By Christine Bolaños.
Students at Liberty Hill High School have the
opportunity to get a head start in numerous career fields thanks to endorsements the
Staff describes them as “over-arching” areas of study, or multiple pathways designed to give students more course options as they work to complete their high school diplomas.
The high school offers endorsements in Scence-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics or STEM, Business and Industry, Public Services, Arts and Humanities and Multi-disciplinary Studies.
“It helps them focus on what they might want to major in in college or help jump start on what direction they want to go,” said Principal Mario Bye. “They can get a certification they can use right out of high school. There are not many places where you can get a CNA (certified nursing assistant) certification a year or two past high school, but now, you can get it while you’re here.”
Programs of study under the STEM endorsement include science, including environmental science; technology, engineering and advanced math.
Web and game development, business management and administration, agricultural science and mechanics, fashion design, culinary arts and journalism are programs of studies offered under the Business and Industry endorsement.
Bobby Wolensenski began his senior year this fall and has already earned multiple certifications specializing in Microsoft programs such as Word, Powerpoint, Outlook and Excel.
“At first it was just something in the business information management (tract),” Wolensenski said. “After that, I decided it was something I was interested in. It was a great opportunity since the school was paying the fees, I was doing something I could put down on my resume and would be helpful in the future.”
The certifications have also had some unexpected benefits such as better preparing Wolensenski for school projects, papers and Powerpoint presentations.
Students can take health sciences, including certified nursing assistant and pharmacy technician; political science, including pre-law; and, new to the school, criminal justice. These programs of study fall under the Public Services endorsement.
“I started out my sophomore year because I just wanted to try it,” explained Cooper Phelan, who graduated in May and attained his pharmacy technician certification. “It had something to do with the field so I went through it (health science program of study) all three years.”
He believes the health science courses and his certification will put him ahead of the pack when it comes to his medical studies. Phelan will study nursing at Texas State University in the fall, and will then move on to pursue medicine.
“I really just want to help people,” he said. “I know there’s always a need for doctors everywhere and there’s always going to be people in need.”
World languages, English, history, dance, theatre, art and music, including band and choir, fall under the Arts and Humanities endorsement. Multidisciplinary Studies endorsement offers a college or career-bound program of study. This endorsement allows each student to pick a course within the curriculum of each endorsement and earn credit in a variety of advanced courses. The goal is to complete the distinguished level of achievement if desired.
Courtney Peterson graduated in May with a ServSafe Managers Certification through the school’s culinary arts program.
“I thought it would be good for jobs that I might want to get during college,” Peterson said.
She will study biomedical science at Texas A&M University, but believes the certification, and culinary arts program will teach her skills she can apply in the classroom and at work.
Bye explained that endorsements are universal at school districts across the state, but they differ in the pathways offered to students, which depends on the courses available.
“Which is based on what students want to sign up for in combination with what our staff is good at teaching,” Bye said. “There are more endorsements, but those are the ones we have to offer.”
Kristy Kercheville, special programs coordinator at Liberty Hill High School, explained that when the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 5 it set new graduation plans for Texas students, that gave them more flexibility in pursuing their interests. She said endorsements are based on student surveys and trends in the workforce.
“It goes beyond getting them ready for college, to getting them ready for real life skills and making sure they’re actually good workers and productive citizens,” Kercheville said.
She said Liberty Hill ISD is entering its third year of endorsements, and while the district has kept the same endorsements, they have added more pathways.
“Last year we actually added fashion design under the business umbrella, and health science,” she said. “This year we’re adding engineering.”
Health science encompasses the certified nursing assistant program and the pharmacy technician program. One student earned a perfect score during their testing to attain the pharmacy
Students do practicums throughout the year. In the certified nursing assistant trek, students got hands-on experience at the nursing home in Bertram.
Annette Coe, principal at Liberty Hill Junior High, said fashion design students marketed the program to children at her campus.
“Students came and had their clothing and talked about their design, how they developed them and how they were going to market it,” Coe said.
She proudly added that the fine arts program at the junior high is expanding. The school will now offer Dance I and Dance II.
“So that students who feed into the program at the high school come already prepared, knowing basic dance moves,” she said.
The junior high is also sharing a choir teacher with the high school and is now able to offer a choir program. There will also be opportunities for students to take advanced art and advanced theatre.
“We want to help the high school with some of the classes such as Principles of Business Management and Principles of Audio/Visual, so that kids get started on the program a little earlier,” Coe said.
New this fall is a veterinary science program at the high school headed by Jaycee Thompson.
Thompson said “the new lab space will feature a dog washing station,
examination tables, dog runs, and
kennels, and will accompany the veterinary medical applications class, which is in its second year.”
Bye emphasized that while there is much progress, all the programs are in their infancy.
“We want to continue to grow them,” he said, adding that, “there are still a lot of things we need to do.”