Logan Gamache

South Kingstown High School junior Logan Gamache works on a custom-built locker door in the school's workshop on Wednesday morning. He is part of the construction technology CTE program.

Local students get experience with future roles in Career and Technical Education Programs

SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Lilly Manfredi has found that South Kingstown’s Career and Technical Education program (CTE) has given her in high school a hands-on education as well as advanced learning in the classroom. 

“Getting hands-on experience and the opportunity to get real-world experience,” the junior said and the CTE program helps students “figure out what you want to do for your future career (and) it also helps to create friendships with people who are interested in the same career paths are you.”

It also gives Manfredi, 16, and others like her an opportunity to obtain a certified nurse assistant and emergency medical technician licenses and use them for any work and college applications. 

Andrew Cappelli, 18, a senior, has been focusing on CTE’s computer science program. 

“I chose the computer science CTE due to a personal and familial interest in computer science. My father works in IT and throughout my childhood, even before high school I was making video games and creating programs,” he said, Cappelli, who will be attending Johnson and Wales University in the fall.

“I liked the diversity of pathways that are taught in the program,” he said.

The Rhode Island Department of Education, as did area educators, has recognized the need for hands-on skills and education to help students consider approaches to college education or join the workforce right after high school graduation. 

Students in these programs get skills training, in addition to traditional required academic courses, that lead to work-related experience listed on resumes and certifications in career-ready fields. More than 54 high schools are in the statewide network and offer different training programs which any student from around the state can apply to enroll. 

North Kingstown High School and Narragansett also offer CTE programs and some different areas of concentration. In North Kingstown High School, these are called academies.

Will Draper, 18, is in the Academy of Business and Finance at NKHS. “I chose the business CTE program because it allowed me to orient my schedule to cater to my interest in business. I took unique classes and interned at a publishing company through the CTE program, which exposed me to the business world,” he said.

“I liked that I took business courses with other CTE students, so we got to know each other well and share our interest in business. After graduation, I will be attending the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan to major in project management and minor in German,” Draper added.

Scott Rollins oversees the CTE program at South Kingstown High School, which offers a focus on allied health certified CNA and EMT, computer science, studio art and construction technology, and biomedical science. Most of these were introduced in 2018-2019 and about 340 students are enrolled. 

“We have created partnerships with many different organizations in our community. Students now have career hands-on learning experiences, with internships to earn State licensing certifications to qualify them for higher paying job opportunities while still in high school and college,” he said.

“These opportunities have engaged students to examine these career paths, which many may have never explored,” he added.

Kevin Gormley, CTE coordinator at North Kingstown High School agreed.

“Students get a valuable industry-specific content in each academy. It gives them an early look to see if that business sector is one they want to continue in college or a career,” he said about the 388 students in his program.

“The majority of the course in each academy are taught at the honors level and students can earn college credits after completion of some courses in each academy,” Gormley added.

His school offers focus areas in engineering, business, computer science and music performance-music education.

Narragansett High School has 184 students attending its CTE program. In that school district the focus areas are agriculture science, information and computer technology, mechanical trades in plumbing, educator preparation, and digital media production.

It’s a focus on education that school districts and these coordinators enjoy promoting both the benefit of the district as well as students whose focus on education is driven by hands-on skill learning along with the many other district- and state-required courses for graduation.

“We love showing potential students and their families all we have to offer here in Narragansett. We invite you to schedule a tour or an individual peer shadow day for your student to receive a full experience and obtain a better understanding of our school community,” Joan Pratley says on the school system’s website describing the program.

This high school, as well as NKHS and SKHS, are clear about the kinds of students wanted. This is not a sideline program for those who are having trouble passing high school courses.

“We are looking for potential students who have a passion for the field in which they are applying to. Each area comes with extensive coursework and hands-on experience,” Narragansett points out in its informational materials for parents and students.

“Students are expected to take part in many projects, both team and individual, throughout the year and are viewed as leaders within the classroom, which comes along with high expectations for education and conduct excellence,” it said.

It also comes with an admonition. “As our programs grow, we have a limited number of spaces available within each program and pay close attention to the enthusiasm and drive of the individuals applying,” the district said. 

Its college preparation aspects are paying off for North Kingstown High senior Ryan Dionizio, a Cranston resident who chose to attend NKHS because of its CTE Computer Science program.

“It was a course not offered at many other schools and the computer science pathway interested me specifically. What I liked best about the CTE program was that it taught me skills I may not have learned without taking this course and prepared me for my future. Next year I will be attending the University of Rhode Island,” he said.

Alexis Cinquegrana, a senior, at South Kingstown High School and enrolled in the CNA and EMT courses, said, “It has given me good knowledge to take with me as I go into nursing school. My 2 CTE programs also gave me something good to put onto to my resume for schools and jobs in the future.”

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