La Plata, MD- Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) hosted a two-day Career and Technology Education (CTE) Showcase on Oct. 29-30. Participating in the showcase were more than 2,100 eighth graders who attended during the school day to learn about available high school CTE programs. Attendees learned about CTE opportunities from CCPS students currently enrolled in the programs. Presenters included CTE students from all seven high schools, as well as students who attend the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center.

The showcase was held at the La Plata campus of the College of Southern Maryland and was split into two sections: a staff presentation portion that included a general CTE program overview, and a CTE program showcase. During the showcase, students had 45 minutes to rotate through different CTE program tables to talk with student presenters about their CTE program of choice. Each visiting eighth grader was given a tracking sheet to use in taking notes about the tables they visited, and then ranked their top four program choices.

Theodore G. Davis Middle School eighth grader Samantha Mason loves science and was most impressed by the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Biomedical Sciences presenters. She said the program was her top CTE choice, but that she was also considering the criminal justice program. “My first choice is the Biomed program because I am interested in medicine and science. I learned a lot here today … I learned about all of the options available to me next year,” Mason said.

Mason explored the showcase with her friend and classmate, Davis eighth grader Kaelynn Tellez. Tellez likes to cook and plans to apply for admission to the Culinary Arts program at North Point High School. “My top choice is culinary arts. Cooking is always something I have liked to do. My second choice is probably biotechnology or biomedical engineering,” she said.

The showcase was also a time for CTE students to shine as representatives of their respective programs. Student presenters served as program ambassadors as they talked with the middle schoolers about program specific curriculum, available program certifications and future job opportunities.

North Point High School senior Gennifer Newby represented the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp (AFJROTC) program. She is the vice group commander at North Point and said she enjoyed providing middle school attendees with perspectives on JROTC. “Students should go in [to JROTC] with an open mind. It might be something they like to do. Some think they might not be a good fit because they are shy, but the program really helps you learn how to open up and work with others,” Newby said.

Newby said she chose a JROTC route in high school after watching her siblings advance through the program. She plans to attend college after she graduates, but said the program prepares you for life after high school. “We go to events and competitions, from local places to Florida. We are invited to participate in other activities. The program lets you experience a lot,” she said. 

Students from the La Plata High School Educators Rising chapter presented on the Teacher Academy of Maryland, also known as TAM, program and had fun talking with younger students about teaching. La Plata seniors Ja’Dell Webster, Krystina McDonald, Olivia Hernandez and Jennifer Dieterle talked with students about program requirements, including the student teaching component. All four seniors are currently student teaching as part of TAM program requirements. They were impressed with the number of eighth graders they talked with who had already identified career goals.

“It is interesting because a lot already have an idea of what they want to do. We have had a lot of kids stop by and talk to us about why teaching is fun,” Webster said. He said he chose to participate in Educators Rising because he wants to teach. “I want to be a teacher and am considering teaching either history or music,” Webster said.

This is the first year that CCPS provided the opportunity for eighth graders. Students attended as part of a field trip to learn about CTE programs as they begin to transition from middle to high school. Prior to attending the showcase, students participated in a lesson with their grade-level counselor to learn about CTE, and will complete a follow-up lesson to research their top CTE program choices.

“In the past, CTE staff traveled to each middle school to give the information and presentation. This year, we wanted to add the impact of students being able to experience the programs in a hands-on fashion and to hear from our high school students enrolled in the programs.  We believe that the chance to hear about the programs from older peers will have a lasting impact on the eighth-grade students,” Carrie Akins, a CCPS CTE instructional specialist, said.

Plans are underway to offer the showcase again next school year. The goal is to increase overall awareness for those students preparing to plan for high school. “The showcase allowed students to learn and experience all 29 CTE pathways through a presentation and interactive demonstrations from currently enrolled students. The overall goal is to increase awareness of all the CTE pathways throughout the county for all eighth graders,” Rebecca Pearson, career and technology education specialist with CCPS, said.