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Technical education isn’t for dummies: ESJH tours parents, students through options

RESERVE — East St. John High master teacher Billie Duncan wants to change the narrative for those who think technical education is a path for the less academically inclined.

According to Duncan, career and technical education courses are great tools in students’ arsenals, providing real-world experience and certifications at no cost to local families.

A CTE tour held Tuesday evening at ESJH raised awareness of industrial arts, business, nursing, culinary and technological courses offered on campus.

“Our kids don’t know what exactly it is some of the teachers do until they get assigned to that class,” Duncan said.

“Our parents don’t know because our kids don’t know. We’re trying to open up the doors to show what we offer to our kids. Most of our classes offer industry-based certifications for free, when it would normally cost hundreds of dollars just to take the exams.”

East St. John High tour group members stand near tables made by local carpentry students.

Under the new JumpStart Career and Technical diploma requirements, students must earn three certifications. A CTE diploma holds equal weight to a Core 4 diploma and also comes with TOPS opportunities, Duncan said.

Junior A’kyri Paulding turned out for the CTE tour to learn more about ESJH’s accounting courses. Not a lot of her classmates in Core 4 courses have branched out into vocational studies, she said.

“I wanted to know more about all the classes and clubs that use computers and accounting,” Paulding said. “Learning about what I want to be will make me better prepared in the future.”

Sophomore Hailey Moses took the tour to explore career choices, adding she was exposed to many course options she was not previously aware of.

“Welding stood out to me,” Moses said. “It’s a hands-on type of job where you don’t have to sit down all day.  It benefits students to be given extra choices so they are not limited to certain things.”

Drafting teacher Beverly Reed-Taylor demonstrates industry-standard tables in the industrial arts building during this week’s CTE tour at East St. John High School.

Welding, drafting, carpentry and engineering are offered in the industrial arts building, and instructor Jonathan Noel said students must pass a safety exam to work in workshops and earn certifications.

ESJH parent Katrice Reid said her two daughters learn best from a dynamic teaching style with real-world experience.

“My oldest is interested in nursing, and my youngest is into anything with digital media,” Reid said. “We know the kids learn math, English and science, but we don’t know the full extent of the vo-tech programs.”

New to this academic year is the after school IT program, which Duncan said exposes students to technology, web design and game design. The course, directed by Operation Spark, is held once a week at ESJH, and transportation home is provided.

A patient care class building ties to existing certified nursing assistant and first responder courses is soon to come, Duncan said, as is a new class offering PSII automotive certification.

Business classes including microeconomics prepare students for proprietorship, while technology courses certify students in Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite.

Dual enrollment credits are also offered, Duncan said.

“We have two new classes this year for freshmen to explore careers,” Duncan said. “My dream is to make use of the business mentors in this area and open up job shadowing and internships.”