Battle Ground schools' CTE programs prepare students for life after high school

April 12, 2018 Joe Vajgrt

Battle Ground schools' CTE programs prepare students for life after high school

April 12, 2018

For Prairie High School senior Isabel Hidalgo, taking Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes opened up a world of opportunities. As a sophomore, Hidalgo was still unsure of what career path she wanted to pursue after high school. That all changed when she took a Health Science class from teacher Melissa Levine. Levine's experiences working in the healthcare field inspired Hidalgo to work toward becoming a medical doctor, and she chose to take the Health Sciences pathway at Prairie.  

The CTE term is applied to high school classes in skilled trades, applied sciences, modern technologies and career preparation. The classes provide hands-on training in skills that help students get jobs or prepare them to continue their educations beyond high school.

Battle Ground Public Schools' mission is to empower all students to reach their highest potential through innovative, creative and supportive learning environments. The district’s CTE offerings and related club activities are highly effective in achieving this mission.

According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, the average high school graduation rate for students in CTE programs is 93 percent, compared to an average national graduation rate of 80 percent. CTE students are also significantly more likely than their non-CTE counterparts to develop problem solving, research, math, communication, time management and critical-thinking skills during high school. In addition to helping prepare students academically, CTE programs provide opportunities for students to gain experience and build confidence for life after high school.

As a sophomore, Hidalgo joined the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) club, where she competed in medical terminology and CPR contests against her high school peers. Last year, Hidalgo finished fourth overall in a state CPR competition.  
“Getting hands-on experience through competitions, the blood drives we host, and classes that are practical and interesting has opened up so many doors,” Hidalgo said. “It’s not so much that doors were closed, it’s that I didn’t even know the doors existed.”

After finishing high school this year, Hidalgo plans to study biology at the University of Portland in the fall, and has her sights set on attending medical school after that. Her goal is to specialize in children’s cancer and immunotherapy; options that she learned about from her experiences in CTE classes and competitions.

"Students in CTE programs are more connected to their interests and see how those interests can translate into a career,” said Cindy Arnold, the district’s Director of Career and Technical Education. "CTE classes help students prepare to find and get jobs right out of high school, and also gives them the skills to be successful in college."

Battle Ground High School senior Adriana Esparza agrees. Before joining the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC), Esparza wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after graduation. In less than two years in the CTE program, she says that her involvement with the AFJROTC program has provided clarity of her career goals.

“Before I joined the JROTC program, I had no idea if I even wanted to go to college,” Esparza said. Now, she plans to get a degree in psychology with the goal of becoming a clinical psychologist in the military. She also plans to continue ROTC in college and become a commissioned officer in the Air Force.

“It’s special to have a program that helps develop each student’s individual strengths while also teaching the core value of ‘service before self’ and stressing the importance of community,” Esparza said. “Junior ROTC is an amazing option that I’d strongly encourage any student to explore.”

Prairie High School seniors BayLee Saldino and Kaitlyn Rose have taken several agriculture classes together and are both members of the school’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) club. Saldino and Rose echoed the sentiment that their CTE classes and club activities build confidence and teach practical skills that are useful during and after high school.

“After I moved here from California halfway through my freshman year, I was very shy and quiet,” Saldino said. “That’s not the case anymore. Not only did I make great friends through FFA and my agriculture classes, but the public speaking and presentations I had to give helped me open up and be confident.”

Saldino said she always knew that she was interested in working with animals, but her CTE experiences have informed her decision to focus on animal behavior and wildlife rehabilitation.

Kaitlyn Rose runs the Eagle Fern summer horse camp and says that her FFA experience has taught her the record keeping and facilities care skills to transform a fun hobby into more of a business opportunity.

“You’re always moving, delegating, and having to step up and take responsibility as a leader in the greenhouse and in the labs,” Rose said. “Everyone shows steady improvement over time, and you can definitely see people’s confidence building as they develop leadership skills.”

Rose herself has demonstrated that confidence and growth, recently placing second at an FFA job interviewing skills competition in the Evergreen school district and preparing to participate in the state competition in Pullman next month.   

Battle Ground's middle and high school students can choose from 200 CTE courses across 36 content areas including: agriculture, food and natural resources; architecture and construction; arts, audio/video technology and communications; business management and administration; education and training; finance; government and public administration; hospitality and tourism; human services; information technology; law, public safety, corrections and security; manufacturing; health services; marketing; science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and transportation, distribution and logistics.

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