Most Washington County Public School students visit Tech High for the first time as sophomores in high school. But a group of middle school students got a sneak peek Thursday at what awaits them, if they work hard, apply and are accepted.
First, however, they must get serious about their studies.
Jeff Stouffer, principal of Washington County Technical High School, said he just went through 700 to 800 applications for 300 available slots for next year.
"To get into a school like this, grades and credits are everything. Attendance is critical. Do not skip school. Get A's and B's," Stouffer advised.
"We want you to do well. We want to fill our classes with top students," said Stouffer, who added that 12 Tech High students will graduate with a grade-point average of 4.0 or higher this year.
The county's technology magnet school, which is open to 11th- and 12th- graders, has 19 technology areas, each of which the middle school students got to visit briefly.
Barbara Gift, guidance counselor at Smithsburg Middle School, was accompanied to the school by a group of students, some of whom she said "could use some motivation to look forward."
Gift said she hoped the visit would get them "to look at the bigger picture, beyond today."
The other goal was for them to see the work ethic of the students at Tech High.
Smithsburg Middle School eighth-grader Chelsea Wiles has several career interests and needed help narrowing down her choices. At the beginning of the tour, she was most interested in Tech High's photography program, even though she said she'd like to be a lawyer.
Chelsea was excited, though, after visiting the criminal-justice program.
"It's helping me figure out what I want to do in life, what I want to be," she said, adding that she could see herself applying to go to school at Tech High.
Linda Smith, student intervention specialist at E. Russell Hicks Middle School, brought eighth-grade students she said needed "an extra push." She said her caseload consists of students at risk of dropping out in high school.
Smith said she brings a different group of students in the fall and in the spring for the tours.
"They're very motivated when they get back to school," Smith said.
Garimaah Vanloan asked Smith if she could come on the visit.
"It looks nice. I would come here," Garimaah said.
She was most interested in the photography and child care programs and said she now has a new goal: "Get my grades together."