Opportunities And Choices

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The high school landscape today does not resemble what it did when I was going through in the early/mid ‘90s in Southern California. My high school offered general and advanced placement courses, and students were generally expected to attend a four-year college upon graduation. There were no choices in terms of programs of study or the four-year college path everyone was expected to follow, at least not at my school.

Fast forward 25 years and 2,638 miles later, and the landscape in Anne Arundel County is quite different. Our students have choices. Magnets, signature programs, and internships give our students a plethora of options for both middle and high school. One such option is enrolling in programs offered at the Centers of Applied Technology (CAT). Severna Park and the Broadneck peninsula are both in the CAT-South feeder.

I recently had my first experience with our CAT facilities at an open house for CAT-North. I was mind-blown by the facilities, program offerings and business partnerships, not to mention the staff and student enthusiasm.

The business and community partnerships cultivated by CAT-North and CAT-South are simply incredible and truly a win-win. Students get educated by experts in their field of study, and business partners have the opportunity to hire students, some of whom they’ve taught themselves in the classroom or taken on as interns.

This symbiotic relationship with the business community is the key to the centers’ success. According to the CAT-North website, last year business partners donated their time valued at $574,927 supporting students and teachers by participating in student mock interviews, the work-study program, business advisory boards, guest-speaking engagements, mentoring programs, open-house demonstrations, Skills USA competitions, and job-shadowing experiences. Additionally, the business community also donated $62,933 in materials, equipment and scholarship funds. Incredible!

Workshops are kitted with tools and equipment to provide a stellar career and technology education, setting up our students to pursue their college and career dreams in high-wage, high-skill and high-demand occupations. In some cases, students graduate not only with a high school diploma but also with college credits and certifications in their field of study. Associated certifications can be earned in IT systems, plumbing, welding, electricity, masonry, HVAC, culinary arts, cosmetology, graphic design, and others.

Students commonly enter the program in the ninth or 10th grades in the Career Exploration Program, where they get a chance to learn about four areas of interest for one semester. These classes occur either before second period at their home school or after school. During the 10th and 11th grade years, students follow their chosen path of study, building toward internships or work-based study during the 12th grade.

CAT-North and CAT-South each offer students roughly 20 programs of study within eight career clusters: arts media and communications; construction and development; consumer services, hospitality and tourism; environmental agriculture and natural resources; health and biosciences; information technology; manufacturing engineering and technology; and transportation technology.

For more information about the fabulous programs offered at our CATs, visit www.catnorth.org or www.catsouth.org. As always, I can be contacted at dschallheim@aacps.org.

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