Ninth-graders reverse gender roles in vocations on Non-Traditional Day

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Automotive services technology instructor John Ridgeway shows students, from right to back, Terrica Smith, Jasmine Hood, Abby McMillen, Summer Daisy Frain and Cynthia Betancourt how modern engines recycle emissions and run more efficiently to reduce pollution.

New Albany ninth-graders got an opportunity to experience gender-reversal – as least as far as traditionally-perceived vocations are involved – during the ninth annual Non-Traditional Day held at the Career and Technical Center.

Christy Paul of student services said the goal is increase enrollment by males in classes generally considered to be more female-oriented, and vice-versa. “That is, introducing girls to auto mechanics or construction, for instance.”

About 150 ninth-graders who are in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) or introduction to engineering classes were able to participate in the event this past Friday.

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Students, from left, Cody Baker, Brandon Fowler and Xzavion Rutherford, were given the opportunity to learn the gentle art of making crepes in Anita Alef’s culinary arts class.

The program is supported by a State Department of Education Non-Traditional Grant. This year the grant was for $650. Paul said it  was twice as much the previous year but this time was only for one staff member rather than two. The grant pays for materials used by instructors and items given to students such as magnets, tire gauges, spatulas and pencils, each one relevant to a specific “non-traditional” career for them.

The program started out with a poster contest asking students to give their idea of what a non-traditional career is, followed up by the “how-to clinics” Friday.

“The theme this year is ‘Picture Yourself in a Non-Traditional Career,’” she said.

Students appeared to be enjoying the role reversal, job-wise, and the program appears to be paying off. “Non-traditional enrollment has gone up every year we have had this,” she said. It began with about 15 non-traditional enrollments and now they have about 100, Paul said.

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Construction instructor Rick Robbins shows Lorin Ivey how to build a bird house (which she was able to keep and take home).

That’s what the center wants, in a larger, more diverse enrollment that creates a greater range of career opportunities for its students. And to help reinforce the benefits of taking non-traditional classes, Paul goes back and visits with the ninth-graders later to follow up.

Some of the classes involved this year were business and computer technology, health sciences, construction, automotive services, engineering and culinary arts.