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Career & technology education appeals to variety of BHS students

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Career and Technology Education (CTE) touches the lives of hundreds of Bandera High School students by offering them access to a wide variety of extra-curricular courses.

The courses benefit both those students who plan to go to college as well as those who are not considering any formal education following graduation.

The state has defined 16 career clusters and a district must provide CTE courses from at least three. BISD currently offers the following nine clusters: Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Architecture and Construction, Education and Training, Human Services, Hospitality and Tourism, Health Science Technology, Business Management and Arts, and AV Technology and Communication.

According to Tracy Thayer, BISD administrator, in those clusters, 39 different classes are offered to 929 enrolled students. That is an unduplicated number since some students make be taking more than one course.

Colleen Lewis, a 25-year veteran teacher with eight years at BHS, teaches business and computer applications courses. She reports that about 300 students take business courses annually at the school.

"Some of our courses are dual credit," said Lewis. That means that the student not only earns credit for graduation, but also earns credits that are transferable to college.

"Some of our students are working to build their grade point average. I have former students who are now enrolled in Rice University and Texas A&M School of Business," she said. "So, these courses can have a big impact on a student's career."

Formerly, the state required students to complete a technology course to graduate, but the 2011 Legislature removed that requirement.

Despite that change, "Teachers still expect the students to know what we teach," said Lewis. "They need those computer skills."

Lewis is proud that BHS has a history of qualifying business students for the national level of competition in that field. "We've had kids qualify for nationals every year for the last eight years. In fact, we're sending 13 to nationals next week," she said.

In order to qualify, Bandera students compete against students from the big schools in San Antonio.

Federal educational guidelines require that schools offer student leadership groups. A number of the CTE courses provide participation in those kinds of groups, such as FFA and Business Professionals of America. As a result of the federal requirement, some of the courses get federal dollars, which provides funds for expenses such as travel to national competitions.

Lewis is sold on the value of CTE courses. She has two daughters who came out of the program. "[The students] learn things like the importance of paying attention to detail, and how to deal with people."

She regrets that another legislative change may limit exposure to CTE for some students. "Now we have what's called 4x4, where our students have to take the core classes all four years. Our struggling students won't have as much time to explore different options [in these extracurricular classes.]"

Extra-curricular classes gives many students an opportunity to become excited about something at school, Lewis adds. "At 14, they don't know what they want to do."

Some of the CTE courses provide training to qualify for certification in a particular field, such as cosmetology, floral design and culinary arts. "In ag, with the oil boom, I expect those welders will be able to find jobs," said Lewis.

A program called Ready, Set, Teach allows high school students contemplating a teaching career to go to the elementary schools to observe and assist teachers.

Construction trades students have completed a large water reclamation tank on campus and are working on a second. They are applying for a grant for a pump and equipment to hook up a tank to the baseball field sprinkler system.

Health science students have taken the staff's blood pressure and plan to help the athletic department with fitness and baseline concussion testing this spring under the direction of teacher Mary Bolan.

All of the CTE clusters at BHS sponsored special projects to celebrate CTE Month in February. Bandera FFA hosted a week-long series of special events in conjunction with National FFA Week, Feb. 20-24, including serving BHS staff a barbecue lunch and participating in the annual Ag Olympics.

An honors senior student now in her third year in the business management cluster of courses feels her experiences will have a profound effect on her future. "I feel I now have adequate foundation skills for anything I choose to achieve."

Her successful competition in both UIL and BPA contests "has made my resume and achievements stand out from the crowd in college applications."

She added, "Although it seems like college or career options are in the distant future, the four years of high school truly do fly by. Any preparation you can receive for the outside world will benefit you greatly."

Junior Joshua Retief has already completed studies in Business Information Management, Business Information Management II and Video Game Design, and is currently taking Graphic Design. He plans to add Desktop Publishing to the list next year.

"I chose these courses due to my career path. I want to become experienced in all fields of technology so that when I go to college or go out on my own, I have knowledge in the fields that can get me far in life due to the 'high-demand' nature of the technology field."

JD Porterfield, a senior, has taken a number of CTE classes, including
Personal Family Development. "I chose many of the courses because they were technology related and I like technology. However, I took the Personal Family Development class my freshman year so that I could get out of Construction but it
turned out to be a great class and I learned a lot."

Porterfield expects that all of the classes will benefit him in the future since he plans "to major in computer science or computer engineering... and to have children and a family."

The CTE courses have already helped him in "other classes, since you
may have to create a spreadsheet, make an awesome presentation, or
just type a document for a class for a grade."

For more information, go to the Association of Career & Technology Education at