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Career and technical classes provide Culpeper students real-world training

(Editor's note: this is the first part of a two-part series on the Culpeper County Public Schools Career and Technical Education Program. Today: Introduction and graphic design)

English, science, math and social studies are familiar components of any high school education. However, in the Culpeper County Public Schools Division, Career and Technical Education plays a role that is just as significant.

“About 95 percent of all Culpeper County Public School students take at least one Career and Technical class before graduation,” said Randi Richards-Lutz, career and technical administrator. “There are 84 CTE classes in such fields as agriculture, business, marketing, health science, family science, technology and trade and industry. Even ROTC is considered a CTE program.

“Gone are the days of 'trade' classes' that only students not bound for college would take.”

Richards-Lutz was a teacher and assistant principal in Culpeper before taking over the Career and technical program in 2005.

“For each different area that we teach we give an industry certification test,” Richards-Lutz said. “Students can not only get class credit, but also certification in their field.”

Examples of the certifications offered, Richards-Lutz said, include: Serve-Safe in Culinary Arts, CNA in Nursing, MS Office Specialist in Business, Adobe in Graphic Design and Auto Cad in Drafting.

“The Auto Cad certification is a very difficult one,” said Richards-Lutz. “Kids going to college to study architecture take Auto Cad there and this puts our students a step ahead.”

Students can take Career and Technical Education classes no matter what diploma track they are on. In fact, even middle school students can participate in some CTE classes.

Another facet of the CTE program is E-Squared, a yearly competition where teams of students design products and are mentored and judged by Culpeper-area professionals
“That program has really grown,” said Richards-Lutz. “I think because of the scholarship money involved. – $5,000 is a big check.”
The CCPS website, culpeperschools.org, lists the program of studies for Career and Technical Education.

Graphic Design

Richard Lassiter is in charge of the graphic design component of Career and Technical Education at Eastern View High School. Before he retired he used his physics degree in a career building wind tunnel test aircraft.

“My real interest over the years has been the true nature of humans, who we really are,” Lassiter said. “I wrote a leadership program for young people that is used by a lot of schools.

“I taught myself graphic design and when a friend needed some help I became his art director. I have taken a lot of training since then to stay up to date. I have gone to conventions and interviewed professionals and asked them what high school kids need to learn to be successful in creative design.”

As a result of those conversations and his own study, Lassiter schools his students in the Adobe Design suite of software, which includes such programs as Flash, InDesign, Dreamweaver and Photoshop.

“We had a 100 percent pass rate on the certification tests last year,” Lassiter said.
The official name of Lassiter's class is “Advertising Design.”

“That's what the state calls it, but we couldn't get students,” he said. “So we call it Graphic Design I and II.

“This class is actually a business called 'Cyclone Graphics.' I'm the boss and we have four team leaders. I treat them as much as I can as they would be treated on the street. I tell them 'If I'd fire you then I will fail you..' “

Lassiter said his class works with the creative part of the brain.

“We have two natures, intellectual and feeling,” he said. “A person who really succeeds has mastered both. Once you achieve balance between the two you can achieve at a very high level. The intellect is the more important part of life – you can only know what you have learned. But the feeling level is where creativity and genius lives.”

Lassiter said students are not penalized for making mistakes.

“That's how they are going to learn and that's why we have one of the highest Adobe pass rates in the country,” he said. “School gives you the tools to open the doors to what you have inside, but it doesn't make you smart. School's function should be to bring out the genius that is already inside. If you have the courage to do that, life will be full of magic”

Zachary Kaiser and Craig Pais are both seniors and members of Lassiter's Design II class. Culpeper Times sat down with them recently to ask how the class affected them
Culpeper Times: What have you learned with the team approach?

Zachary Kaiser: How to manage different types of people and how to assign work.
Craig Pais: How to show responsibility and take leadership. This class is very leadership-oriented.

CT: What's been you most difficult challenge as a team leader?

ZK: Developing organizational skills so I can lead three teammates successfully.
CP: Making sure everyone 'gets it' and is efficient so we can meet deadlines.
ZK: The deadlines are pretty heavy. If you don't get done you fail.

CT: What has been your favorite project so far?
ZK: Taking a high resolution picture and editing it onto ID badges.
CP: Making cross country T-shirt designs and creating signs for the library.

CT: Why did you take this class?
CP: Honestly, I didn't want to take it. My mom made me. Now I have to say, 'you were right, mom.'”
ZK: I want to do this as a career. It's a good field. There are a lot of life lessons to be learned here.

Next week: Sports marketing at Culpeper County High School

E-mail Staff Writer Ray Finefrock at: rfinefrock@timespapers.com
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