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The Power of Partnership, Innovation and Learning

School Desk Blog: My Grandfather Built Things

My Grandfather built things. The steel fabrication company he founded built water-filtration tanks for the construction of Disneyland and the emerging industrial economy of China in the 1950s. His generation survived the poverty of the Great Depression, won a global war, and participated in the most profound economic and technological transformation in human history. Their postwar technological achievements, from building the interstate highway system and the California Water Project to the Apollo missions, represent a creative and productive output that often seem undervalued today.

Even when I was a kid, most students had the opportunity to experience the thrill of actually building things in school. Birdhouses and cutting boards were crafted in woodshops. Students learned to weld and fix engines and grow things. In recent years, an increasingly academic focus has significantly reduced or even eliminated such opportunities in many schools.

Not so at Ukiah High School. On any given day at Ukiah High School, you can find hundreds of students applying themselves to real, hands-on work in 30 different career technical education (CTE) courses. Students grow their agricultural skills in courses like Sustainable Agricultural Practices or Veterinary Practices. They explore computer science, networking, and cybersecurity. Students practice welding and automotive repair or build parts out of metal using state-of-the-art machining tools. Other students dive into Health Sciences through our Medical Terminology and Extreme Responders classes. Students hone their creative skills in Fashion Design or capture their imagination in photography courses. Still, others prepare for careers with Children through Child Development courses and Family and Consumer Sciences.

Students in these courses have the opportunity to move beyond single-subject, content-heavy instruction, and apply learning from multiple disciplines in connection to career paths they find engaging and meaningful. These programs provide students with opportunities to gain the competencies required in both today’s workplace and higher education—such as critical thinking, collaboration, problem-solving, innovation, teamwork, and communication—and to learn about different careers by experiencing work and workplaces.

In the near future, employers may not be so concerned with a diploma. They’ll look more at portfolios and examples of how students contributed to solving real-world problems. They’ll want to know how well students worked in a team and how well they can communicate with others and work toward innovative solutions. Likewise, top universities no longer have room to admit students who have not demonstrated the ability to apply their learning in real-world situations, think critically, and design innovative solutions, no matter how impressive their test scores and GPAs.

It’s exciting to see our students push beyond the limits of traditional schooling to develop the skills that top universities are looking for in their applicants and that the students will need for success in the future workplace. We have students in our Careers with Children classes working in a variety of preschools and elementary schools. Some of our Extreme Responder students serve on local search and rescue teams or participate in Explorer programs through the Ukiah and Redwood Valley Fire Departments. We are developing leaders, like Lucy Burris, who is both a Future Farmers of America (FFA) regional officer and has been selected to serve as one of California’s 52 FFA National Delegates.

Looking to the future, UUSD will increase CTE offerings to include more dual enrollment courses with Mendocino College, a full pathway in Construction Trades, and a pathway in Digital Media. Additionally, CTE Coordinator, Eric Crawford, is preparing to launch a class called “Next Steps,” for students who have completed a career pathway prior to their 12th-grade year. In this class, students will gain direct instruction in career exploration and soft-skills two days a week, and then apply their learning through internships at local businesses the remaining three days a week. We encourage local businesses to consider connecting with Mr. Crawford to find out how you can host a high school intern. You can reach Mr. Crawford at 707-472-5875 or via email at ecrawford@uusd.net.

Ukiah Unified is proud to provide such a rich and varied offering of both academics and career technical options for our students. Coupling rigorous intellectual and academic exploration with real-world, hands-on learning gives this generation the tools they will need to succeed and build their future. When I see the amazing things our students are creating and building today, I think my Grandfather would approve.