By Eden Ovadia and Faith Oak
In a school known to excel in academics, many Granada Hills Charter High School (GHC) students have found themselves frustrated at some point during their high school career, wondering how the information they are learning will ever be useful in the real world.
Many are unaware of the Career Technical Education (CTE) program that GHC offers. Classes in this career-oriented program teach students a curriculum key to success in the workforce, with courses that teach skills necessary fields such as the culinary arts, automotive technology, and business and finance.
In the introductory automotive technology class, students learn about the basic components of vehicles in a class setting and are then given the opportunity to work on actual cars. Students who are interested in learning further, many of whom pursuing a career in automotive technology, move on to the advanced class the following year. For two back to back periods a day, students are able to troubleshoot automotive issues such as taking apart and reassemble engines. This hands-on experience allows students to better understand the interior components of cars. The curriculum is flexible, and students sometimes even bring in their own vehicles to fix during class.
Most schools throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) do not offer an auto course, but GHC has made it imperative to keep this class running. Besides receiving practical knowledge for anyone who owns a car, students in this class are able to take Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) exams and earn ASE student certification, which is typically awarded to professionals in the field. This certificate gives students a significant advantage to obtain a job once they are out of school.
“If you want to enter the work force, you can use [the ASE certificate] as a resume, and it appeals to potential employers. Knowing that you are only 18 but have already accomplished this shows your understanding of the cars, and [employers] do like to look for younger individuals to grow them in their company,” automotive technology teacher Abel Saenz said.
Business and Finance:
In the business and finance program, students are given opportunities to learn about applied mathematics and how these concepts can be better understood in relation to the real world. Students also participate in competitions to develop their understanding of math in the financial world, such as the Capitol Hill Challenge, a national stock market competition in which the top ten teams are flown to Washington, D.C. and recognized by their members of Congress.
“Our curriculum targets not only your college applications but also your resume. What we’re teaching directly translates into the workplace,” CTE department chair, business and finance teacher Andrew Nelson said.
Like other CTE courses, the business and finance option is a pathway at GHC, which means it is a two-year course, and students can choose to continue to the advanced course, allowing them to narrow their interests even more specifically.
GHC’s culinary class is taught by Chef Katherine Silberling. The program is geared toward two main concepts: first, to learn to cook so that students can figure things out on their own when they start living independently; second, to act as an introduction and transition for those interested in going to culinary school or pursuing a career in the food industry.
For the first part of the year, Silberling teaches sanitation techniques in the kitchen. Students learn the basics of the culinary arts, starting with history and moving into cooking techniques. They go on to learn specific international cuisine, which is flexible depending on what the class shows interest in.
Silberling emphasized that a culinary background is not just an option for people who plan to be chefs. “It’s a good way to have a well rounded education. In this world there is a place for every kind of person and every level of intelligence and interest, and this is a head start. So if you are interested in food but really academically-oriented you could go into food science, or be a dietician. If you wanted to help people, like work with a mission and provide the food, you could do that. There are a lot of opportunities that stem from this class,” Silberling said.
College and Career Office:
Students know to go to the college and career office for support with their college applications; however, they often do not realize that the college and career office also offers career pathway opportunities on Naviance in order to give students direction when they graduate. Counselors send out weekly newsletter, which, along with information about colleges, also include different job and volunteer opportunities throughout the San Fernando Valley. The counselors also organize assemblies for students to attend, where speakers from various and diverse careers share their experiences and offer advice to students.
“Even as they prepare for college, I think careers should be the end goal in students’ minds, because that is really the purpose of going to college. So, having a wealth of knowledge on different careers that are out there will give students a real advantage. You cannot know at what point you will be in your life in so many years, and people change their minds about what they want to do. But thinking about careers early on and taking the opportunities Granada offers gives you a direction and will benefit you in the long run,” college counselor Erin Kim said.
It is easy to overlook some of the unique opportunities offered by GHC simply because their benefits may not follow the traditional academic rigor GHC promotes. Students are often unwilling to take advantage of these opportunities because they prefer to inflate their GPAs. Doing well in school in order to get into college is important. However, it is equally important to remember that, at the end of the day, the high school experience should include career exploration. The CTE program is the perfect way to explore fields such culinary arts, automotive technology, and business, as well as engineering and graphic arts and design.