Anne Arundel County Public Schools offers a unique opportunity for students to receive a technical education.
With 22 programs to choose from, the Center of Applied Technology North (CAT North) in Severn offers students a hands-on and specialized education in a trade.
Chesapeake and Northeast high school students who enroll in the programs take their basic English, math, science and social studies classes at their “home school,” and are transported to the CAT North campus to learn their trade.
“It does allow them to obtain employment right away with the opportunity for apprenticeships,” said CAT North internship facilitator Thomas Dickinson. “College is still there for later, maybe in project management, but it does give them the chance to work right away without student debt.”
Career Exploration allows ninth-grade students to rotate between four CAT North programs a semester. When it comes time to apply in the 10th grade, these students will already have an idea of what the programs are like.
“You pick the ones you are most interested in. I got put into welding and I really liked it,” said Makahla Ignley of Chesapeake High School. “I didn’t know I wanted to do welding. I thought I wanted to do nursing until I came here.”
When junior Mason Dickey of Northeast High School took the printing class in Career Exploration, he was set on a different program.
“I had originally said I was going to come here and do drafting for architecture,” said Dickey, who is already working in the printing field. “But I really liked being able to design things and then finish them. So, actually doing things and not just designing it.”
The Printing Technologies program teaches students all aspects of the printing process. They learn how to operate everything from Adobe Creative Suite to gluers and binders.
“It’s run like a little job,” said Dickey. “It really gets me ready for the future and pursuing a career in printing.”
Dickey is interested in a printing internship with the federal government during his senior year.
IT Networking (CISCO)
Andrew Tolbert of Northeast was inspired to take classes at CAT North after his brother took the class. In fact, computer science is in his blood.
“My father and my brother work for the [federal government] in the computer science field,” explained Tolbert, who aspires to follow in their footsteps.
The IT Networking (CISCO) program teaches students cyber security and internet technology skills.
“Almost every day, we work in labs, so we actually work with everything we learn about. We actually plug in and configure wires and everything is hands on,” said Tolbert.
Students will also be automatically enrolled in Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) and receive eight credits before they graduate high school.
Tolbert credits instructor Robin Mearman with the program’s success.
“My instructor is, not to brag, but I think she is one of the best here,” said Tolbert. “She knows what she is doing, and she’s even in school now to learn more about this stuff. I think that helps her teach.”
Auto Collision Refinishing
The Auto Collision course at CAT North is a two-level program. In the first level, students learn the basics in auto repair and refinishing. Level-two students choose between frame and body repair and painting and refinishing. The program prepares students for careers in garages, dealerships, body shops, or their own businesses.
For Antony Barnes of Northeast, refinishing and the prospect of painting cars, yachts and rockets was the obvious choice.
“I decided to pursue a technical education because it gives me a chance to further my career options,” said Barnes. “If I want, I can put this on a resume and go to college with it.”
This nontraditional classroom is the perfect environment for Barnes, who loves hands-on work.
“I picked this field because I like working with cars,” said Barnes. “I like this whole entire environment. Everyone is so friendly and accepting. If you mess up they’ll tell you what to fix and help you.”
After graduation, Barnes is considering going to college for two years, but he is sure that he will work in auto refinishing for the rest of his life.
Environmental Resource Management
The Environmental Resource Management program, which works closely with Arlington Echo, offers students the unique opportunity to work hands-on with soil, wildlife, green technology and watershed restoration.
The greenhouse building allows the students to garden year-round, work on labs, and even houses two terrapins.
Allison Campbell of Northeast was originally enrolled in Carpentry when she learned about the program.
“I wanted to do something new, and I fell in love with this class and the people,” said Campbell. “It really is like a family.”
Students are taught to maintain and work with hydroponic systems, which are water-based systems that allow plants to be grown without soil.
“What we do in the greenhouse with the hydroponic systems and maintain everything ourselves is amazing,” said Campbell. “We do a lot of trials and errors, but to see something grow because of us is truly something special.”
When Campbell finishes high school she is looking forward to a career in the environmental resource field. She is planning to move to Florida and become a marine biologist.
“You just gain so many skills,” said Campbell of her time at CAT North. “Even if you aren’t going to pursue it in the future, you learn a new skill. It’s amazing. You meet new people; you get to learn new things.”
Northeast junior Adam Rudolf grew up around carpentry. His grandfather was a contractor, his uncle owned a company, and his other grandfather was handy. Following in his family’s footsteps was an easy decision when he found out about CAT North.
“I found out I could learn more here and further my understanding about it,” said Rudolf.
The carpentry program at CAT North teaches students the skills necessary to construct, remodel, maintain and repair woodworking projects.
As part of the construction programs, students are tasked with building a small-scale house each year. For Rudolf, this project is the best part of the program.
“It gives us a perspective on what we will be working on,” said Rudolf. “It’s a small house so the stuff we will be doing will be bigger than that, but its good practice.”
Although this is Rudolf’s last year in the program, he wants to earn one of instructor John Penny’s coveted apprenticeships in his senior year.
“Next year, all of the students that Mr. Penny thinks did a great job in the class, he finds them apprenticeships,” said Rudolf. “That way, they can just go right into the workforce.”
As for his time at CAT North, Rudolf believes everyone should take advantage of this opportunity.
“Even if you don’t want to pursue the career, you still have some knowledge,” said Rudolf. “If you are taking the automotive class and your car breaks down, you don’t have to pay someone to fix it. If you have a hole in the wall, you can patch it.”
After deciding the nursing program wasn’t for her, Ignley dove into the welding program. The program at CAT North teaches welding operations and techniques for a variety of materials. Students do everything from practical projects to creative projects.
“The work is really fun to do and it keeps me interested,” said Ignley. “I like hands-on stuff.”
Students are prepared for careers in construction, machinery, underwater welding, creative designing, pipeline welding, or even to own their own shop.
Ignley has completed the second and final level of the welding program and is looking forward to continuing her welding career.
“I’m planning on going into the field and working in welding,” said Ignley. “I’m trying to go to a trade school to get more certifications.”
For more information on CAT North, visit www.catnorth.org.