- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 8, 2009

CRESAPTOWN, Md. (AP)

Fourteen-year-old Sylvia Carder, on a tour recently of the Center for Career and Technical Education, is starting to narrow her career choices.

“Culinary arts, cosmetology or welding,” Sylvia said during an open house at the center with her mother. And those are just a few of her options.

In Allegany County, students who don’t want to follow a college prep curriculum can pursue 17 other possibilities, including graphic communications and computer information technology.

The 35-year-old Career Center is not your father’s vo-tech program.

“It’s very different than when I was in school,” said Sylvia’s mother, Sarah, of Cumberland, who graduated from high school almost 20 years ago and recalled 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 conduct the annual open house, in part, to clear up misconceptions.

“Somebody told me that you get a half degree if you come here,” said Paul Fritz, a senior enrolled in the Career Center’s law enforcement program. “That’s just not the case.” He’s also taking advanced placement literature and anatomy; he plans to go to Frostburg State University after graduation.

Career Center students often apply to two- and four-year colleges, said Jenean Fazenbaker, guidance counselor. She’s sent some 30 applications this year.

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

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

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

Ed Taylor’s electrical construction and maintenance class is usually full. The first sentence in the Career Center’s course catalog description says: “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 join a union after graduation. Students study theory, then apply their skills at individual work stations.

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

About 150 students and parents attended a recent open house.

“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 take part in the Career Center.

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

Paul, the senior enrolled in the law enforcement program, hopes to become a state trooper, then an FBI agent after getting a college degree. He carries a fake pistol and a real set of handcuffs, as do all the law enforcement students.

Kaitlyn Growden signed up for the program because she wants to join the Army.

“They suggested I try this,” said Kaitlyn, 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.”

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

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

“It was a wonderful program,” said Miss 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.”


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