During September's monthly school board meeting, CCS Curriculum Coordinator Kathy Knust led a presentation showcasing vocational teachers explaining the success, progress and struggles of each program.
"Strong vocational and career technical education programs provide many advantages to students," Knust said. "Additionally, vocational competence is absolutely critical to the economic health of our community and nation."
At the meeting to speak on their program's behalf was Health Careers instructor Rexanne Laue, Automated Services teacher Tony Miliorini, Interdisciplinary Cooperative educator Penny Grover, Family and Consumer Sciences instructors Michelle Burk and Connie Bailey, Business Technology educator Beth Moody, Agriculture teacher Pat Powell and Building Trades instructor Dan Dragon.
"Health careers was a big success last year, and this year, my second-year students have a newly remodeled classroom at St. Vincent Clay Hospital," Laue said.
The Health Careers I course is a two-semester course, each worth 3 college credits through Ivy Tech Community College.
The first semester is an introduction into all health careers, and the second semester focuses on concentrated medical terminology.
To receive dual credit, students must also pass the compass test or score high enough on the SAT or ACT.
Students enrolled in Health Careers II learn by engaging with patients and practicing simulations through clinicals at Exceptional Living and St. Vincent Clay Hospital.
During the clincals, health careers students have a chance to work in a professional setting with actual medical professionals.
"We have included Dr. Houston and Dr. Staadt into our lessons too," Laue said. "We've also been able to include the Certified Nursing Assistant curriculum in this class as of this week."
All students currently participating in the health careers nursing assistant class are seniors.
"My goal is to let the students observe many different areas in health care, in order to help prepare them for college next year," Laue said.
Since last year, enrollment in health careers classes has risen from 23 high school students, 21 from Northview and two from Clay City, to 60 students, with four from Clay City.
After gaining applied experience and knowledge, many students go on to pursue careers in the fields they study through the vocational programs, or they chose to do more exploration to find a better fit.
"Vocational career exploration also helps students make more informative and dedicated choices regarding apprenticeships or college enrollment," Knust said, "because they discover the career pathway that they love and are consequently more motivated to pursue college study."
Another vocational program offered by Clay Community Schools is the automotive services program taught by Tony Migliorini.
The program offers 12 hours of dual credit with Ivy Tech and two with Vincennes.
The class has received multiple awards from the Ivy Tech Automotive Skills contest.
Students who study automotive services have gone on to attend numerous colleges and/or work at local businesses.
"We've built several street rods as class projects, and we are currently building a 1996 S10 with a fuel injected V8," Migliorini said.
Students can pursue a certification in one or more of the following areas: Steering, suspension, brakes, engine performance, manual transmissions, electrical systems, air conditioning and engine repair.
The laboratory experiences in automotive services includes using scientific and mathematical skills to problem solve, as well as written and oral skills when communication with customers is involved.
"I have heard people make the statement these vocational students are good with their hands," Knust said. "They are good with their hands, but it also takes a lot of intelligence to do the work the students do. They just learn better by being actively engaged."
Meanwhile, Penny Groover teaches the Interdisciplinary Cooperative Education (ICE) program to seniors.
"In my opinion, this program is one of the most important programs a high school could possess," Groover said. "ICE brings students, parents, our community, employers and the schools together."
The programs three purposes include training students for entry into useful, gainful full-time employment, developing competency and efficient job skills and developing desirable personal and social traits to help students adjust in a working environment.
Only trustworthy students with average to above average grades can participate.
"It's a win-win program for everyone involved, especially our students," Groover said.
In addition, our curriculum focuses on career pathways and the proper way to pursue a job.
The orientation to life and careers course, taught by Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) faculty, teaches students how to fill out job applications, create resumes, cover letters and allows them to participate in mock interviews and job shadowing experiences.
Students may also take courses in financial responsibility, as well as child development and food and nutrition.
Next year, the FCS Department plans to offer an education professionals class on top of the early childhood education course they already offer.
This program is meant to prepare students who are considering careers in education.
"Vocational programs provide workplace skills to students who do not plan to attend college after graduation from high school. Vocational courses help many students that learn best through participation in experiential learning reach higher achievement levels," Knust said. "These students simply learn academic skills best from concrete tasks that focus on real-life problems. They also equip many college bound students with skills useful in part-time work that helps in financing college study, as well as providing a jump start to college with dual credit earned while in high school."