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Miami High School CTE program helps students prepare for the future

The Culinary program at Miami High School caters local events as well as serving students and staff at their ‘local cafe’ set up in the classroom. Photos by LCGross

At Miami High School, real-world education has become a cornerstone of the curriculum. And the school’s Career Technical and Education (CTE) program is key, helping participating students acquire the tools they need for success in post-high school jobs and academic study.

CTE offers an alternative to traditional classroom education, providing students an opportunity to see how the work world functions and also to get a leg up on their entry into the job market or college.

Once known as vocational technical education, or Vo-Tech, CTE is a federally funded program to help students gain proficiency in work and life skills and build their confidence in their abilities to function as adults. 

Connecting school to “real” life

MHS’s CTE programs include culinary arts, graphic and web design, early childhood education, journalism, agriculture, construction, and software and app design.

According MHS Principal Glen Lineberry, students’ motivation to attend school often involves sports or other extracurricular activities, or because they have a favorite teacher or course of study. However, they’re often unaware why they’re learning things such as quadratic equations or essay writing.

“Through CTE, our kids are guaranteed that at least a few hours of every day, they’re going to know why they’re learning this,” Lineberry says. “When kids believe in the utility of what they’re being taught, for even part of the day, they’ll believe in it most of the day.”

According to ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, CTE is intended to “prepare students to enter the workforce with the academic and vocational skills needed to compete successfully in the job market.”

ASU research suggests CTE reduces the likelihood of students dropping out of high school and increases the chance they’ll be able to hold a job after high school.

Better alternatives for everyone

In the past, Vo-Tech programs targeted students who weren’t expected to succeed academically, and they tended to track young men and women into traditional gender-stereotyped career paths. But modern CTE programs are all-encompassing and are considered to be equally beneficial to students who expect to go into the workforce and those who plan to pursue further education.

“We believe that the skill set of how to work and how to collaborate and how to conduct yourself is equally important in a college classroom as it is on the job site, or as it is in an apprenticeship,” Lineberry says. “So it’s not ‘academic’ or ‘low-tech,’ it’s clear thinking, accurate description and proper use of mathematics and arithmetic. These things all tie together.”

In addition to offering alternatives to students, CTE helps generate classroom funding. Arizona schools are required to provide “non-traditional” program for students – meaning boys will get a foundation for become teachers, for example, while girls might learn the basics of construction. And schools are financially rewarded for doing so, under the Perkins Act, which allocates federal funding for participating students.

Lineberry says those funds are discretionary – they can be used for classroom instruction related to CTE or to build infrastructure, such as the school’s commercial kitchen for the culinary program, a greenhouse for agricultural courses, or a technical center for the graphic design program. Funds can also be used to send students to leadership training conferences.

New leadership coming to MHS’s CTE program

Longtime MHS instructor Dan Hill, who currently leads the culinary program and teaches government and Japanese, will take over stewardship of the CTE program in the next school year.

Lineberry is currently serving as director of the CTE program at MHS, but this fall he’ll be handing the reins over to longtime instructor Dan Hill. Hill currently leads the culinary program, familiar to Globe-Miami residents as the caterers of many local events. 

Hill, who also teaches government and Japanese, has seen positive outcomes and higher wages for students who successfully complete the culinary program. Just having basic certification, such as a ServSafe food safety certificate – a difficult accomplishment – can open up opportunities in food handling.

Hill also believes CTE gives students a sense of what to expect in the “real world” and baseline skills for survival, as they get exposure to the behind-the-scenes operations of business, be it bookkeeping or supply chains.

“I realized I’m not training a team of future chefs, but I am helping kids get a start,” Hill says. “It really gives them some kind of realistic skills. If they go great places in life, great, but if not, they’ve always got something they can fall back on.”

Benefits for students now and in the future

Kayla Tetors is new to the area after moving from the Valley prior to her senior year. She says that not only has the program helped her academically, but it has also smoothed her assimilation to a new community during a major transition in her life.

“I think having that hands-on experience really makes you more comfortable with the people that you’re working with,” Tetors says. “The environment that you put yourself in really helps.”

Jaxon Silvers has been in the culinary program for two years and likes the way it gives him a break from the traditional classroom.

Silvers says he doesn’t enjoy having to spend all day in a classroom, sitting down. “But then you get to come in here and it’s just so much better,” he says. “In class it’s all dark and gray, but then you come in here and it’s colorful. It’s way better.”

Silvers and Tetors also like the end-of-year field trips, which are paid from the proceeds of the program’s sales throughout the year. Last year, students traveled to San Diego and attended a dinner cruise that allowed them to see how such an event is catered.

Silvers says he may go into a culinary field after high school, and Tetors says she intends to attend college, but they will both leave MHS with experience to help them in whatever they choose to do next.

Shaping responsible citizens

Lineberry says the district has created similar programs for middle school students, albeit on a smaller scale. MHS also partners with Eastern Arizona College’s Cobre Valley Institute of Technology (CVIT), located at Gila Pueblo Community College and the old National Guard armory, for programs MHS doesn’t have the capacity to facilitate.

In the big picture, the CTE program is helping mold citizens to participate in society.

“This is just fundamental to turning out educated students,” Lineberry says. “We’re supposed to graduate people who are ready to go on to the job, to go to college, to defend the republic, to raise their own children, and to meet their responsibilities in the community as responsible citizens. We see CTE as an integral part of that mix.”

The MHS culinary program students are a mix of 10th through 12th grade. Left to right: Front Row (on one knee): Eric Troglia, Sebastian Freeman, and David Barragan. Second Row: Iasic Castillo, Serenity Verdigo, and Kayla Green. Back Row: Cesar Yniguez, Jaxon Silvers, Jeffrey Sanders, Juan Ramirez, Dan Hill.

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