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Open house: Sweets & 3-D laser printing
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Students from the culinary program, from left, Candace Whitlock, Maniha Ruiz, and Skyllar Billbo work at one of the four dessert stations featured at Thursday nights Academy open house on the campus of the Manteca Unified School District. Bilbo celebrated her 18th birthday the day of the open house. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

It was a treat that went beyond just desserts. The palate-pleasing sweet concoctions were a sure hit among the visitors, but the campus open house Thursday evening was a big eye opener as well.

Guests, many of them parents and their young ones, saw first-hand what is all about and the endless educational, training and skills development this unique charter academy offers.

With the dessert stations serving as olfactory and gastronomical lures, guests were guided to areas of the Manteca Unified School District campus where they could see first-hand what the two – to date – vocational programs offered by, plus a third one that will start in August 2015, are all about.

What they saw while munching on desserts prepared by students in the baking class of be.culinary school were just a sampling of what the junior and senior high students of are learning.

In the Regional Environmental Studies Center G7 building, students gave demonstrations on 3-D printing and laser printing. Mounted on the walls were monitors showing students talking about the vocational programs in which they are enrolled, what they are learning and their plans for the future based on the education and training they are receiving. In the school farm building, Design and Fabrication Technology students demonstrated plasma torching and other skills that are being taught in this vocational program.

In the lobby of the district office was information about the third vocational program – First Responder – that will be offered when the next school year opens, plus an informal display of various projects created by the students. teacher Kathleen Long explained that part of the curriculum is to give the students a monthly project designed to challenge their mental aptitude and creativity. The items displayed Thursday night was the January project. With just one 2”x2” piece of wood, the students were instructed to create something that is utilitarian and one that is “supposed to hold body weight.” The majority of the students came up with various types of seating equipment.

Other parts of campus that was introduced to the visitors included the café, the Manteca Adult School’s Independent Study (be.independent) and Adult School ( learner).

Manteca Adult School and the academy, formerly known as the Manteca Unified Vocational Academy, or MUVA, comprise what is now called Manteca Unified’s campus. MUVA is the first vocational charter school of the school district. Its two-year programs, which target junior and senior high schools, are offered tuition-free just like any regular public school or public charter school. The idea behind is for the students to eventually receive their high school diploma at the same time that they receive their certificate of completion.

Superintendent Jason Messer said plans are in place to expand to other high school campuses in the district as well.