WALKER — The high school Miranda East attends focuses on science, technology, engineering and math — the STEM subjects that can best prepare her for college.
The school’s store — the Green and White Cookie Site — teaches her the job skills she needs — during the school day.
East, who attends Walker High school, believes both disciplines are important.
“We want the students ‘doing,’ ” Principal Jason St. Pierre said as he pointed to more than a dozen students busy operating the store just after 9 a.m. Thursday.
“I love the fact that it gives me more experience with work and customer service,” East said as she baked cookies for the upcoming lunch rush. The store, which sells a variety of items, from snacks to balloons and school apparel, has been operating for years and draws a profit. Students who run the business conduct regular meetings, use QuickBooks to balance their budget and learn how to market their inventory.
The store is one of several programs — and opportunities — the high school has in place for its students as part of Jump Start, the state initiative pushing local school districts to develop programs enabling their graduates to get good jobs in their hometown industries.
In 2012, Walker High awarded 11 different industry-based certificates to 345 students, according to the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. The certificates, most in high-demand STEM skilled areas such as information technology, welding and health care, were offered through 13 major industry partners and three higher education partners (Southeastern Louisiana University, LSU and North Shore Technical Community College).
Several of the programs, such as the school’s store and the digital TV and media program, operate as businesses generating revenue for the school.
“You come here and you watch the kids do the same job as I do,” said Jacquelynn Tillman, supervisor of the Neighbors Federal Credit Union’s branch inside Walker High. The branch is operated by students.
“I wish I had this in high school,” Tillman said. “They get real job experience and real customer service experience.”
In addition, the programs allow students to explore different fields before they leave high school, St. Pierre said.
The programs are also a win-win for local businesses. Lee Etue, of ALE Plumbing Specialist, said he is already eyeing three to four students who are excelling in the plumbing program, and hopes to hire them when they graduate.
“If college isn’t in the future, it gives them a chance to learn a trade,” Etue said.
Etue teaches plumbing basics, having the students repair leaky faucets and broken toilets around campus.
“They love hugging toilets,” he said, laughing, adding that it’s the hands-on learning the students love most about the class.
The students also can see how abstract subjects like geometry apply to the real world.
Jessie Johnston, 18, a student in the digital TV and media production class, worked with his classmates Thursday to finish a Super Bowl segment to accompany the daily announcements.
“I’m going to college for computer science anyway,” Johnston said. “I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take another computer-related class.
Students in that program stream football, basketball, baseball and softball games live on Cox 117, St. Pierre said.
Walker High added Marine Advanced Technology Education, underwater robotics and heavy machinery to its already impressive list of offerings, St. Pierre said.
“It’s important for students to find out what they want to do but it’s equally important for them to find out what they don’t want to do,” St. Pierre said.