Program combines school and work for rounded education

In an effort to bridge the gap between school and career preparation, the St. Marys Area High School continues to offer a unique opportunity as part of its Technical Preparation Career Center, which allows students to utilize cooperative education through the Co-op School-to-Career program.Recently, both students and participating employers were recognized for their efforts during the school’s annual Co-Op School-To-Work banquet held at the Red Fern.During the program, students work between 20 and 40 hours per week at local businesses, well over the 15 hours per week required by the state Department of Education for this type of accredited program. SMAHS Assistant Principal Joe Schlimm noted that students participate in the high school's career technical education (CTE) program, which includes such specialties as Business Marketing and Management (BMM), instructed by Michelle Jackson; Building Construction Occupation (BCO), instructed by Edward Brem; Engineering-Related Technology (ERT), instructed by Mark Sekeres; Health-Related Technology (HRT), instructed by Catherine Manno; Diversified Occupations (DO), overseen by Michelle Jackson and Jeffrey Gavazzi; and Metal Working Occupation (MWO), instructed by Albert "Butch" Casilio. In addition, Terry Surra acts as the Tech-Prep Department chairman and computer instructor; Jackson heads up the School-to-Work program and is the cooperative education coordinator; and Gavazzi oversees the job-shadowing program and is a Social Studies instructor. Brenton Reiger is a drafting instructor and works in conjunction with the BCO program.Jackson explained SMAHS maintains state-approved programs in all but their Metal Working Occupation. This certification allows students the opportunity to earn up to 12 college credits at a postsecondary school."The plus side of this is not having to pay for those credits. This is a big selling point to get across to parents, " Jackson said.In addition, students enrolled in the college preparatory curriculum participate in a job-shadowing program. This curriculum includes approximately 80 percent of the school's student population. During the dinner, St. Marys Area School District Superintendent Ann Kearney welcomed attendees and Jackson provided the introductory remarks. Co-op student Devin Valentine led the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by Gavazzi, who offered the invocation. Casilio and Surra were honored by SMAHS Principal Dr. Josh Williams for their many years of teaching at the high school, as 2012 marks their retirements from the field of education.