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Clifton Career Development School offers vocational training for AISD students

Students acquire hands-on experience, network
Josie Mullan
Clifton Career Development School assistant principal Sachi Edson leads McCallum students through the kitchen area during their tour of the campus. Edson helps coordinate enrollment for students from their home campuses such as McCallum. Freshman Wyatt Norman said he left the tour aspiring to be a chef.

Administrators took a select group of McCallum students on a tour of Clifton Developmental School on Feb. 13.

Clifton offers several pathways for students to earn certifications and experience in different fields such as health sciences, welding and culinary arts. Students travel from their home campus for double-blocked classes at Clifton. Because it’s not a home campus for any students, class sizes are extremely small, with the largest class consisting of 15 students. 

Science teacher Margaret Smith is one of the biggest advocates for McCallum students participating in classes at Clifton. 

“If sitting in class isn’t really appealing to you, you want to be doing things with your hands, that’s what you get to do at Clifton,” Smith said. 

She said one benefit of Clifton is its small class sizes. 

“Because the classes are so small and everything’s hands-on, you’re really connected to your teachers, and they really care,” Smith said. 

 With the college costing up to $146,000 on average, Smith said Clifton offers opportunities for students who are interested in alternative pathways. 

“For students who are not really interested in college, you can leave there with a foot in the door,” Smith said. “They’re going to help you get jobs, and with no college debt.”

They’re going to help you get jobs and with no college debt.

— Margaret Smith

Clifton offers a culinary arts program with extensive kitchens, equipment and Clifton Cafe: a restaurant-type space for students to share meals. Every Friday, Clifton offers a luncheon open to the local community and faculty from all campuses in AISD. The money gained from the weekly luncheons is used to fund and upgrade Clifton’s programs. 

The culinary arts pathway also offers internships in local restaurant kitchens during students’ second and third years in the program. Freshman Wyatt Norman left the tour aspiring to be a chef. 

“I’m really interested in their internship programs,” Norman said., “That sounds really fun.”

Another pathway offered at Clifton is welding. 

Students can earn their Occupational Safety and Health Administration certification in their first year. In their second and third years, students work on various projects to further expand their skills. Many projects are sold to local companies, with profits supporting Clifton. At the end of the program, students are put in touch with local trade unions to secure a job or continue their education at ACC. 

Smith said one of the major benefits of the program is gaining access to the job market.

GALLERY CAPTION: As students are beginning to fill out their choice sheets at McCallum, selective students were taken on a tour of Clifton Developmental School led by their assistant principal, Sachi Edson. Students were first given a brief information session about Clifton and then were shown culinary arts, welding and health sciences classrooms. At the end of the tour, students had the opportunity to choose a certain pathway that they would like to take at Clifton for the next school year. Photos and caption by Josie Mullan.

“Finishing that program really gives you a leg up in the industry,” Smith said. “That’s how you get apprenticeships in good-paying jobs.” 

The last program shown to McCallum students was the health sciences pathway. The program offers CPR certification in the first year, and students are able to intern and shadow veteran nurses at local hospitals in their second and third years, gaining hands-on experience. Students can also earn their Certified Nurse Assistant certification. 

McCallum seniors Manny Perez and Alicia Lopez-Pena participated in Clifton since last year and have both earned their OSHA certifications. 

In contrast to traditional education, Perez said Clifton offers a more hands-on experience. 

“They teach you real-life jobs,” Perez said. “They are actually preparing you for real jobs when you graduate.”

Perez said his interest in the welding pathway stemmed from the flexibility of jobs in the industry. 

It’s a great program. It’s going to help you a lot.

— Alicia Lopez-Pena

“It’s something really creative,” Perez said. “You can do many things like different fences, different projects.”

 Lopez-Pena encourages other students to participate in Clifton. 

“It’s a great program,” Lopez-Pena said. “It’s gonna help you a lot.”

For next school year, new pathways in animal sciences and computer maintenance are in development, as Clifton expands its programs. 

Despite McCallum being one of the biggest enrollers of students in Clifton, it is still unknown to many Knights. Smith hopes to expand the opportunities of Clifton to more students at McCallum. 

“It’s like college and the kids who go there like it,” Smith said. “I’m really excited, and I want us to be sending even more [students] as they expand.”

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