After spending over a year focused on marketing the Township of West Orange, creating awareness for all of the positive things happening in town and creating synergies between businesses, residents, and organizations, it’s become clear to me that there is one diamond in the rough that doesn’t get enough exposure and recognition. While some of us may know families who have left town with fears of the middle schools and high school, the more I learn about what’s happening in these buildings, the more I look forward to the day that my kids will walk the hallways while fighting my own desire to go back in time to experience high school the way students are able to do today.
Since the earliest days of our education in life we’re taught never to prejudge the worth or value of something simply based on its outward appearance alone. Enter West Orange High School in West Orange, NJ. From the outside, it has all the elements of a “regular” High School campus. Cafeteria, parking lot for upperclassmen, sports fields and the hum of students -- some carrying backpacks, others carrying their morning coffee. However, what’s behind the doors when the morning bell rings is what proves the metaphorical phrase -- “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Preparing the students of West Orange High School for college and career simultaneously is a top priority for Principal Hayden Moore. To compliment the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic, Mr. Moore looks to education innovator Nancy Mullin to enhance and enrich the students’ experience during their tenure at the High School. Ms. Mullin oversees the Career and Technical Education (CTE) department which consists of three main focus areas: (i) Business Education, (ii) Family and Consumer Science, and (iii) Technical Education. This cutting-edge program provides state-of-the-art facilities, current technology, and STEM opportunities. Students are offered over 60 electives to choose from including a Cooperative Business Education Experience that by working closely with local businesses and the Chamber of Commerce can involve a paid internship in their area of focus.
West Orange High School currently has 9 approved NJ State CTE programs with new approvals sought out by Ms. Mullin and her team regularly. Currently students can choose from (i) Broadcast Journalism, (ii) Printing Management (including Adobe certification), (iii) Computer Systems Networking & Telecommunications (in conjunction with the Cisco Network Academy), (iv) Cooking & Related Culinary Arts, (v) Architectural Drafting & CAD/CADD, (vi) Child Development, (vii) Accounting Technology/Technician & Bookkeeping, (viii) Business/Office Automation/Technology/Data Entry, and (ix) Entrepreneurship/Entrepreneurial Studies. These programs afford students the opportunity to take industry certification exams such as the Microsoft Office Specialist, Microsoft Technology Associate, Adobe Photoshop certification, and various Cisco exams.
Employers today are looking for graduates who can start to contribute to their organization from the day they join. They want 'work ready' employees who can take responsibility and use their existing skills to make a difference to their businesses. With this knowledge, Ms. Mullin and her staff have created structured learning experiences within the program including a student-run school store, a fully functioning preschool run by students as part of their state-approved Early Childhood Program, and an Auto Shop that performs live work for faculty members and senior citizens during select times of the school year with no charge for labor.
In addition to the course curriculum that can offer students the opportunity to earn college credits while still in High School, several career and technical student organizations are available for supplementary experiences and networking opportunities. These include, Skills USA, Future Business Leaders of America, Future Educators of America, Tomorrows Teacher Program, and theFamily Career & Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) who won several gold awards at the NJ state conference in March qualifying them for the National Conference this summer.
Recognized as one of the most developed state-approved CTE programs in New Jersey, the West Orange High School program has received over $210,000 in Perkins Grant funding over the past four years. These grants have funded the purchase of over 75 laptop computers, over 35 desktop computers, two kitchens for food labs, textbooks/workbooks/software programs, simulation babies for Early Childhood program, student registration at conferences, materials for Broadcast Journalism program, and much more.
Each CTE program is required to have an advisory committee that meets twice a year to discuss the program, curriculum, structured learning experiences, input from students/parents, scheduling and equipment needs, and other pertinent topics. The West Orange advisory committees consists of college representatives from Rutgers, Essex County College, NJIT, and DeVry University. Several business partners are also represented includingLogotech President, Leslie Gurland, Jim Quinn (Allen and Company), Patent and Trademark attorney David D. Postolski, and Susan McCartney (First Mountain Preschool and West Orange Town Council President).
This is not your parents’ high school. This probably isn’t even the high school you remember. This is a high school custom tailored for the 21st century and beyond. West Orange High School is leading the way preparing students for the real world ahead, giving them first-mover opportunities to create our next generation of leaders. This is just one of many outstanding programs offered at West Orange High School. I look forward to the opportunity to shine spotlights on additional programs that promote the positive.
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