Summer Program Promotes Skilled Trades, Agriculture, Tourism and Technology

Summer Program Promotes Skilled Trades, Agriculture, Tourism and Technology
Program participant Derrick Smith cuts a piece of wood for a corn hole board. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

SNOW HILL– Local officials this week toured a new summer program meant to expose students to skilled trades, agriculture, tourism and technology.

On Tuesday, officials from the Rural Maryland Council and the Tri-County Council visited the Worcester Technical High School STATT (Skilled Trades, Agriculture, Tourism and Technology) Camp. The interactive summer program is meant to inspire an interest in the STATT fields among local teenagers.

“It’s amazing to see how eager they are,” said Rick Stephens, welding instructor.

Representatives of the Rural Maryland Council and the Tri County Council joined county staff and Worcester County Commissioner Ted Elder for a tour of the STATT program July 26. The camp, along with a summer internship program, was funded with $100,000 from Worcester County Economic Development and a matching grant from the Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund through the Tri-County Council.

Worcester Tech hosted two camp sessions this year, with the first from June 27 to July 8 and the second from July 25 to Aug. 5. Each session features various pathways and students have the chance to pursue two—one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Tuesday’s tour gave visitors a glimpse of laser cutting, culinary arts, 3D printing, carpentry, digital media, forensic science, welding, robotics and agriculture. While agriculture students talked about seed identification and goat handling, teenagers in robotics learned to fly drones. In carpentry, campers were busy building cornhole boards while forensic science students took fingerprints and talked about blood spatter. In culinary arts, the smell of fajitas emanated through the kitchen as kids wrapped up their handiwork for lunch.

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In the laser cutting course, students were creating layered sea theme holiday ornaments.

“It provides so many great opportunities to youth,” participant Evan Todd said of the camp. “I’m learning a lot of life skills.”

Valerie Zienty, the camp’s robotics instructor, said she was showing her students not only how to fly drones but how they played a part in so many different industries. Instructors said they were trying to provide students with hands-on, realistic projects that would give them an accurate look at the industry they were exploring.

“It helps younger students find pathways for what they want to do,” said Tamara Mills, coordinator of instruction for Worcester County Public Schools, as she led the tour.

She said exposing students to the array of STATT pathways out there was just one of the program’s goals. She said it was also a great recruitment tool for Worcester Technical High School, which offers a variety of programs meant to prepare students for both work and post-secondary education. It’s also a way to build the local workforce.

“We need to build in our community those careers and keep kids here,” she said.

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County officials and representatives of the Rural Maryland Council and Tri-County Council toured the STATT program Tuesday.

Mills noted that in most courses, camp participants would be creating items they’d be bringing home—things like cornhole boards, ornaments and videos.

“The act of creation is one of the best tools we can equip our students with,” she said.

As visitors viewed the camp in action Tuesday, instructors—the majority of whom are Worcester Tech teachers—also had the opportunity to talk about the growing popularity of their school year programs. Stephens said that in welding, he was only going to be able to accommodate 20 of the 49 interested students this fall because of space constraints. In forensic science, instructor Mike Levy said he was able to take 30 of the 70 students who’d applied.

When asked if graduates of the school’s programs actually ended up in the local workforce, Levy said that eight of his former students were currently working as public safety aides for the Ocean City Police Department.

“The goal is to push out qualified students who are entry level ready into public safety,” Levy said.

He said Ocean City was a great partner and that the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office was also looking to work with the school.

“We have phenomenal partnerships with our local agencies,” he said.

Greg Padgham, executive director of the Tri-County Council, praised the program and said it was discussed often by the organization.

“We’re very thankful for the opportunity to be involved and what you do,” he said.

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.