Students returning back from summer break can already be seen reviewing anatomy or learning how to mount a tire on a rim, like Chad Audibert showing his classmate how to use the tire changer machine.
Or Karissa Faudoa, who demonstrated how to take someone’s blood pressure on her classmate last Friday in their health science class. Faudoa wants to be a pediatrician one day and courses like this are a step toward learning about the career of her dreams.
From making video announcements for the school, rebuilding a racecar, creating cakes or resumes, Sealy High School’s Career and Technology Education program provides a wealth of opportunities to students. And it’s still expanding as it begins to research implementing a machinist and construction program for next fall.
“It’s ever-changing. You can’t stay with the same courses all the time,” said Allen Kaminski, director of the program.
Kaminski has been teaching in Career and Technology for 26 years and has tried to make sure that students are getting the best opportunities to succeed after high school and keeping up with industry trends.
In March, Kaminski presented a student survey to the school board that showed interest in machinist and construction programs.
The survey, of last year’s ninth through tenth graders, showed 87 students were interested in both programs, 16 were interested in only a machinist program and 33 were interested in only construction.
“I’ve also talked to machine shops in the area,” Kaminski added. “They will potentially hire these students in our career prep. program, where [students] can leave after lunch and get on the job training.”
The career prep. course allows for students to work outside the classroom and get credit while also learning things like interviewing skills, how to keep a job and how to deal with people in the workplace, said Melissa Simms, who teaches the course this year.
Right now Kaminski is still gauging student interest and looking for donations for equipment or funds. The program will require him to hire a few more faculty members as well, he said. If everything goes well, he hopes to have a beginning level course ready for next fall.
This is all part of keeping up with industries that can provide decent salaries and the job availability that students can take advantage of.
“That’s the reason five years ago we had the health science program,” he said. “Because there is a demand for people in the medical field. And if you look at the west side of Houston, what’s coming out here? Hospitals.”
Sealy High School offers 12 of the 16 federally designated career clusters of career and technology courses. It’s the grouping system used for the different programs, such as Agriculture, Hospitality and Tourism, Human Services, IT and Manufacturing.
All the clusters have advancing levels of courses. For example, in the Education and Training cluster students can take Principles of Education and Training, then Human Growth and Development and then Instructional Practices in Education and Training.
Last year, students logged 917 contact hours. A student can take a course that covers more than one period and multiple courses in one semester, so it’s hard to track individuals.
Career and Technology also integrates with special education, using the greenhouse to train students in how to work at a greenhouse and cultivate plants so that they can find work in a nursery or greenhouse when they graduate.
“For a 3A school, we have a lot of things going on, and that’s through support from our school board and our administration and community to do this. For years we’ve had support to get these programs started,” said Kaminski.
Students in Career and Technology can get a lot more out of a class than a grade. Depending on what course they take, the class can count for another high school required credit. For example, floral arrangement can count as a fine art credit.
Students in Troy Oliver’s class were creating Homecoming mums. Student Vanessa Garcia said she took the class because her mom does this as a hobby, making mums for family and friends.
Teacher Thomas Matocha runs the Principles of Technology course that also counts as science credit. His students do more hands-on education, like one project where he will ask students to build a tower out of toothpicks that can’t weigh more than 10 grams, but must hold up to 6 grams of weight.
In a partnership with Blinn College, students are also able to earn college credit through a technical dual credit program. Sealy faculty is hired by Blinn as adjunct faculty, though do not receive any financial benefit, and are able to teach at Sealy and award the hours.
Sealy also has agreements with Wharton County Junior College, Texas State Tech. College and Lone Star College so that if a student takes designated courses, they will get credit upon enrollment.
There is also the ability to get certifications. Many students get their Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification to work in some of the courses, like welding. Thirty-six students earned them last year.
Last year the school also saw 10 students become certified nursing assistants, in partnership with the Sealy Medical Foundation that reimburses their expenses.
It also saw 13 students become certified in CPR and first aid and 12 get the National Center for Construction Education and Research safety certification. Two got their welding certification from Blinn.
Student groups and scholarship opportunities are also a part of these programs.
“It’s all education, but it’s all hands on,” said Kaminski. “They created their own video game, they created their own comic strip - and you never know, you create the correct video game and you could be a millionaire tomorrow.”
Putting education into perspective for students to think about their futures and give them the ability to take control is part of many of the courses. Coach Jay Viertel leaves the production of the televised morning announcement to his kids, and culinary arts teacher Holly Nemec gets to watch her students use healthy nutrition and cooking skills in action.
“By the end they’re usually like, picking up dishes and spices and experimenting,” she said.