There is a wide range of misconceptions that surface when discussing a vocational high school, and James Dundee has heard them all while acting as principal at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology (GCIT). However, his message to parents and prospective students is to put aside what they think they know about GCIT and discover what so many other families in the area have already realized—that this flourishing institution not only prepares its students for higher education and the workforce, but also offers the complete high school experience.
“Interested families always ask if we have sports, extracurricular activities and school-based events,” Dundee says. “We offer daily high school activities—including athletic teams, clubs, dances and a school musical—with a bonus. Students can walk out of here with up to 30 college credits depending on their chosen course of study.”
Founded in 1971, GCIT draws from Gloucester County school districts. It has everything that is available at a traditional school, but offers students a head start by preparing them for their future endeavors. GCIT has career concentrations in 19 programs including engineering, medicine, construction, cosmetology and culinary, to name a few. The new Academy of Biological Sciences will be added to the list starting the 2021-2022 school year. This program will have a rigorous curriculum with a strong focus in the sciences which will prepare students for a path in the medical fields.
For example, the partnership between GCIT and Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ) is a unique collaboration where GCIT seniors can earn college credits before graduation. The two ways to earn credits are through dual credits built into the high school curriculum or the Collegiate High School, where students can actually take classes on the RCSJ campus, with busing provided.
Cooperative education is also an important facet of the school, and GCIT has many partnerships with local businesses to provide employment opportunities, internships and apprenticeships for its students.
A wide range of clubs and career technical student organizations are also available, such as Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA); Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA); International Thespian Society; DECA; HOSA; and SkillsUSA. GCIT students have established a reputation for thriving at state and national competitions.
But of course, this school year has looked very different as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dundee says GCIT’s Road Back Plan was formulated last May and refined over the summer with a focus on schedule development, safety and sanitation measures and a highly collaborative effort to create both a hybrid and all-virtual instructional models.
“Making sure that students, staff and families felt safe to return to school was critical and the administration had to focus on the educational, emotional and physical/health needs of all of our staff and students,” Dundee says. “A true focus on how we do business needed to change and there has to be a continued emphasis on making sure that we are providing the best possible climate that focuses on the needs of protecting all of those who enter our school.”
Thus far, things have gone fairly smoothly and Dundee has been impressed with the willingness of both staff and students to overwhelming acceptance of the circumstances.
“Students and staff have done a tremendous job,” he says. “We have and can only be successful if we adapt to the ‘new norm’ and continue to make essential changes.”
Combine that dedication with a high-level learning environment and robust extracurricular offerings, GCIT continues to shatter the stigmas associated with a vocational school.
“We’re such a great melting pot of all the different districts and all the different kids in the county,” Dundee says. “Kids have to want to come here, which makes the environment very positive for the students. They are excited to walk through the door every day.”
GCIT’S STATE-OF-THE-ART FACILITIES INCLUDE:
• Olympic aquatics center
• Newly renovated fitness center
• 2 gymnasiums
• Updated theater
• 3 commercial culinary kitchens
• 2 bakery kitchens and store
• 2 dance studios
• Automotive shops
• Television studio
Gloucester County Institute of Technology
1360 Tanyard Road, Sewell, NJ
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 7 (October 2021).
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