CTE Scholars redefine the high school experience
Posted on 08/08/2018
Son and father at graduation

Gone are the days of students attending vocational school because they aren’t “college material.” Today, Orange Technical College helps prepare high school students for the workforce and college coursework.

This spring, 22 high school seniors earned Career and Technical Education Super Scholar recognition. These students completed the CTE dual enrollment program, earned five or more credits in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or state college dual enrollment and maintained a 3.95 or higher grade point average.

With 33 certification programs to choose from, 5,529 high school students throughout Orange County participate in the Technical Dual Enrollment program. Students must be a rising junior with a 2.0 GPA, good attendance and discipline record to apply to this program. Those accepted receive free admission and transportation to and from the tech campus each day.

Dr. Mike Armbruster, Associate Superintendent for Career and Technical Education, touts his campuses as providing a “Steak and Lobster experience.” He emphasizes that high school students do not have to choose one type of schooling over another. Students can earn a technical certification and go to college.

CTE programs provide students an opportunity to earn an industry certification that can be used for employment, and earn high school credits from these classes — the “steak.”

Outside of their tech programs, students have the ability to take four classes at their high school, which can include advanced placement or college dual-enrollment. Plus, the information learned in the tech programs helps prepare students for advanced degrees in college — the “lobster.”

Ashley Ossant is one of Ocoee High School’s four students to earn the CTE Super Scholar status. Having an interest in the medical field she researched the courses available and thought Pharmacy Technician ($4309.44 value) sounded interesting, and could help her decide if she would enjoy being a pharmacist.

During the two year program, Ossant completed two internships at Walgreens totaling 300 hours. She said she “loved” how the internship experience took her program knowledge and made it real world.

Once she turns 18 (in August), Ossant will work for Walgreens as a certified pharmacy technician starting at $11.50, rather than Florida’s minimum wage of $8.25 per hour. She plans to work and attend Valencia State College for her Associate of Arts degree and then apply to pharmacy school.

In addition to the Tech Dual Enrollment program, Ossant was on Ocoee’s yearbook staff, which often required her to take photos at school events and meet printing deadlines.

“Being involved in yearbook and a tech program required me to manage my time well,” said Ossant. “I had deadlines to meet and I needed to study. If I missed one for the other I had to make up the time. Everything had to get done, which taught me to always do the right thing. There are no shortcuts. Rules are there for a reason, don’t try to take the easy way.”

Another CTE Super Scholar, Alexander Jara of Lake Nona High School, received a Welding Technology certification ($5440.05 value), and credits this opportunity with giving his education purpose. Prior to enrolling in the program Jara said he was an average student, who disliked school and lacked internal motivation.

With no plans to attend college, Jara’s father, Dr. Jesus Jara (former OCPS Deputy Superintendent) had his son tour the OTC-Mid Florida Campus. Dr. Jara thought a class within the LaunchSite could align with his son’s interests in video games. However, during the tour, Alexander Jara saw the welders in action and knew that’s what he wanted to do.

“I wasn’t motivated. I took AP classes my freshman and sophomore years, but realized that I didn’t want to attend college, so I didn’t take any AP classes my junior year. Welding gave me the motivation to do better my senior year, so I took two AP classes and participated in SGA. Then I realized I did want to go to college, so I’m glad I didn’t close those doors,” said Alexander Jara. “Being in the welding program helped me learn what type of person I am and how far I could go with hard work. It took me 10-15 tries to get the actually certification. It’s a hard certification test. I learned accuracy, patience and how to become a better student.”

Alexander said being off campus for four periods a day taught him valuable life skills. Upon returning to the high school campus he had a Student Government leadership class, English 4 honors, AP Macroeconomics (semester 1)/AP Government and Politics (semester 2), and Tech Theatre Design and Production.

“I learned organization and time management skills to balance the three activities: welding, SGA and tech, along with my schoolwork. I also had a great SGA team. They’d help me manage my time. My VP helped me plan our Thursday meetings by typing the agenda. It was a group effort,” Alexander Jara said. “Learning to be a welder and being in SGA really gave me that ‘Steak and Lobster’ experience. I’m very grateful the program was open to me,” A. Jara said.

Students who have an interest in career-oriented, hands-on learning should speak to a guidance counselor or the Career Placement Specialist. See program descriptions here.