Hannah Melville is a sophomore at Hermiston High School. At 16, she can’t register to vote yet, but she does know how to operate a laser cutter and a 3D printer, thanks to the school’s Computer Aided Design classes.

“You have to be open to tweaking with the machine,” she said as she and sophomore Quinton Peterson, 15, watched the laser cutter burn the phrase “GO STEM” into a small wooden key-chain tag.

It’s a Monday night at the Hermiston High School, and students who are part of some of the high school’s Career and Technical Education programs—some of which involve CAD classes—are showcasing their skills for parents, siblings and fellow students during parent teacher conferences.

Melville’s journey to CAD class was a long time in the making. Knowing how to use design software is an integral skill for architects, engineers and artists alike.

“I started to like making floor-plans in middle school,” she said. “Now I lean towards mechanical engineering.”

When she heard about CAD classes, she said she couldn’t wait to sign up.

“This is what I want to do,” she said.

Peterson pointed to some of their first attempts at wood-cutting with the laser Monday night, which were burnt and smudged.

He noted that earlier in the night, there was an error present in the programming that stopped the laser cutter from punching a key-chain hole through the tags. It had since been corrected.

“There are some failed designs; it’s all trial and error,” he said.

According to Roger Berger, CTE coordinator at the high school, these mishaps are part of a much bigger picture.

“The focus of CTE is on careers which would be high-wage and high demand,” he said. “It’s kind of a proud tradition that we have these technical programs.”

Berger said that CTE programs have been with the district since before he started teaching there around 19 years ago. But if someone were to survey the room Monday night, they’d notice some technologies that were still in their infancy or not yet on the market back then.

That includes a welding simulator that allows students to practice metalworking virtually and a 3D printer that kids can program to print custom products. The district is also considering purchasing a construction simulator, but Berger said they’d like to consult more local professionals in the construction industry before investing in that.

“Some people might ask if we really need some of this stuff,” Berger said.”There is a real need.”

He said that CTE programs prepare the students not just for higher learning, but also for careers right after high school if they so choose.

The goals is to get students to feel perfectly comfortable around new technology or complicated tasks, so that when they’re settling into their first jobs, they’re not surprised.

“The main thing is that kids are confident,” he said. “Some of these kids, they’ve built a house. They’re not afraid.”

Berger was referring to the Columbia Basin Student Homebuilders group, which builds houses in Hermiston using a CTE grant. The group is currently working on their sixth student-built home.

There are also the students in the Advanced Business Procedures class, who work to run the school’s coffee shop, Java Dawg.

Nazly Chavez, 17, is a human resources manager at the shop. She took courses in business, accounting and hospitality before taking on the role for class credit.

“I have to make sure all the workers are trained,” she said. “Every day I find something new I need to work on.”

The printing facility, dubbed “Dawg Tags,” is also run by business students. Both facilities were funded with a state grant over a decade ago.

Senior Jazlyn Romero, 17, said she just started working at Dawg Tags at the beginning of this school year. Monday night, she was helping people print letters onto lanyards as part of a demonstration.

“We learn a lot pretty fast,” she said.

Romero spent hours outside of class printing t-shirts for the school’s ASB leadership. She said that the more work you put into the program, the higher the chances you’ll be awarded a scholarship.

Other programs featured Monday night included a community mural from the visual arts department, a walk-through of caring for infant-simulators from students in the teaching program and concessions from Boomer Bites, which is run by the Generation College Club.

They use the concession funds to fuel college visits and pay for college applications.

Last year, 150 students graduated after completing one or more of Hermiston High School’s 10 CTE programs. The district is currently working to add a health science program to the list.

“We have great students with great big dreams and this is a way to get started without being intimidated,” Berger said.

The High School will continue its CTE showcase on Wednesday from 4:30-8:30 p.m.

“We want people to know what’s going on, and for everyone to feel good about what we’re doing here,” Berger said.

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