You've gotta have skills
By Nancy Gutierrez
Ed Hughes' classroom at Lindsay High School might seem a little disorderly. There are exposed cables in one area of the room, computers squeezed in side by side in a makeshift lab that is partitioned off by a wall that Hughes constructed, which has several outlets clustered in its center with words scribbled in pencil around it.
The classroom isn't unorganized or even under construction. It is set-up the way it is because students in Hughes' computer networking class use these computers, cables and outlets constantly. In this class students are provided with classroom and lab experience in current and emerging networking technology that is applicable to entry level employment or further advanced education or training.
The major components of the course include safety, networking or training, terminology, protocols, network stands, routers programming, start topology, and the network administrators' role and function among other things. In addition, the proper care, maintenance and use of networking software, tools, and equipment along with all local state and federal safety, building and environmental codes and regulations are emphasized.
The course curriculum is provided by CISCO and teaches students everything from how the router - a one dimensional computer that transfers data from one computer to another, thus creating a computer network - works, to how to create the cables that connect a computer to a router.
"They tear computers apart and reconnect them," Hughes said. "When they leave this class they will know how to design and build a network, wire and configure routers and have computers communicating with each other."
The students start as sophomores and learn physical aspects of networking like wiring through walls and creating the cables. That is what the partition is for. Hughes has to reconstruct it each year so students can learn how to drill into a wall and wire a computer through it. They also make the fiber-optic cables that connect computers. As they continue taking classes the students learn how to operate and put together local area networks and finally, how to design a network for a fictional school site.
"When they're done they can take the CISCO certified network association exam, the most respected tech certification at this level," he said.
This class is just one of the many Tulare County Organization for Vocational Education (TCOVE) classes available at LHS that not only provides skill certification but college credits as well.
At the end of this month students in Vhie Cellans' nurses assistant class gain hands on experience on how to provide daily living assistance to the elderly or post-surgical patients.
"I prepare the students physically and emotionally for patient care," Cellan said.
At the end of the three year course students are prepared to take the Certiffied Nurses Assistant exam.
In yet another TCOVE class students looking to become educators learn about child development from conception to 8 years and work as aides in elementary school classes in Lindsay.
For some of the students in these classes, a nursing class or computer class is something to look forward to during their school day. Not because these classes are easy, but because these classes teach material that they enjoy. These vocational classes promote career exploration while implementing core academic subjects in the curriculum.
In Hughes' class students have to understand the basic principles of algebra to decipher computer codes. Cellan said students in her class learn the fundamentals of biology and health.
These intra-curricular strategies utilize the information from one class in the activities of a completely separate class. These classes show students how to implement what they have learned in a classroom to a working situation.
Brian Oldzieski is a graduate of LHS' CISCO program. He was able to secure a job with the Lindsay Unified School District as a computer technician after high school. He now works for Jostens publishing in Visalia and is continuing his education in computer networking at College of the Sequoias.
"The big thing is that this gives students who are not purely academic something to look forward to," Hughes said. "They learn by doing, not by reading a book. But they also know the purpose for doing it which makes it much more effective."
In Dinuba, a center was recently built dedicated solely to vocational education. Classes available now include child development and English as a second language. The center could potentially house a medical lab or kitchen for culinary instruction, once the second level is completed. Future courses will include health care programs for home health aides, nurses assistants, licensed vocational nursing, paramedic and medical assisting; computer manufacturing; and warehousing training for employment with local companies like Ruiz Foods, Odwalla Juices and Best Buy. On the first day of registration more than 100 people showed up to register for courses in vocational education.
Data from the California Post-Secondary education Commission shows that 11 percent of high school students from Assembly District 34, which includes Tulare, Kern, Inyo and San Bernardino Counties, enter a 4-year university and 41 percent attend community college. The report showed that 29 percent of District 34's high school students complete college prep classes and 13 percent hold a bachelors degree or higher, while 26 percent of the population hold professional and managerial positions.