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LIFE AFTER SCHOOL students share plans for future
Daniel Botelho is shown with farming equipment that he has designed and is building while he is enrolled in Industrial Technology and Design. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Growing up on a dairy farm, Daniel Botelho knows by heart the many challenges that the farming industry faces.

The 17-year-old high school senior is the son and grandson of former dairy farmers. His grandfather is Manuel Medeiros who is running for a fifth term as a member of the Manteca Unified Board of Trustees and the man who, for years, kept on harping for a vocational program to train students not bound for college with employable vocational skills.

But as much as he respects his grandfather and what he is doing for the betterment of students in the school district, Daniel said the decision to enroll in’s Industrial Technology and Design was entirely his own. And he chose this vocational program because it’s in line with what he intends to do in the future, he said.

He has already started doing that.

 “I like to do welding,” he said as he showed the project he is working on to the visitors who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the official opening of Academy’s First Responders program Thursday night. The equipment that he himself designed utilizes the knowledge and skills he has learned so far in his Industrial Technology and Design classes. He calls it an orchard float, a tool that he says will help the job of harvesting almonds in the orchards easier and less labor intensive for the growers. He said he is getting a lot of guidance and help from Industrial Tech teacher Ryan Costa.

Daniel’s sister, Kelli, was just as excited as her brother to enroll in, a vocational charter school which awards a diploma when the two-year program is successfully completed. She started in the Culinary Arts program in August and hopes to pursue a career in the food industry after graduation.

The academy is like a public school in that tuition is free. But where it departs from the traditional high school is that it provides hands-on training, skills and certifications to each student that will make them immediately employable. For example, in Culinary Arts, the students have to take and pass a food-handling certificate without having to spend hundreds of dollars just to take the state exam alone.

Several of the students who make up the first class in’s First Responders were equally excited to kick off their dream careers by acquiring basic knowledge and skills that they will need to succeed. Cathaline Romero, for example, is determined to become a paramedic and a registered nurse. Her friend, Tiana Muscott, is looking forward to becoming a firefighter so she is excited about completing one of things required in the First Responders program.

“Starting this semester, we’ll be getting our CPR certification,” she said.

“It’s great,” Muscott said of Academy, “because it opens so many doors for us and gives us many opportunities.”

“There’s a lot of hands-on experience, and there’s a lot of flexibility,” Romero said, expanding on what her classmate started.

Two of the First Responders students interviewed said they enrolled in this program to prepare themselves for the military. Victor Robles said he plans to join the Marine Corps after graduation.

“We can’t thank you enough. This just helps us prepare for our future,” said Robles, one of the half-dozen First Responders students who gave brief messages prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday evening.

Marty Hanson, 16, is already getting ready to sign up with the National Guard when he turns 17 next year. He said he was inspired to be in the military by his former teachers at Lincoln Elementary School who all served in Vietnam – “Mr. Davis, Mr. Hayashino, and Mr. Baker – they were all together in Vietnam,” he said. Academy is open to students who are starting their junior year in high school. It offers two-year programs, which means they could receive their high school diploma and their vocational diploma after successfully completing both. Starting next year, will begin offering classes that will earn the students college credits at Delta College, said Superintendent Jason Messer.

While at one time, the district property at the northwest corner of West Louise Avenue and South Airport Way was known as the district office, that has since changed. Today, the property is the home of the campus. Now, the district office is located on the campus of Academy. opened as the Manteca Unified Vocational Academy three years ago, a public charter school. It started by offering the Culinary Arts & Hospitality program. The following school year, the Technology and Design class opened, followed by First Responders at the beginning of this school year.

The vocational school is open not only to students in the school district who are starting their junior year in high school, but also to those who live in other parts of San Joaquin County and neighboring areas.

The academy’s name,, stands for Beyond the Expected and Boundless Education. The name was selected by a committee that consisted of students and members of the community.

For further details about and how to enroll, log on to click schools, scroll down to alternative education, then click on charter, or call 209.825.3200.