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McCann Freshmen: Exploratories Aid Career, Life ChoicesBy Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, October 11, 2006
North Adams - There's no substitute for hands-on experience when career is the consideration, according to a significant number of Charles H.McCann Technical High School's 143 freshmen students.
|Katelyn Cristofolini, Angela Martin, and Kristin Gregory share first-hand experience at the Charles H. McCann Technical High School Information Technology curriculum. All McCann freshmen rotate through each school program as part of first-semester exploratories. |
The Class of 2010 is spending their first high school semester engaged in "exploratories," which means an introduction to each of the school's nine career-based curriculums before selecting a four-year program.
The process delivers multiple benefits, said school Principal Gary Rivers during an Oct. 10 school interview. Each first-hand program review acquaints the students with the fundamentals of a McCann education and allows them to discover if the career they believe they want is actually going to interest them.
Anthony "Tony" Saltamartini tackled culinary arts program skills during an Oct. 11 exploratory.
Hands-On, Changed Minds
Betty Welsh, 15, of North Adams, is among the 70 percent of freshmen who change their mind about a curriculum once the exploratory process is completed.
"I came here thinking about electricity," she said from a work station at a computer-assisted drafting [CAD] classroom. "But I liked machine technology. I liked working with the materials and making things."
Ashley Burris, 15, of North Adams, is having a change of interest as well.
"When I came here, I wanted to do the culinary program but now I'm thinking I might want automotive," she said.
The encouraging atmosphere at the school has made an impression, she added.
"They make you feel welcome wherever you are," she said.
"With exploratory, you get to see what's what and what really interests you," said 15-year-old North Adams student Cameron Skiffington."Sometimes you end up finding out that something you thought would interest you is not what you actually are interested in."
Molly Downing and Kristal Weatherby during an automotive exploratory session.
Once each student has rotated through each program, a list focused on individual top three curriculum picks is created, and students are placed in a curriculum based on their interest and instructor scores that are designated as each student tries their hand at the varying program components.
About 90 percent of the students are assigned their top preference, said Rivers.
A Four-Year Trip
"One purpose of exploratory is make certain that the kids understand their options within specific career areas," Rivers said. "They may come into the school with a narrow view of a particular profession and then realize that there is much more that they can do. I guess you could say that 'exploratory' is really a four-year trip. You discover what is in your profession and beyond. At this school, we are preparing students for life, and that is an exploratory process."
Field trips may be included during the exploratory sessions. Some teachers arrange for the students to visit pertinent job sites, for instance, an automotive exploratory might include a trip to a vehicle dealership so that students can see how the repair shop operates. Students may also visit senior project work sites to gain a deeper understanding of programs.
Senior students serve as mentors during exploratory weeks, Rivers said. The older students take the responsibility seriously, he added.
"A lot of the skills that the freshmen learn during these first weeks come from the seniors," Rivers said. "It's reaffirming to the seniors because they are teaching what they know. It validates how much they know and they find themselves teaching many of the fundamentals."
"It's A Good Thing"
The school received over 250 applicants for the freshmen class, and there is a student waiting list, Rivers said. Enrollment to each curriculum is limited due to student safety requirements and work station availability, he said. Among the most popular choices are the culinary arts, machine technology, carpentry, automotive, information technology, and electricity programs, Rivers said.
McCann freshmen get a sample of the school's four-year carpentry program.
Luke Gardner, 14, of North Adams, and Matt Andrews, 15, of Adams, have rotated through three programs.
"It's a good thing," said Andrews of the process. "We get to have a hands-on look."
"Some kids want one thing and then they change their minds," said Gardner.
Adams student Lindsey Serrano, 14, said she is reconsidering her program choice.
"I was interested in the information technology but now I'm looking at electricity," she said.
Heath Tisdale, 14, of Monroe, 14-year-old Justin Perrault of North Adams and North Adams resident Tom Denault, 14, said that they are keeping "open minds" about the curriculums until they have experienced all of the choices.
Ben Bethoney chopped pickles during an exploratory stint at the culinary arts department.
"I like McCann," said 14-year-old Katelyn Cristofolini of Stamford, Vt. "I think it's better because you work on academics and a trade."
Angela Martin, 14, of North Adams, said she likes the school's one week of academics, one week of career training approach.
"We get to do different things," she said.
"I'm learning a lot," said Ashley Gamache, 15, of North Adams. "There's a lot of stuff to do."
"So far, I like information technology and automotive, and I'm really looking forward to CAD," said Nhi Nguyen, 15, of North Adams.
The school offers Spanish language education as an elective. A growing number of students are interested in the class, and some come to the school with basic Spanish language skills.
"I know Clarksburg [elementary school] has a good program for Spanish," said Rivers. "Some of our kids come to us ready for second level Spanish."
The school has scheduled an Oct. 26 "Showcase To Success" event. The two-hour public exhibit is set to begin at the Hodges Cross Road school at 5:30 p.m..
Additional information about the Charles H. McCann Technical School, including secondary and post-secondary education programs and SkillsUSA participation, is available by calling 413-663-5383 or at a www.mccanntech.org Internet web site.
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or at 802-823-9367.