Blazers turn to a different type of education

Oct. 25, 2005, midnight | By Merlyn Deng | 16 years ago

Students get real-life experience at Thomas Edison

Senior Christiana Cassell will leave high school this June with more than just a diploma. In addition to graduating from Blair, Cassell will also have obtained her cosmetologist's license and completed over 1,500 hours of cosmetology-based practical, theoretical and business-related experience. While most Blazers do not take an interest in vocational education, Cassell chose to enroll in the countywide Thomas Edison High School of Technology.

Montgomery County Public Schools created Edison in 1983 as an alternative to the typical high school education. Now, 56 Blair students contribute to the 600-student population of the school who attend the half-day morning session. Instead of studying core subjects, such as English and mathematics, students receive training specific to certain prospective careers that often require years of study after secondary school.

Applying and Enrolling

Cassell first learned about Edison as a freshman through a Blair graduate with whom she discussed her interest in hair and nail design. She enrolled in the three-year long cosmetology course the next year.

Edison has other methods of reaching out to prospective students. Edison representatives visit middle schools and high schools in Montgomery County. In addition, the school hosts an open house in early February and offers tours during the school day during the year.

Interested students can then apply for a program during the spring semester when they enroll for the next year's classes, according to Linda Lynch, Edison's School & Community Outreach Resource teacher.

According to Lynch, Edison offers 19 different programs that range from biotechnology to plumbing, with each program taught by a professional in the field. In addition, the school boasts a small teacher-student ratio as well as an easily accessible career center, according to Cassell.

Hands-on learning

All of the Edison classes make it possible for students to obtain licenses to practice during their high school years, saving them thousands of dollars by bypassing extra course work after high school, according to Thomas Edison's Career Center.

Each course offers real-life applications along with pre-professional training. "Every program's students have hands-on work. [All of the programs] emphasize the practical uses from what they learn," she says.

Cassell cites the hands-on experience as one of the reasons Edison's programs appealed to her. "I chose to enroll because I'm interested in the art field and I plan to major in art in college," she says. "The class is hands-on, which is something that works well for me."

Real-life training

During the school year, students study diverse subjects and have boundless opportunities ranging from internships at hospitals to running their own businesses in a two and a half hour long morning class. In Cassell's case, her class consists of two portions- the theoretical and practical applications of nail and hair design.

The theoretical part of Cassell's class covers topics from nail design to physiology. In the practical portion of the class, Cassell and her fellow students engage in running their own salon at discount prices right from the classroom. "The class we work in is a salon and [running the salon] gets us prepared for the business world," she says.

The salon is just one example of the real-life experience students obtain at Edison. In November, junior Joshua Uzzell's Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning class will be teaming up with Edison construction classes to build a fully functional house on Connecticut Avenue.

Although an Edison education emphasizes specialization in their high school courses, Lynch says that students who take Edison classes are not using the vocational courses as a shortcut out of college. Cassell agrees. "[Edison] isn't my escape route," she says. "I never once thought I wasn't going to college."

Making sacrifices

While Cassell and her fellow students might enjoy the hands-on education they receive at Edison, Cassell stresses that attending Edison "takes a lot of dedication."

Because of the extensive classes Edison students take and the transportation time required to travel to Edison, Blazers enrolled in the programs are forced to give up opportunities to take other classes at Blair. "I'm missing out on a lots of electives I wanted to take," Uzzell says, but he believes that Edison was worth it.

Cassell has even been unable to take the required school courses for graduation because of the sheer amount of time required for her class. Instead of quitting the program, Cassell decided to fulfill her biology credit by taking a semester of night school.

Despite this, Cassell says she has thoroughly enjoyed her experiences at Edison. "To me, these three years have been the best experience I have ever had," she says.

For more information regarding the Thomas Edison High School of Technology, visit their web site.

Merlyn Deng. Merlyn (Mer - LEEN) has an unhealthy fixation on Silver Chips Online, the Silver Chips Manifesto, red pens and serial commas. When not editing stories and racking her brain for SCO and its readers, she may be found haunting Blair's hallways or downtown Silver Spring. … More »

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