A group from the Arlington Learning in Retirement Institute recently toured the Arlington Career Center on Walter Read Drive in South Arlington, topped off with a spaghetti and salad luncheon prepared by the center’s culinary arts students.. It was a great experience – including the food!
The Arlington Career Center was created by Arlington Public Schools around thirty years ago and has evolved into a remarkable institution, one of the best in the nation. When I was going to high school, we had no such institution. Students who, to put it politely, were considered academically challenged and/or unlikely to go to college ( a decision usually based on their social status), were funneled into “vocational,” or “general” education, never again to be seen by us “academic” students except at sports events.
The Arlington Career Center is about as far from this concept of education as you can get. What we used to call vocational courses are all at the center, not in Arlington’s high schools. The kids taking the courses are bused in for a couple of hours and then sent back to their respective high schools to continue their regular academic work.
The course offerings are amazing in their variety and scope – designed both for those who are interested in a full time career in their chosen field and those who just want to become more proficient in, say, carpentry, photography, graphic design, or fixing their automobile.
A selected list of courses is impressive in its scope. They include Air Force Junior ROTC, Aviation Technology, Forensic Technology, Carpentry, Color Photography, Hospitality Management and Marketing, Commercial Art, Computer Systems Technology, Emergency Medical Technology, and TV and Multimedia Production. And this is not all of them!
Did you know that the animal science section includes a small zoo – unique in the county? The students take care of and observe a miniature horse, several goats, and a whole host of tropical fish, snakes, lizards, mice, rats, and beautiful exotic birds.
There is a complete auto body and mechanics shop. The star car at the moment was a beautiful 1990’s Cadillac up on the rack, which we all wanted. And it was not an impossible thought. The cars are put on the market when the students are finished with them – all in first class running condition.
The carpentry shop has the complete structure of rooms being constructed by the students. The cosmetology classes are conducted in a fully equipped beauty/barber shop, which Arlingtonians can patronize by appointment. Emergency Medical Technology courses have all the equipment you see in the county’s emergency ambulances and the course can lead to certification as a paramedic.
Then there is a complete restaurant kitchen for culinary arts students, as well as a room that can serve as a restaurant when guests are visiting.
And there is a complete television studio for students in TV and Media Production that has received national recognition, as it is better equipped than many college studios.
All-in-all it was very impressive tour. We met students and teachers alike who were engrossed in their programs and enthusiastic about what the center was doing with and for them.
One of the goals of the Arlington Learning in Retirement Institute is to have its members become involved in interactive educational experiences not only with their peers but with students in our schools and colleges. The career center, we hope, can help us develop a mutually beneficial relationship with Arlington’s high school students. It can be fun and educational for us all!
It is another star in the crown of Arlington’s excellent school system.