During a recent visit to Clintondale High School, Clintondale Community Schools Superintendent Rodriguez Broadnax experienced something that stopped him in his tracks.
“I was walking down the hall near the Culinary Arts Center and I smelled fresh-baked cookies the students just made,” he says. “I asked for one, and it was so good!”
As part of Clintondale Community Schools’ growing Career Technical Education (CTE) Pathways program, the district has invested more than $100,000 in new kitchen equipment and furniture to upgrade and outfit the student-run Dragon Café. Here, students, faculty, staff and community members can purchase lunch made by students studying in the Culinary Arts CTE program.
“The kitchen equipment is in, the cafe is painted, and we have new lighting,” Broadnax says of the restaurant that can seat about 20 individuals comfortably. The CTE program provides introductory and advanced culinary arts instruction for students who want to pursue a career in food service or catering — or go on to community college to further their education in the field. “This is a state-of-the-art program for students who have an interest in culinary arts.”
The Culinary Arts CTE Pathway is one of a few programs available to ninth- to 12th-grade students at Clintondale High School. Existing programs in Radio and TV Broadcasting and Marketing offer students the opportunity to get the hands-on experience that CTE programs are known for. Marketing CTE Pathway students, for example, learn the fundamentals of branding, advertising, working within a budget and community engagement.
“A lot of the students in the CTE Pathways are students who thrive when they can learn by doing,” Broadnax says. “Typically, they’d rather use their hands to gain knowledge, and that includes theory and technique.”
Hands-on instruction is one of Clintondale Community Schools’ strong instructional strategies. “So many kids prefer to learn hands-on now and technology, phones and computers are where this generation is right now,” he says, adding that these students can gain skills through the CTE Pathways programs that make them marketable employees right out of high school. “The hands-on piece with CTE shows us how future welders, carpenters, chefs and communications specialists are the kids we need to target right now because they may not prefer to go to college.”
Learning to teach
In addition to the CTE Pathways programs, Clintondale Community Schools offers a new Teacher Cadet Program. “This program prepares students in high school for a career pathway of teaching. Right now, there is a severe national teacher shortage,” Broadnax says.
By engaging students who show interest in teaching, the district is growing the next generation of teachers to work right in the Clintondale Community Schools District and elsewhere in Michigan. “We are growing our own,” says Broadnax.
Students learn the fundamentals of teaching from veteran teachers, which allows them to see the classroom through the eyes of a teacher, giving them a “huge advantage” when they go onto postsecondary education.
“They learn instructional theory and classroom management skills, and they experience some of the things the teachers experience,” Broadnax says. “A lot of times as educators, you learn pedagogy and instructional strategies, but not the real-life experiences that make up the operations of the classroom.” Students have the opportunity to work as paid teacher cadets during summer school, too.
CTE programs ‘showcase’ Clintondale Community Schools
Clintondale Community Schools students also have the opportunity to participate in the strong programs offered through the Macomb Intermediate School District, including the innovative Early College of Macomb.
This program allows eligible students to attend courses at Macomb Community College while in high school. Upon completion of one additional year, students can receive a high school diploma and an associate degree concurrently. They can also earn college credit and they can transfer to a four-year college through Michigan’s articulation agreement program.
Broadnax says he is looking forward to expanding programs for all students within Clintondale Community Schools, including an earlier start to CTE Pathways to allow middle school students and younger to dig into career-broadening opportunities.
“CTE is one of the showcases of Clintondale Community Schools and it will grow over the next two to five years to be one of the top in the county. It’s the way of the future,” Broadnax says. “For students who don’t want to go to college, CTE allows them to receive certifications and go out into the workforce and make good money and have a great career without going to college.”
Learn more about Clintondale Community Schools at clintondaleschools.net.