Forensic science, graphic design, law enforcement, pharmacy tech and web game development are a handful of the courses offered to high school students in Lewisville ISD.
Freshmen, seniors and everyone in between can acquire job-related skills in one or more of the 21 programs LISD offers through Career Center East and Dale Jackson Career Center during the school year.
“I want to open up my own salon,” LHS junior Cielo Chavez said. She is currently in the first of the two cosmetology levels provided and said it doesn’t feel like a class. “I’d rather be here than be on my home campus.”
Principal Randall Holder of Dale Jackson Career Center said when he was in high school, all that was offered was shop, metal shop and agriculture. While Dale Jackson has 11 programs, Holder said they’re hoping to add more courses. He would like to see a full-blown culinary arts program, an EMT class and a fire academy.
The career centers’ aim is to open doors for students to become global competitors in different opportunities and different jobs, Holder said.
Danny Robinson has been teaching students for 24 years how to repair the cosmetic damage to car bodies in his auto collision class. First year students learn on donated junk cars so if they mess up it’s ok, he said. Otherwise, students provide 90 to 95 percent of the vehicles to be worked on.
“The idea is to make it look like it hasn’t been fixed,” Robinson said. “If they choose not to [pursue a degree], they don’t have to start working in the shop just sweeping up, making minimum wage. They actually start making a wage that they can support themselves with.”
Martin Rice, a member of the Iron Workers Union and a certified welder since 1977, has been teaching at Dale Jackson for over two decades.
“I develop a lot of long lasting relationships, some that go back to my first year,” Rice said of his students.
Rice said welding alumni who apply themselves can make on average between $40,000 and $50,000 annually. A student from Rice’s first year made more than $100,000 in 1997 after getting an associate’s degree, he said. Another, after getting a one-year certificate, made an annual $86,000 while welding in China.
Kim Migliaccio said her son Cole, a Marcus junior taking mill and cabinetmaking, likes to do things with his hands and is taking the class for fun right now.
“He’s really undecided on career, so this has opened up new opportunities,” she said. “He’s looking at things other than just a business degree or something.”
Migliaccio said the centers are wonderful because they give students choices and don’t assume everybody has the same path. It equips the kids with a skill they can have at home even if they don’t decide to pursue it long-term, she said.
There’s a wall-of-fame at Dale Jackson that recognizes alumni who did pursue their learned vocational skills as a career and came back to visit the center. Two students from the A/V productions class have gone on to win Emmys, Holder said.
All the teachers come from the industries they educate students in. Holder said the discipline is minimal because the kids want to be there, they love the programs and they love the teachers.
“Our biggest challenge is recruitment,” he said in September at the fall open house, where current and future students can introduce their parents, show off their work or check out the classrooms. “The problem I guess is because we offer two credits, so they’re here either all morning or all afternoon.”
In turn, it’s a struggle for students to get all their core classes in half-days. It takes advanced planning, Holder said.
Career Center East Counselor Karen Jenschke said that In the spring, students put in course requests with their home campuses. From there, the home campuses place students in career classes based on the available allotments between the five high schools. Students who don’t get their first choice electives then get their alternate choices.
Some vocational courses have prerequisites, requiring students to have taken biology or algebra II, Jenschke said.
Dale Jackson Career Center is located at 1597 S. Edmonds Lane. Career Center East is located at 2553 Farm to Market Road 544.