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Friday, 08 September 2017 16:39

Preston High's Career & Technical Ed Program among the Top in West Virginia

Written by Cynthia McCLoud, Preston County News & Journal
From left, Ashley Pritt, Stephanie Plum and AManda Pack practice skills they will use as medical assistants while in class at Preston High School. Photo courtesy of Preston County Journal From left, Ashley Pritt, Stephanie Plum and AManda Pack practice skills they will use as medical assistants while in class at Preston High School. Photo courtesy of Preston County Journal

Preston High School’s Career & Technical Education program is the most impressive in West Virginia — for its variety of courses, student performance and how many students complete all the courses in an area of study.

“Last year, the school had 228 CTE completers,” said Kristin Anderson, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Education. “The school was No. 6 in the state in the number of CTE programs offered.”

PHS Assistant Principal Pam Wilt explained that to be a completer, a student must complete all required courses in his or her program.


Principal Steve Plum said administrators haven’t counted how many students are taking CTE classes this year, but he expects more than 1,000 of the 1,231 Knights currently enrolled will spend at least part of their day in the vocational wings of the campus.

They’ll be studying accounting, administrative support, agribusiness, animal processing, animal systems, automotive tech, building construction, certified nursing assistant, CISCO, collision repair, early childhood education, electrical tech, energy and power, JROTC, health sciences, horticulture, information management, natural resources management, plant systems, forestry, power structure and tech, pre-pharmacy, Prostart, and, new this year, welding.

CTE prepares students for 30 million jobs in the United States that pay an average of $55,000 and don’t require a bachelor’s degree, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

The students take away real-world experience, service-learning, and, often, certifications that will help them get jobs.

Health sciences instructor Joyce Anderson said some of her past completers are working as CNAs, phlebotomists, EKG techs and medical assistants in clinical settings in Ruby Memorial Hospital, Preston Memorial Hospital and Garrett Regional Medical Center.

They get started in a real workplace doing clinical rotations while still attending classes, she said.

“The CNA students do a mandatory 55 hours in an (Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification) approved facility. This is the state and federal regulating agency for nursing homes,” Anderson said. “Upon completion, the CNA student can then apply for state certification testing.”

Not all of the students go straight to work after graduation, she said.

“Many find these classes as a stepping stone on their career path, helping them in their advanced career studies,” Anderson said.

The programs collaborate and students perform work around the school or services for the community that earn them hands-on experience.

“Carpentry is working on a new smokehouse expansion of the slaughterhouse,” Plum said. “The slaughterhouse is currently working on hogs for the Buckwheat Festival. They normally (process) 125 hogs for sausage ... The slaughterhouse is also open for retail sales of meat. Multiple programs are combining efforts to make renovations on the new county reading bus and a new high-tunnel greenhouse.”

And students excel outside the classroom as well.

Many who have graduated John Cox’s classes with electrician licenses go straight into the workforce. “The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 301 hired 11 of my seniors last year,” Cox said.

Program completers are eligible to test for their journeyman’s licenses, which is the level between apprentice and master electrician. Cox had 80 percent of test-takers pass last year. He has had so many students taking the test at one time---91 is the record---that the state fire marshal comes to Kingwood to give the exam.

When PHS students enter competitions put on by SkillsUSA, a vocational club, they usually dominate. Cox had a student win back-to-back state championships a couple of years ago. More recently, he took 21 students to competition and brought back two gold awards, six silver and two bronze.

Robin Thomas, who teaches early childhood education, took four students this summer to the Educators Rising national teaching competition in Arizona. One of them, Jalina Spiker, won sixth place in the nation for a job shadowing presentation.

Teacher Janie Spahr took members of her Future Business Leaders of America club to compete in public speaking, accounting, career portfolio, journalism and more at the state level in April. They returned with the second-highest number of first-place awards and the second-highest number of overall winners — beat out only by John Marshall High School in Glen Dale. The students moved on to the National FBLA Conference in June in Anaheim, CA.

HOSA is a club for future health professionals. Anderson and fellow teacher Stephanie Martin had eight students win at the HOSA State Leadership Conference in Huntington this past March.

The two first-place winners — Amber Sypolt in medical assisting, and Clarissa Carrico in medical spelling — went to HOSA’s 40th annual International Leadership Conference June 21-24 in Orlando, FL.

“We have the cream of the crop,” Spahr said, explaining how the students are also involved in sports and band and applying for scholarships. “They are very well-rounded students.”

Earlier this year, 88 percent of PHS students taking part in the school’s post-secondary readiness program were deemed ready for either higher education or a job after graduation. The state average is 54 percent.

Thank you Preston County News & Journal for reprint permission. 

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