Cristobal Correa thought the film industry sounded like a cool career when he started in Wylie’s Video Production class as a freshman.
Now he’s sure of it.
“I want to go into film production and film editing in college,” he said. “This class is really helping me. Not only am I getting hardware experience working with cameras, but I am also learning organizational techniques and shooting styles that I can use later on.”
Wylie’s Video Production Class is just one of many courses that are providing students with real work skills and industry certifications in the exploding Career and Technology Education program at Wylie High School. Students are learning everything from floral design to culinary arts to graphic design and marketing.
Wylie’s CTE program has skyrocketed over the last six years partly because of changes and improvements at the state level and partly because of the foresight and interest of Wylie’s own teachers and students.
Reagan Berry, assistant principal and CTE director at Wylie High, said when she came to Wylie seven years ago as a teacher, Tommy Vaughn was principal and he had an idea for students to get hands-on experience in business.
“Mr. Vaughn told me he had a vision for a student-run business,” she said. “The following year we started the entrepreneurship classes. That third year, we started the Purple Dog Company. That has just exploded. At the same time, the state started pushing Career and Technology Education. They work directly with industry – with regional labor markets. What are high paying, high demand jobs and how can we get these pathways into schools?”
Last year, the state expected school districts to have a certain number of CTE classes in place, depending on the size of the district.
“We have quite a bit more than the state requires us to have,” Berry said. “We are required to offer three and we have 11. And they are growing.”
The Purple Dog Company is the student-run business that Vaughn originally envisioned. Each year, the company hosts the Bulldog Market in which students sell products they have made. Students from ag, culinary arts, entrepreneurship, graphic design, art and more participate.
Berry said the graphic design class is a good example of students driving the creation of more classes. The school offered graphic design and had so much interest that it had to offer a full day of classes.
“When you have that much demand for graphic design, you can guarantee that some students will want to go to the next level,” Berry said, “so you have advanced graphic design.”
The Video Production class is another example. That class has been offered for years but has just exploded recently.
“Whenever the Performing Arts Center was built with all that technology, that nearly forced them to take that class to the next level,” Berry said. “We have kids that that’s an interest and that’s a skill of theirs and that’s a talent of theirs. That took that class to the next level.”
One of the goals of the CTE program is to provide courses that are beneficial to students whether they are going to college or going straight into the work force. Wylie’s Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program is an example of that.
“I became passionate about that when I was a teacher, and I had a student who was registering for a CNA class at Cisco,” Berry said. “She said this is so dumb that I have to pay for these courses. If I went to Abilene, I could get certified in school. I became passionate about that being a program that we needed to have. We have a medically driven community.”
But starting a CNA program did not happen overnight, Berry said.
”You have to hire the right people with the right qualifications,” she said. “And then you have all these prerequisites, so you have to build on it.”
First students take Principles of Health Science, which is an intro class into the Certified Nursing Assistant pathway. Students who take that class get their health credit instead of taking the normal health class.
“This year that course grew by two and health fell by two,” Berry said. “That tells us the demand for that Health Science is there. It doubled in size in one year.”
Students who continue in the Health Science program can eventually get to the upper-level class where they get their CNA certification. Then they spend two-days a week working at Windcrest as a nurse’s aide. Berry said the school is currently taking 19 CNA students to work at Windcrest for four or five hours per day.
Those students will have the certification to be nurses aids when they get out of high school, or they have valuable skills that will put them ahead of the game if they go to nursing school or medical school.
Berry said another program where the school is working with industry partners is the veterinary assistant program in the Agriculture Department. Students who reach the upper level course get their Vet Tech License and are working at local veterinary clinics.
Many of the upper level courses in the various career pathways offer students a license or certification that is recognized by the industry.
“The state recognizes those industry-based certificates that they get, so it makes them valuable,” Berry said. “The state has done a great job of making those courses valuable to the district but also valuable to the students and worthwhile.”
Students can get their Microsoft Certification, Excel Certification and Adobe Certification in various business/marketing classes, and some of those certifications allow them to skip those classes at college.
In the Culinary Arts classes, students get a food handler’s license.
“Every student in intro all the way through advanced got their food handlers license,” Berry said. “The upper level kids get their ServSafe certification.
“The state has a whole list of industry-based certificates,” the legwork to see what industry wants and what they recognize. We look at that list and see which ones fit in our coursework and which ones our kids could be successful in.”
The agriculture department also has several CTE classes, including floral design, horticulture and plant science, as well as the vet program and a very strong welding program.
Wylie also has a Principles of Education class, and students who continue in that program and take the upper level courses can become a teachers’ aide when they graduate.
Berry said hiring the right people to teach CTE classes is a key to making the program grow.
“Whoever the instructor is, they have to get students excited about this and make the course worthwhile to them,” she said. “We have some really good people in place doing that.”
Berry said the Career and Technology Education classes are just a great way to introduce students to various careers and give them a leg up in those careers regardless of whether they go to college or go to work.
“The goal is to expose them to the needs of our region and of the work force and help them make decisions,” she said. “Some of them may take some of these courses and realize oh I don’t want to be in there.”
She said the school will continue to monitor industry and student interest and make adjustments to the programs as needed.
“We are excited for everything to keep growing and to keep adding programs,” she said.
By Candy Reagan