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CHS Academy #1 in nation
Manufacturing Academy earns award
Leo Juarez
Ceres High School junior Leo Juarez readies for a demonstration of robotics at Mondays award ceremony for the Ceres High Manufacturing, Production and Green Technology Academy. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Ceres High School's Manufacturing, Production and Green Technology Academy is one of the best career pathway programs in the nation.

That's according to the National Career Pathways Network (NCPN) which bestowed the national honor last month in St. Louis, Mo. To celebrate locally, students, parents, teachers, administrators and elected officials gathered Monday evening for a celebration at the Ceres High School's Student Center. The event included remarks by students in the program, speakers, award presentations and refreshments.

Tracie Clark, who runs the academy, said the school was encouraged to submit details to be considered for the annual award.

"We know we have a great program but we were up against college programs," said Clark.

Approximately 250 students are involved in the program, which garnered the "Career Pathway Excellence Award" issued at NCPN's annual conference luncheon at the Hyatt Regency in St. Louis in October.

The MPGT Academy was created by Ceres Unified School District to prepare students for careers in manufacturing. The academy offers a four-year Career Technical Education (CTE)-focused pathway. A majority of the students enrolled are designated as academically and socioeconomically "at risk."

MPGT Academy allows freshmen, sophomores and juniors to participate in three core academic courses as well as a grade-level designated CTE course. Juniors are mentored by representatives of the business community. Seniors participate in one academic course and a CTE course. They also perform solar installations on the homes of low-income families.

Worksite learning activities provide students with opportunities to observe professionals in the workplace and to practice skills learned in the classroom. A team of over 60 mentors from approximately15 local businesses meet monthly with juniors, host mock interviews for seniors, and facilitate a 10-week Gateway-to-Industry boot camp. E.&J. Gallo Winery provides paid internships.

Teacher Chris Vanmeter said the business partnerships are crucial to the success of transitioning students into well-paying jobs.

"Without these 18 relationships of all these wonderful people up here, I am sure this Academy would never be what it is today," said Vanmeter.

The Academy is a manufacturing-centric program in which students learn skills in rapid-prototyping and flexible-manufacturing, advanced robotics, programming microprocessors and PLCs, and other green energy topics. Students also learn soft skills such as résumé writing, interview skills, team collaboration, conflict resolution, social media management, workplace safety, communication, and accountability.

The Academy partners with Modesto Junior College to provide concurrent enrollment credits for sophomore, juniors and seniors. Business partners include local manufacturers such as E.&J. Gallo Winery, Frito Lay, Parker Hannifin Racor, Scholle IPN, FreshPoint Foods, Seneca Foods, G3 Enterprises, Opportunity Stanislaus, Select Harvest USA, Flory Industries, The Wine Group, Bronco Winery, Craig Safety Group, Sconza Candy, and Kohl's. The Academy works with Careers in Manufacturing, Project YES, and Opportunity Stanislaus to place students in manufacturing jobs.

The program has an excellent record of achievement in postsecondary enrollment rates and job placement.

Senior Alexis Nava Ambriz said the Academy is a great opportunity to get a good job. He has been in the program since he was a freshman.

"It's opened so many opportunities and it's really exposed me and the rest of the students in the Academy to eye-opening experiences and hands-on working, especially with the mentors," said junior Alexis Vasquez.

Clark said the Academy's funding through SB X11 will sunset this year but the district remains hopeful it will receive funding under Prop. 98.

"It'll be a little bit different," said Clark. "Proposition 98 funds academies that are grade 10 through 12 and we're a 9 through 12 Academy so the district will pick up funding for the ninth grade."