New Programs Redefine Traditional ‘Vo-Tech’

NEWARK — Vo-Tech isn’t what it used to be.

That’s the message teachers and administrators at Worcester Technical High School are trying to share with students as they work to promote the facility’s growing list of programs.

“Let’s face it,” said Caroline Bloxom, principal of Worcester Tech. “Your momma and daddy’s vo-tech school did not include programs in engineering, biomedical science and interactive media production. Worcester Tech offers four STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs and 14 updated traditional programs.”

With February designated as Career and Technical Education month, Bloxom and her Worcester Tech educators are even more eager than usual to expound the benefits of technical education. They want to dispel the “lingering vo-tech stereotype” that students who take classes there are those who are unlikely to attend college.

“This line of thinking is not only incorrect it’s detrimental,” Bloxom said.

She said it’s not only possible but increasingly necessary for students to make the most of both a technical education as well as the traditional learning offered in their home high school classes.

Sophomore Chloe Walker wants to be a medical examiner one day. To prepare, she’s taking rigorous courses at Stephen Decatur High School and has also enrolled in the biomedical program at Worcester Tech. Fellow sophomore Zachary Pilarski is doing the same. Though not sure exactly what career he will one day pursue, he knows he wants to focus on muscle rehabilitation. He says the Worcester Tech biomedical science program has provided him with opportunities for hands-on experiments and dissections.

“It offers us the opportunity to delve deep into subject areas,” he said.

Walker agreed.

“We actually see how it relates to real people,” she said.

According to Bloxom, roughly 34 percent of the county’s high school students attend the technical school. She hopes that number will grow as more and more students become aware of the programs offered there.

“Obviously I’d love to see the home schools encourage even more students to take advantage of our programs,” she said.

In addition to the newer STEM options, the school has modernized its more traditional courses such as carpentry, cosmetology and agriculture. In the agriculture program, for example, students are immersed in both laboratory and practical experiences. In the welding program, students are now learning to use welding simulators and even 3D printers.

To make sure Worcester County students are aware of what goes on at the tech school, Bloxom said that for the past few years she’d been inviting the county’s third-, sixth- and eighth-graders in for tours.

“When they’re here they don’t just tour,” she said. “They participate in hands-on activities. That’s something we think is going to pay off down the road.”

Worcester Tech educators also want the community at large to become familiar with the school and its array of high-tech programs. The public is invited to stop by Saturday, Feb. 6, between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. for its second annual SkillsUSA Competition and Open House.

“It’s a great opportunity to see the kids in action,” Bloxom said.

Teachers and staff will be on hand to discuss the school’s 18 programs while students will be showing off their skills, competing in various competitions. Students who win Feb. 6 will move on to the state’s SkillsUSA competition. For more information call 410-632-5050.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.