Offering Students a Nontraditional Career Path


Nontraditional students in the Academy of Health.

The mission of Calvert County Public Schools is to “produce graduates who are responsible citizens with career and educational choices in the 21st century.” With this goal in mind, every high school student is provided with the opportunity to attend the Career and Technology Academy.

The Career and Technology Academy (CTA)  is open to juniors and seniors at the four Calvert County high schools who are interested in a variety of job opportunities. The CTA offers an array of programs including Academy of Health Professions, Automotive Service, Carpentry, CISCO Networking Academy, Construction Design and Management, Culinary Arts, EMT, Graphic Arts, HVAC, Plumbing, and Welding.  

Mark Wilding has been principal at the CTA for nine years and has worked a total of thirty years for Calvert County Public Schools.

“We tell students, the education you get here at the CTA prepares you for whatever comes next,” said Wilding. “This can be anywhere from a four year college to a trade school.”

Currently 500 students are enrolled in the CTA. Theses students attend their classes in a block format schedule split into AM sessions from 7:45 to 10:15 and PM sessions from 11:15 to 1:45.

One thing the CTA has is a collaborative group for non-traditional (non-trad) students, which are students that aren’t typically seen in their favored career field. To be considered a non-traditional student, more than 75% of the opposite gender secures jobs in the given field beyond the walls of the CTA. These students have the chance to meet and discuss the opportunities and challenges they face in their intended career field as non-trad students.

Dinara Beknazarova is a junior at Calvert High School and is one of two girls in the Construction Design and Management Program.

“I feel good about being a non-trad student in Construction Design because we are all treated equally and prove that we can do anything the guys can do in this field,” said Beknazarova.

During junior year registration, interested sophomores are given the opportunity to explore the programs offered at the CTA. Students select three programs to observe during a day-trip tour of the building, one of which must be non-traditional.

Sydney Cockrill is a senior at Huntingtown High and is one of three girls in the Carpentry program.  Although Cockrill loves the program she is in now, it was her non-traditional pick of the three programs she toured during her sophomore year.

“I picked nursing, cosmetology, and my last one was carpentry,” said Cockrill.  

Cockrill is a perfect example of a student who selected their unconventional pick and now thrives as a non-trad.

Although these non-traditional students blend well with their more typical classmates, they also shine alone in their chosen pathways.

Programs at the CTA consist of both a learning and hands-on aspect. In the Cosmetology pathway for instance, students learn the basics of how to style hair and nails using mannequins and practice on real customers on “salon days.”

Similar opportunities are present in every program: students in the automotive pathway work on repairs for customers in the county, students in Culinary Arts cater for local events, students in the nursing complete clinicals at local nursing homes, etc.

Many of the students in non-traditional roles feel as if they fit right in in their career pathway. Despite being a minority in their field, the students love what they are doing because they receive the best training they can get for what they want to do.

“If there’s somebody else that wants to do a profession but thinks that they’re going to be outnumbered or thinks they’re going to be judged for it, we [non-traditional students] can represent and say that’s not how it is at all. You can do what you want to do, be who you want to be,” said Academy of Health senior Caleb Hostetler of Calvert High.

Wilding, along with the rest of the CTA staff is proud of the work his students put into their classes and the accomplishments of all the programs. Non-traditional students show that everyone- no matter what they look like- can be successful in whatever career they want to pursue.

These writers are students in the Young Journalism Program, a partnership between The Calvert Recorder and Calvert County Public Schools.  This article was originally published in The Calvert Recorder on Wednesday February 27, 2019.