriscience Applications• Agricultural Mechanics• Animal Science• Agribusiness Management, Trends and Issues• Environmental and Natural Resources Studies• Equine Science• Horticulture• Biotechnology and AgriscienceBusiness• Principles of Business and Finance• Business Law• Accounting• Multimedia and Webpage Design• Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Publisher• Microsoft Excel and Access• eCommerce• Networking• Network Administration• Personal Finance• EntrepreneurshipCareer Development• Career ManagementFamily and Consumer Sciences• Apparel• Interior Design• Fashion Merchandising• Early Childhood Education• Foods• Parenting and Child Development• Teen LivingHealth Occupations• Biomedical Technology• Health Team Relations• Health Science• Nursing FundamentalsMarketing• Sports and Entertainment Marketing• Marketing Management• Strategic Marketing• Fashion Merchandising• Hospitality and TourismTrade and Industrial• Networking• Network Engineering Technology• Computer Engineering Technology• Masonry• Carpentry• Cabinetmaking• Drafting• Digital Media
They’re hitting hammers to nails in carpentry classes.
Masonry students are laying bricks onto mortar, nursing students are pumping blood pressure cuffs and cosmetology students are snipping scissors.
Middle and high schools at the Rowan-Salisbury School System offer a variety of career and technical education (CTE) classes, but availability depends on the level of interest at each school.
Students can choose a concentration in business, career development, family and consumer science, health occupations, marketing, technology and trade and industrial education. An agricultural program is available at South Rowan, East Rowan, West Rowan and Carson high schools.
During many of these courses, the students go beyond learning in a classroom to get hands-on experience in their field of interest. And the offerings are changing all the time.
Henderson Independent High School will soon be home to the county’s first culinary arts program. They’re taking bids now for construction of a facility with a commercial kitchen.
Principal Chris Vecchione said programs like this not only help students get a job once they graduate, but also help them to reach high school graduation in the first place.
“The CTE program, a lot of time, is what keeps students in school,” he said. “Especially working with their hands, and seeing products they’ve created over time, it gives them a sense of accomplishment.”
Through partnerships with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, students studying machining technologies and automotive technologies work on real shop equipment while earning college credit.
The college also teaches courses in cosmetology on the Henderson campus.
Before doing work on anyone, students must spend at least 300 hours testing their skills. Helen Morgan, cosmetology instructor with Rowan-Cabarrus, said students in the basic level course typically go through 540 hours of training on mannequins and each other.
Then, the students can move up to the advanced level course, where they must train another 900 hours working with people before they can take the test for a cosmetology apprentice license from the North Carolina State Board of Cosmetic Art.
“They can work their way through college, they can use this as a career or they can become an educator like me,” Morgan said.
At Henderson, the students learn not only how to cut, color and style hair, but also how to perform manicures and pedicures, facial massages and body waxes. Customers can make an appointment by calling 704-630-0732.
In two cosmetology classrooms, they also study chemistry, anatomy, electricity and other subjects that help them understand the principles behind the skills they’re learning.
Brooklyn Perkins, a senior at East Rowan High School, doubled up on her classes early on so that she would have time in her last two years to attend the program.
“This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was in third grade,” Perkins said. “It’s a lot cheaper to learn it now than to wait and do it later, in college.”
She said she loves doing haircuts but is still getting used to applying color.
Kara Riddle, a senior at West Rowan High School, said she thought she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her mother, who was a beautician.
“Now, I don’t know if I want to do it for the rest of my life,” she said.
Riddle said she plans to use her license to get a job and help pay for her college education.
“I think it’s a really good program, and I think it helps a lot of people out,” Riddle said.
Roger Withers, CTE program coordinator, said Rowan County schools have offered a good selection of vocational courses for a long time, but in the past few years, options for students have become more diverse and in-depth.
“For business, we’re now really doing more in technology and Microsoft certification, both at the high school and middle school levels,” Withers said. “Almost every high school is doing something different in agriculture.”
Middle school courses are designed to help students explore careers and figure out whether or not they’re really interested in a certain field, he said.
“We’re trying to support the academy approach in our high schools,” Withers said. “Several are brand new. We’re working on a public safety academy at South, but it hasn’t gone to the board yet.”
The Board of Education has approved a business and marketing academy at East Rowan, which will start this fall. An agriculture academy is already up and running at West Rowan. Salisbury has science and math, Carson has fine arts and South Rowan has JROTC.
Rising ninth graders who live in different districts can apply to transfer to a school with an academy they’re interested in. If they leave the academy, they go back to their “home” school.
Kathy McDuffie, who recently retired as Rowan-Salisbury director of secondary education, said the school system decides what to offer based on jobs they won’t have to go far to find.
“As we look at the courses available from the state, we look at what’s available here in region, not just in Rowan County but the region around us, and try to align them with those,” McDuffie said.
Students also can set up internships and apprenticeships through their high schools.
McDuffie says the school system has implemented an informal two-track system in the past, so it should be able to adapt well to the new “career-ready” and “college-ready” diploma certifications established this year by Gov. Pat McCrory.
For students who want a head start on the path toward college, Rowan County Early College program gives students a chance to earn a two-year degree at the same time as a high school diploma. Traditional high school students still can take advanced placement (AP) courses to earn college credit.
“We’ve had some that just do the college track, some that just do the vocational track, and some that split it,” McDuffie said. “It’s about what’s best for them once they leave school.”
Seniors in a nursing fundamentals class at North Rowan High School work in two recently remodeled labs with real medical equipment and anatomically correct mannequins.
Next to hospital beds donated by Carolinas Medical Center-Northeast, they practice skills like taking blood pressure readings, helping with personal care and gently moving a bed-ridden patient.
Soon, they will take a test to determine whether they’re ready for a clinical rotation at the Lutheran Home in Salisbury. Once they complete the required number of hours and take another test, they can become certified nursing assistants (CNAs).
Graduates can start work immediately as a nursing assistant in a hospital or other clinical setting. But many use the certification as a head start toward a nursing or even medical degree.
“Most colleges require a CNA before going into a nursing program,” instructor Kathy Pardue said.
Julie Lemus, a senior, said she hopes to become a pediatric nurse at first, and then either medical assistant or registered nurse (RN) — whichever will allow her to work as a translator between Spanish and English to help Hispanic and Latino patients.
“We are a minority in doctor’s offices,” she said. “So many people are going in and they’re not able to tell the doctor what’s wrong. ... It’s difficult for doctors as well, because they want to understand the patients and help them.”
T.J. Allen said he wants to go to school to become a pharmacist, but he saw a benefit to taking the nursing fundamentals class and earning a CNA. It will give him the chance to earn some money to pay his tuition.
“Not everybody’s able to get a job nowadays,” he said. “Being a male, it helps me a lot more, because there aren’t a lot of men in nursing.”
Pardue said she hopes state and local leaders know how important career and technical education can be for students.
“We’re preparing them for a job,” Pardue said. “And we’re preparing them for life.”