Thompson High School celebrates CTE Month

By DONNAMY STEELE | Special to the Reporter

ALABASTER – Each year the state recognizes and celebrates Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month for the month of February. Thompson High School CTE Director Amanda Wilbanks said the high school got a little ahead of the game this year by kicking off the celebrations with CTE night in January.

CTE night is an opportunity for students, parents and community members to learn of the programs available for THS students each year.

“We had a great turnout, socially distanced of course, but we had a room full in the arena of mostly rising ninth and rising 10th grade students. It was really great to see the interest in the younger students so that they could have the opportunity to have a four-year pathway through our programs.”

The programs are elective courses that students can choose as rising freshmen. Once a student chooses from the school’s 12 options, they will spend the next four years becoming acquainted with it. This gives students the opportunity to explore their options post-graduation without waiting until senior year to do so, Wilbanks said.

“Many schools have CTE schools separate from their high schools, but we almost have a CTE school within a school at Thompson High School,” Wilbanks said. “So that’s how we kicked it off and that coincided with the students choosing their courses for next year. So right now they are going through their course selections and we’re hoping to see an uptick in the number of students who choose some CTE courses as their electives.”

Since February, THS has had a number of activities to celebrate CTE month, Wilbanks said.

Prior to Alabaster City Schools separating from Shelby County Schools in 2013, the number of students enrolled in CTE courses evolved from 1,106 to 2,694 this year. To further highlight the CTE students, Wilbanks encourages them to wear their CTE gear to school on Feb. 24.

“These are electives that the students can take starting in middle school and transition to high school where we have 12 programs to choose from there,” Wilbanks said. “Each child gets three electives every year, and we love for a child to choose one or two and concentrate on a CTE program of interest. Our programs do last for four years so they can go from freshman to senior year in a CTE concentration. That helps because it gives them a lot of experience.”

The school’s most popular program is health science. Since 2013, the diverse program has grown from 46 students to 382 students this year. Some of the options within the health science program include nursing, emergency services, biomedical sciences, sports medicine, and an introduction to pharmacy, Wilbanks said.

“We have a fantastic simulation lab for health science where it’s set up like a hospital,” she said. “There are hospital beds with simulation mannequins as well as an ambulance simulator. There’s just a variety of real life simulations that students can experience. Then, when they get to their fourth year, they will go to Shelby Baptist for an internship there and get a wide variety of experiences across the different departments and that’s just one of the programs we have.”

A unique aspect to THS is that their students have both a career coach, Jasmine Young, and a college and career counselor, Pam Vickers. This provides students with guidance for post-graduation, regardless of whether they plan to join the workforce, military or attend college, Wilbanks said.

“Those two individuals do a phenomenal job in working with our students to inventory their career interest, talk with them about what would be best suited for them after high school,” Wilbanks said. “We’ve got it covered for any student, whatever their interest is.”

Thompson’s CTE programs are constantly evolving to keep up with what students are interested in and what is available to them on a local spectrum after graduation, which is something Wilbanks said she is proud of.

“We are really proud of what we are doing at Thompson High School,” Wilbanks said. “We continue to evolve each year and make sure our programs are relevant for what our students need depending on workforce needs. We are constantly adapting to that to make sure that we give them the best experience in high school, and we give them the best shot post-graduation to find employment in this area.”