Imagine entering college knowing exactly what field you wanted to major in, without the need to spend money and time on introductory courses in a career that—after one semester—doesn’t interest you. Or what if you’re hired for a high-paying, in-demand job in a career you know what was meant for you immediately after graduating from high school?
For many students in South Jersey, these scenarios are their reality, thanks to attending high school at Camden County Technical Schools (CCTS).
“I have grown and progressed as a person since I started at CCTS,” says current CCTS student Leah Minuche, who graduates in 2014. “Thanks to this school, I found my passion for my future career in business and finance and I will carry the skills I learned here with me for many years to come.”
What is a technical school?
According to Suzanne Golt, admissions officer, a technical high school is a school of choice that offers its students an edge over a traditional public high school. “Today’s career and technical education programs link rigorous academics, technical knowledge and real-world experience to better prepare high school students for post-secondary studies and challenging careers,” she says. “In fact, our high school curriculum sets them on a path for success by giving them a chance to test the waters in a particular career field before they commit to a major in college.”
New Jersey has 21 county vocational-technical school districts, which are attended by more than 31,000 students who are looking for more out of their high school education.
CCTS is comprised of two campuses, one in Gloucester Township and another in Pennsauken. As a public high school, there is no charge for students living in Camden County to attend and transportation is provided by local school districts. In addition to their academic and career courses, students are encouraged to join an array of sports, clubs and activities.
The academic courses at Camden County Technical Schools are rigorous. Courses in English, mathematics, science, social studies, health and physical education, visual and performing arts, foreign languages and financial literacy meet the requirements by the state for students to earn their high school diploma, and meet the necessary prerequisites for entrance to colleges and universities. Advanced placement and honors courses are also offered.
High school students spend part of the school day in their career programs and the remainder of their day in academic courses. In their career programs, students receive hands-on training with equipment and technologies used in the industry and learn the related theory needed to perform the applications. In many careers such as cosmetology, auto mechanics, and banking and finance, students have the opportunity to become certified while still in high school.
Students at CCTS may earn college transferable credits for certain courses taken while in high school. These credits can be banked for future enrollment at Camden County College or for transfer to other four-year colleges and universities. “These dual-credit programs not only accelerate student achievement, but they save time and money,” says Tony DePrince, county shared services liaison. “We are not your grandfather’s technical school. We have students who are earning up to 30 college credits.”
CCTS Job Development Director Siobhan Kelly, Ed.D., says, “Ninety-eight percent of Camden County Technical Schools’ graduates were placed in employment and/or postsecondary education upon graduation in our most recent follow-up study of the district’s graduates. Students are well prepared for their future whether they elect to go straight to work or gain additional degrees or certificates upon graduation.”
CCTS has maintained a tradition of excellence and was recognized by the National Center for Research in Vocational Education as one of five exemplary vocational education programs in the United States. In addition, the Pennsauken Campus of CCTS was named one of the nation’s best high schools by U.S. News and World Report for two years in a row. The Pennsauken Campus was also named New Jersey’s only “Distinguished Title 1 High School” in 2012 by the New Jersey Department of Education and the United States Department of Education.
Gaining an advantage
With 30 career choices, CCTS has something of interest for every high school student—from culinary arts and video production, to business, homeland security, engineering and information technology. “Our admissions team guides incoming students through a self-assessment and helps them choose the path that fits their interests and abilities,” says Golt.
Golt says once they’ve found an area of study that appeals to them, they can absorb information about it in so many ways, including field trips and guest speakers. For example, a student in Medical Arts can visit a research lab, observe an open heart surgery, and talk to a neurologist directly.
“We also have business partners who serve on our advisory board. They provide input into their curriculum and act as mentors for our students,” says Golt. “Many seniors are hired at these partner companies for co-op experience, and sometimes they are even hired right after graduation.” She recalls a recent graduate who was in the automotive field and worked for BMW during his senior year. They now want him to work full time and plan to assist him with his college degree.
The student success stories speak for themselves. Nohamaly Cosme will graduate in 2014 with a background to prepare her for a career as an administrative assistant. She says, “I blossomed into a better person thanks to what I learned at CCTS. Even when I made mistakes, the staff taught me to pick myself up and become a better me. I now feel comfortable and confident enough to go out into the world and turn my dreams into realities.”
Finding more information
There are several ways parents and students can learn more about CCTS. Golt says there will be a Fall Information Night on Oct. 9 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at both campuses.
“Attendees will get an overview of our programs, a tour, and can meet with teachers to explore career areas,” she says. Additionally, eighth-grade students can participate in a one-day program at either campus, which can be arranged by their guidance counselors.
Personal tours are available by calling the admissions office at (856) 767-7000 ext. 5415.
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 7 (September, 2013).
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