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Junior Highs helping spark interest in CTE

SCUC continues to grow its successful Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, providing opportunities in skilled trades, applied sciences, modern technologies and career preparation. While most people associate CTE courses with high school, Dobie Junior High School and Corbett Junior High School are not only offering a wider variety of course options, they are providing career exploration opportunities and exposing them to a variety of skill sets.


Dr. Mari Beth Hadas and Natasha Kling are working hard to provide those option avenues for their students at Dobie JHS. Hadas teaches Principles of Business, Marketing and Finance while Kling oversees the Principles of Ag instruction for eighth grade students. The duo is part of a larger consortium of teachers at the junior high level whose goal is to create the spark of interest and prepare students to make choices in high school about career tracks and certification programs they discovered in junior high school. 


“They’ve been asked since kindergarten, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” said Dr. Hadas. “We’re providing different ideas and giving them a taste of it. It’s like when you go into Baskin-Robbins (Ice Cream); we give them a taste.”  


Early exposure to CTE fields saves each student time and money that would go into career exploration in college or trade schools, and the added bonus of accreditation and internships. 


“They get to pick in high school what path they want to go and have a bit more understanding of what everything entails,” Kling added. “Do I want this pathway or that pathway? They’ll get to take those advanced classes in high school that could lead them to a possible industry certification by the time they graduate.” 


SCUC currently has a total of 3817 students in grades 7-12 currently enrolled in at least one of our CTE programs, with 13 of the 14 Programs of Study available for enrollment. There are 65 full time instructors in the district and they are also assisted by many blended academic/CTE instructors. 


There are a dizzying array of subjects that Kling must have a command of for her subject matter, including animal and plant science, history of agriculture, natural resource management and some construction wood shop. Connecting these concepts with students from an increasingly suburbanized school district hasn’t been a deterrent to success. 


“A lot of these kids don’t have any experience with agriculture at all,” said Kling, who attended Dobie JHS herself and graduated from Byron P. Steele High School. “They do a 180, and they're some of my most successful students. I’ve seen a couple of my previous students take an interest in FFA and Ag and are running for office and flying with it.”


Paisleigh Farhrney, eighth grade student in Kling’s third period classroom, concurs. “We recently did a poster board and slideshows based on a country and chose the agriculture (information) from that country,” she said. Fahrney chose the commonwealth of Puerto Rico for her presentation. “It helped us learn about the different nations.”


Dr. Hadas, a Samuel Clemens High School graduate, spent some time at Steele HS before moving to Dobie. She sees her role as preparing her students for potential success by providing the different avenues provided to them in high school.  “In business, you can break out into so many different things. We have a very strong sports marketing program at Steele HS,” she said. “Then there’s finance, and we have kids who love numbers. Kids need a foundation and they need to understand what’s waiting for them outside of the protection of our four walls.”


“I’m getting to understand more of the marketing side of business,” said Isaac Gibson, an eighth-grader who plans on pursuing the Business endorsement at the high school level with the goal of working in Human Resources. “I just feel like once I start to learn one topic, I’m eager to go into the month to learn more about it.”


With students discovering themselves during their adolescent years, Dr. Hadas and Kling navigate the delicate balancing act of allowing students to explore their future while providing what sometimes may appear as a very firm hand.


“They come back and say, ‘I get what you were talking about. Thank you’” Dr. Hadas said. “It’s usually the ones we butt heads with, but they were listening the whole time.”


“I think it’s really cool we started this program (three years ago),” said Kling. “(Junior high students) want things very hands-on and coming off the COVID years, we had to transfer everything from virtual to hands-on. It was difficult, but really fun and challenging.” 


PHOTOS (Courtesy of Candice Ridge)