Cumberland Times-News

February 20, 2009

Students find career center options can be a good fit

More of county’s high-schoolers taking training to college

Kristin Harty

CRESAPTOWN — Sylvie Carder hasn’t decided what to be when she grows up, but she’s starting to narrow her choices.

“Culinary arts, cosmetology or welding,” said Carder, 14, who toured the Center for Career and Technical Education with her mother Wednesday during an open house.

Those are just a few of her options.

For Allegany County students who don’t want to follow a traditional college prep curriculum, there are 17 other possibilities, including graphic communications and computer information technology.

Walking the halls of the 35-year-old Career Center, it doesn’t take long to get the picture: It’s not your father’s Vo-Tech program.

“It’s very different than when I was in school,” said Carder’s mother, Sarah, of Cumberland, who graduated high school almost 20 years ago and remembered that “the kids who did badly went to Vo-Tech.”

“But now it’s great. It’s hands-on. It’s really getting her ready for going into a career.”

School officials offer an annual open house in February, in part, to clear up misconceptions. A few persistently linger.

“Somebody told me that you get a half-degree if you come here,” said Paul Fritz, a senior in the Career Center’s law enforcement program. He’s taking advanced placement literature and anatomy and plans to attend Frostburg State University after graduation.

“That’s just not the case.”

More and more, Career Center students are applying for two- and four-year colleges, said Jenean Fazenbaker, guidance counselor. So far this year, she’s sent about 30 applications.

To get a diploma, Allegany County students have three options: a traditional college prep completer, an advanced tech completer or a career and technology completer. Students can choose more than one, Fazenbaker said, and often, students gain confidence after spending time in a skill area and begin to add college prep courses to their schedules.

“They get here and they really find success in their skill area,” Fazenbaker said. “They are finding a passion.”

About 20 percent of Allegany County students typically attend the Career Center, and this year, enrollment is 351.

Ed Taylor’s electrical construction and maintenance class is almost always full. The first sentence of the descriptor in the Career Center’s course catalogue pretty much explains it: “Highly skilled electricians are never without a job.”

“We look through books at diagrams of houses people have built,” said Josh Shuck, a senior who plans to try to pass a test to join a union after graduation. Students study theory at desks, then apply their skills at individual work stations.

“We have to figure out the loads and all that stuff,” said Shuck, who wound up at the Career Center because his older brother attended the HVAC program. Justin Shuck recently received an associate degree and is on the job market, Taylor said.

About 150 students and parents attended Wednesday night’s open house, and school staff met them at the door to find out what programs they were interested in.

“A majority have two or three choices,” said Darlene Bacon, tech prep coordinator, who recruits sophomores throughout the school year. Only juniors and seniors can attend the Career Center.

“I think parents are seeing that besides the academics, students need some kind of technical skill for employment,” Bacon said. “And the career center offers both.”

Fritz, who hopes to become a state trooper, then an FBI agent after getting a college degree, carries a fake pistol and a real set of handcuffs, like all the law enforcement students.

Kaitlyn Growden signed up for the program because she’s interested in joining the Army.

“They suggested I try this,” said Growden, 16, who moved to Cresaptown from Florida a few months ago and is happy with the Career Center. “You get to learn a lot of stuff like fingerprinting, handcuffing. We do PT every morning — a mile-and-a-half run, push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups.”

Allegany College of Maryland student Misty Hoover pumped air into a pig’s lung Wednesday night, trying to attract interest in the school’s respiratory program. Hoover has a job waiting for her after she graduates in May from ACM’s respiratory therapy school.

She completed the Career Center’s health occupations program in 2000.

“It was a wonderful program,” said Hoover, of LaVale. “It at least opened my eyes as a young person to health care. And once I found respiratory, it was where I wanted to be.”

Contact Kristin Harty at kharty@times-news.com.