I love it when I meet adults who become intentional about helping to mature the young people around them. I had the privilege of meeting some parents and teachers in Allen, Texas that illustrate this commitment. They’re enabling students to grow up in every way and preparing kids for a career. The Allen School District, is not only developing kids experientially but they are preparing them to lead the way as they move from childhood to adulthood. This was a strategic decision the community planning committee made in 2002.
All through the school system, teachers work to add practical application to the instruction the students receive. Parents are very active in the process and quite frankly, many of the teachers love their students as if they were their parent. By the time they reach high school, students are encouraged to explore career fields. A Career and Technology Center opened up at Allen High School in 2011 motivating students to become involved in areas such as Culinary Arts and Food Service, Computer Science, Architecture and Engineering, Business and Finance, Agricultural Science, Arts and Animation, and Health Sciences, (such as EMT and nursing).
The students involved literally receive real world experience. The entire learning process is built off of mentoring relationships with teachers, hard work, competition and relevance to the community around them. The trades they learn were actually requested by local businesses nearby. The majority of these students graduate and move into the very fields they experienced during high school. What a contrast to the typical teen or collegian who changes their mind and their major several times before they graduate college. Because the emphasis has been so successful, these students received a half million dollars in scholarships last year.
Consider the outcomes of this experience. Teens are cultivating a strong work ethic. They even come in and work on Saturdays at the school. Most of the students have the chance to confirm their passion for an industry, while others are screened out of an industry realizing early that it just isn’t for them. This all happens before mom and dad spend any tuition money on college. The program gives these kids a head start on life and career before they ever graduate form high school.
For instance, the culinary arts students actually come up with the menus and prepare the meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for both faculty and students. They actually get to run their food service like a restaurant. When I spoke with the administrators, they told me their students had just catered an event that had 1,000 attendees. To evaluate how well they’re doing, they competed against other food service schools in the state—and took first place. After they won the award, they celebrated, but were reminded by their teacher: “Now you get to wash the dishes. Everyone, in winning or losing, gets the chance to wash dishes.”
What I love most about Allen High School is this. Both the parents and the teachers have become mentors to the students, facilitating their maturity. The impact on the kids was illustrated best when after catering the last event, a sweaty, tired teen smiled at his teacher, saying, “This is the best day of my entire life.”
This is what kids ought to say when we’re done teaching them.