HAGERSTOWN — Although Washington County Technical High School can propel students directly into careers, it also prepares them to further their educations.
More than half of Tech High’s students will go on to college or to specialized training programs, officials said.
Successful completion of some programs — such as culinary arts, auto technology and digital communications — means students can get jobs in their fields directly after high school, although apprenticeships or additional work experience will be needed.
Other courses of study — such as biomedical science, pre-engineering, criminal justice, early childhood professions, health occupations, multimedia and visual communications, and computer game development and animation — provide the foundation for students to move on to college to achieve their career goals.
About 43 percent of Tech High graduates go on to two-year colleges and 15 percent go on to four-year colleges, Tech High Principal Jeffrey Stouffer wrote in an email.
An additional 4 percent enroll in specialized schools and about 5 percent receive other training beyond high school, he said.
George Phillips, supervisor for career technology and enrichment programs for Washington County Public Schools, said Tech High students have been accepted at “top-flight schools” such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, West Point, Penn State and the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Two students who are to graduate this year received almost full scholarships to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and one student is going to the University of Arizona, Tempe, which Phillips said he’s been told is a top school for computer game development and animation.
While they might get accepted to the colleges of their choice and earn scholarships, not all students will be able to afford to go away to college. Instead, they might start at Hagerstown Community College and plan to transfer to four-year universities, Phillips said.
“Our students (at Tech High) are limited mostly by economics,” he said.
Dave Reeder, director for secondary education for Washington County Public Schools, said Tech High is attracting students with strong academic backgrounds.
“The students are receiving great scholarship opportunities for college,” he said.
By mid-April, the 2011 class of Project Lead The Way biomedical science students had received combined offers of monetary scholarships exceeding $500,000, Irwin said.
Scholarship figures vary among the tech programs. This school year, students in biomedical science probably have received the most scholarship money.
One senior in the computer repair and networking program was awarded a $60,000 scholarship to Stevenson University. Another senior in the same program received a $60,000 scholarship to Cabrini College.
Stouffer wrote in an email that there are “very healthy scholarship” amounts for high-achieving students in areas such as pre-engineering, culinary arts and multimedia.
“It’s truly a wonderful blessing to see a number of students receiving big scholarship amounts for college. What a financial gift to our parents in Washington County,” Stouffer wrote.
In addition, the programs with articulation college agreements, as well as high scores in Advanced Placement exams, can earn students college credits and save them money once they get to college.
Articulation agreements enable Tech High students to earn college credits with specific colleges for work they’ve done as high school students.
Stouffer said the programs offered at Tech High are continually evaluated and tweaked to make sure they’re current and relevant for students.
For instance, when Stouffer became principal nine years ago, only two students were enrolled in the welding program, prompting the decision to eliminate it.
Clyde Harrell, director for curriculum and instruction for Washington County Public Schools, said that in addition to program decisions made by the Division of College-Career Readiness at the Maryland State Department of Education, curriculum decisions are made by a local advisory board. The board is made up of business and industry leaders in the community, with each technical area having its own advisory group, Harrell said.
Stouffer said the advisory board must, under federal Career Technology Education requirements, meet once a year. At Tech High, the annual meeting features breakfast catered by the culinary arts department.
He said business partners provide input on job skills needed in the workplace, so instructors can ensure their students are prepared for continuing education and/or employment. Stouffer said some technical instructors and their business partners meet as often as once a month.
National trends are watched carefully.
Green technology, for instance, has been incorporated into the pre-engineering program’s design for a green demonstration portable classroom, which will have been in the works for two years in the fall, said pre-engineering instructor Alan Zube.
The 864-square-foot portable classroom, which is to be built on Tech High property, will be heated with a geothermal well, will have about 12 photovoltaic solar panels to produce electricity, and green architecture and building materials, such as insulation materials and windows.
Before ground can be broken on the project, the plans have to be finished by an electrical engineer and a mechanical engineer. The Washington County Board of Education’s facilities department and the City of Hagerstown will have to review and approve the plans.
Zube’s students were given the assignment of working in pairs to design a green portable classroom, with certain specifications. With an odd number of students in the class, Deanna Molnar worked on her own.
It was her design that was chosen by the class.
Deanna, who graduated in 2010 and whose home school was Williamsport High, is a freshman architecture student at the University of Pittsburgh.
“My experience at Tech High was an awesome one,” Deanna wrote in an email. “I loved the environment of the classrooms, I also loved how I had a much ... friendlier relationship with my teachers ... I think the level that Mr. Zube challenged us prepared me a lot for some of my more technical classes. In fact, I know more than some freshman engineering majors.”
She said that attending Tech High helped her figure out what she wanted to do with the rest of her life and was one of the best decisions she’s ever made.
In the wind
Pre-engineering students, assisted by students in the carpentry, electrical and horticulture programs, are in the final stages of completing a wind turbine project. This spring, the electrical work and landscaping necessary to get the permit to erect the generator were to be complete, Zube wrote.
Almost three years ago, students started exploring the possibilities of generating electricity from wind on the Tech High campus. This year’s junior class helped pour the concrete foundation in October, Zube said.
When the project is complete, the school will have what is expected to be the first wind generator within the city limits of Hagerstown, Zube wrote in an email.
Kathy Maher, Hagerstown’s planning director, said Tech High’s wind turbine is the only one of which officials are aware of within city limits.
“The generator is part of a bigger vision to make Tech High an alternative-energy information resource for the community and region,” Zube said.
‘On the Water’
Zube has received $4,000 in grants to design a robot for Coast Guard rescue operations, and he and his students this fall will begin the first year of a pilot program called “Robotics on the Water.”
Zube went to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., where he participated in the Engineering Challenges program for high school teachers. Robotics on the Water was one of the activities undertaken by program participants, Zube said.
Pre-engineering seniors presented a robotics demonstration May 6 for Washington County Board of Education representatives, and business and academic partners. Zube said he hopes to partner with students in Williamsport High School’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Academy magnet program and students at James Rumsey Technical Institute in Berkeley County, W.Va.
The project grew out of the participation of Zube’s students at RoboFest at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va.