Bellport High School seniors Peter Mistretta, Chrissy Hobson and Adrian Trent show off their marketing skills for a virtual enterprise called “Portside Sweets” during a CTE Month presentation last week.
Last week, Bellport High School students spun a prize wheel during seventh-period lunch. As they came up for a chance to win silly prizes — a piece of candy or a free hug — several career and technical education senior students were on hand to entice younger classmates to enroll in these classes by presenting examples of work they had been doing all year. It’s also a way for students to participate in a national public awareness campaign called Career and Technical Education Month. These programs, which at Bellport High School include culinary, business and technology, directly prepare students for high-wage, high-demand careers.
During the month of February, the value and achievements of CTE programs are celebrated throughout the country. “It’s perfect timing since the students are working on their schedules for next year,” explained culinary teacher Lisa Martin. “Our program is growing every year.” This year, 122 Bellport students enrolled in CTE classes, with an additional about 70 students participating in after-school clubs.“The reason I come to school is for culinary class,” said senior Kiara Trent. Last year, she joined a group of culinary students at Walt Disney World’s Epcot for a program called Cook Around the World. Though most of us who have been to Disney look forward to “eating” around the world at Epcot, Trent and her classmates were treated to student tours, hands- on cooking demos and crash courses in hospitality during their trip. Trent was amazed at the inside look at how food is grown and prepared at one of the most renowned resorts in the world. France, Trent explained, was her favorite part of the tour because it tied into her core studies at home. “I’ve taken French since seventh grade,” she said. “And I love crêpes.” Fellow senior Chrissy Hobson has taken every culinary class offered to her at Bellport and is planning to enroll in the culinary arts program at Suffolk County Community College in Riverhead next fall. “They wouldn’t let me take it again,”she joked about her high school culinary classes. The program, she explained, has given her the skills needed to cook recipes at home, but also given her experience in event planning and catering. With the culinary club, Hobson has helped cater school events such as NYSSMA, events for the Boys and Girls Club and even worked with the business department to cater some of their virtual enterprise meetings.
The virtual enterprise is a project developed by students in the business program. Essentially, they create a business from the bottom up and cover everything from sales and marketing to human relations and customer service. Each project “expires” every five years, explained senior Adrian Jones. Last year was the fifth year, so his class was tasked with coming up with a brand-new idea. And thus began Portside Sweets, a virtual bakery created entirely by students. According to Martin, the students must consider the meaning behind each busi- ness decision, down to the name itself. “We chose ‘portside’ as an homage to our location in Bellport,” said senior Peter Mistretta. Mistretta and Jones showed off some marketing materials they helped create for the project, including creative business cards that could do well in the real world. “You learn everyday things that you’ll actually use,” said Jones, who plans to study software engineering after high school. For Mistretta, who plans to study business management in college, the program has showed him how interconnected these disciplines can be. “It shows you how business affects everything around you and how often these skills are used,” he said, noting that the three departments frequently work together. “I also like the competition aspect,” he added, explaining that projects such as the virtual enterprise have helped him learn how to go above and beyond — a trait future employers will look for.
These seniors have all taken advantage of the CTE programs and are career-oriented as a result. They also explained how the program has helped them apply these skills to their after-school jobs as well. Martin sees the CTE classes as a way to learn essential life skills that are not always taught in core classes. “These are the skills they need to develop themselves before they go out into the world,” she said. For her culinary students, it’s also a way to be prepared for the future. “They have a head start on learning how to take care of themselves in college, so they aren’t eating junk and fast food all thetime.” Regardless of their future paths, Martin is proud to see CTE students embracing the classes and hopes they feel a sense of pride in their work. “It can be as simple as being able to fix something that breaks in the house,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s a way for students to showcase their talents and feel successful. Our goal is to have well-rounded students leaving Bellport High School.”
(By Tara Smith, reprinted courtesy of the Long Island Advance 2/23/17)