By Kim Underwood Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
MAY 1 – Students think the Career Center’s new home is a big improvement.
“This one is way better,” said Molly Parks, a junior at Reagan High School who heads to the Career Center for Allied Health and Honors English III. “It’s a better feeling whenever you come here.”
Students and staff find much to like about the new location – how accessible it is from other parts of the county, all the up-to-date technology and equipment, a layout that makes it easy to get around, inviting public spaces that encourage interaction, spacious classrooms and hallways, and a sense of connection with the community at large fostered by panoramic views of downtown.
The school’s new $22-million home is off Highland Avenue near the intersection with Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Moving day was supposed to come in time for the start of the 2011-12 school year. Weather caused construction delays, though, and the move was made during the winter holidays. The first classes met January 3, and the school will be dedicated in a formal ceremony this Sunday at 3 p.m.
“It’s nice to feel connected to everything,” said Amy Beveridge, the chairwoman of the English Department.
“I think it’s amazing,” said Zach Scudder, a junior who comes over from East Forsyth High School to take carpentry. “The new school is clean and well-organized. It’s a lot easier to get to classes.”
The Career Center used to be nestled in behind Forsyth Technical Community College at the southern end of Miller Street. It shared a campus with the school system’s administrative offices. With support from voters who passed a bond referendum in 2008, both the Career Center and administrative offices moved so that Forsyth Tech could grow. The new Career Center building and Carter High School, which moved into its new building in 2010, were built on property along U.S. 52 that was already home to John F. Kennedy High School, and the complex is known as the Kennedy Campus.
The Career Center – its official address is 910 Highland Court - serves about 1,850 students, primarily in three areas – courses that lead to careers in such fields as health, automobile repair, construction, culinary arts and cosmetology; advanced-placement (AP) courses; and classes in such specialized subjects as electronic music, alternative energy, Japanese and Chinese. To make it practical for students to take courses at the center, the Career Center also offers some honors and regular courses in such subjects as English.
“The kids can get a required class,” said Principal Dennis Moser, who is serving his 11th year as principal.
The Career Center has two buildings. The Career Center South building has a kitchen for culinary arts, a cosmetology lab and lots of classrooms. The Career Center North building houses such programs as automotive technology and repair, aviation, and carpentry. Students at Kennedy, which focuses on developing skills in such careers as construction, restaurant management and health sciences, use some of the Career Center equipment. And Career Center students are welcome to get lunch at Kennedy’s cafeteria.
The program at Carter High is designed to help students with such disabilities prepare for life after high school. When Carter moved to its new location, Principal Donna Horton said she looked forward to students at all three schools interacting. That is happening. Career Center students now serve internships at Carter.
The Career Center opened in 1976, with Bob Greene, who later became president of Forsyth Tech, serving as its first principal. Growth over the years and program changes - such programs as HVAC (heating/ventilation/air conditioning) and industrial sewing are long gone – meant that the day came when some classes were held in spaces designed for another program and some teachers felt as if they had to run a maze to reach classrooms wedged in behind other ones.
“It offers a better traffic pattern,” said Akwete McAlister, who teaches such AP courses as U.S. Government and Politics. “It offers us a more up-to-date classroom in terms of technology.”
Before the new Career Center was built, some people worried that its new location would be less accessible than the old one off Silas Creek Parkway. In fact, more than one student said, one thing they like about the new location is how straightforward it is to reach. “It’s right off 52,” said Bryant Gibson, a Reagan junior who takes carpentry at the center.
“Travel to us is quicker than it was to the old location,” Moser said.
Feeling more connected to the wider community was an unforeseen bonus, Moser said. “We did not realize how secluded and separate we were…at the foot of Miller Street. We can see downtown Winston-Salem. We can see the energy on 52.”