The Real World
Students shouldn’t have to choose
between college preparation and
hands-on vocational learning.
At this high school, they don’t.
Kimberly A. Hill
At North Point High School for Science, Tech- nology, and Industry in Charles County, Maryland, students need not choose between career readiness and college preparation. Both pathways converge. Our motto, “The real world
starts here. Create your own tomorrow,” reminds teachers to
use their time with North Point students helping them gain
the skills and knowledge they’ll need to follow through on
their postsecondary plans—whether that means starting at a
college or directly entering a career.
The courtyard students built in front of our building is an
example of our motto at work. This project started after a
study that two students conducted as part of their Engineering Applications class revealed an overcrowded hallway in
the school. The students concluded that the overcrowding
could be circumvented by creating an outdoor sidewalk. They
designed and secured funding for a 100-foot-long sidewalk
connecting two wings of our building. With guidance, students hired a professional contractor to install the sidewalk
and actually assisted in some portions of the work.
A student-led committee designed a memorial garden in
the center of the courtyard that the sidewalk passed through,
which included additional sidewalk and seating areas. Drafting students offered design assistance and electrical construction students installed outdoor lighting to highlight a statue
of an eagle (our school’s symbol) donated by the class of
2012. Welding students are now designing and constructing
benches to provide additional seating in the courtyard, which
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF NORTH POINT HIGH SCHOOL
has become a popular lunch spot.
In creating this enhanced space for North Point’s campus,
students drew on knowledge they had gained in one of the
17 career majors that many of our students pursue throughout their years in the school. Looking around this courtyard,
it’s clear that expertise in areas like engineering, electrical construction, and design are now a valued part of our high school
program. They are not seen as separate or inferior tracks of
learning, as was once true in our district, especially when
career and technical classes were taught in a “vo-tech” center.
Different by Design
The vision for North Point’s approach to preparing students
for college or careers came from Charles County Public
Schools superintendent James Richmond. A little more than
10 years ago, the district recognized that its traditional career
and technical programs were floundering. Our approach