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Manteca Unified offers career path classes
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San Joaquin County Office of Education Superintendent of Schools Mick Founts samples the lasagna cooked up by students of Amy Lee’s Culinary Arts class at Sierra High. He’s joined by Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT

Chantel Burton hopes to someday pursue a career as a chef.

A senior at Sierra High, she’s fortunate to have the Culinary Arts class in her own backyard. More importantly, Burton is discovering firsthand what it will take to become a pastry chef while still in high school.

She’s checked out Le Cordon Bleu training at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco along with the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson &Wales University.

“I know I want to go to a culinary arts school (after high school),” Burton said.

Jason Messer, superintendent of the Manteca Unified School District, believes that students should discuss and map out their future plans.

It’s part of his new pathway of excellence program.

On Wednesday, Messer led a tour of the career pathway model that included the Delta College Dean of Workforce and Economic Development Hazel Hill, San Joaquin County Office of Education’s Superintendent of Schools Mick Founts, MUSD director of secondary education Clara Schmiedt, and MUSD School to Career coordinator Kathy Ruble.

Weston Ranch Principal Jose Fregoso, Sierra High Principal Susan Pearson, and Manteca High Principal Doug McCreath made presentations to the distinguished group on the various pathway courses offered at their respective sites.

Fregoso, for example, talked about the Cougar Administration of Justice Education Program – or CAJE – that was developed about two years ago at Weston Ranch High.

Funded under a special grant from the California Department of Education, the program provides students with a chance to look at court reporting, correction, paralegal / legal assistant, social work, and forensic science as possible careers.

Messer indicated that students also learn of the wages, expected growth, and requirements – technical training or college education – necessary for the job choices.

Sierra High offers several career path classes. Included are Fashion Merchandising, Interior Design, and Culinary Arts.

At Manteca High, Debbie Hill has 16 Entrepreneurship students who are receiving practical retail experience at the Jeff Gaines Buffalo Corner. The on-campus store is open before and after school and during the lunch period.

“They’re learning a skill,” said Hill, who also teaches intro to business, accounting and key boarding classes at MHS, and the Regional Occupational Program’s banking and finance course.

Another career pathway class offered at MHS is Health Science. Freshmen here are exploring career choices that include the next four years of high school and six years beyond, according to McCreath.

“What’s important is that they’re having this conversation of what they might want to do (as a career),” Messer added.

Many of the career courses have been available at MUSD for years.

Local educators are looking at using these courses as the career pathway models.

Founts, for one, came away impressed.

“What they’re doing (at MUSD) is articulating career paths for students,” he said. “It’s not about saying but rather doing.”