Walker High educates beyond the classroom

It all started when representatives from the Livingston Parish School System attended a National Career and Technology Conference last December in Las Vegas focusing on the Alaska Aerial Drone Program. That presentation got Walker High School Principal Jason St.Pierre and Livingston Parish Career and Technology Supervisor Staci Polozola excited about the innovative course, and now Walker High School will begin offering the Drone Certification Program at Walker High in the fall – the only high school in the state of Louisiana to offer it so far!

Steve Johnson of Walker High School, pictured here flying a black drone, will be traveling to Anchorage, Alaska, in June to attend the two-week program to get certified to teach the new Drone Certification Program. Walker High School will begin offering the Drone Certification Program in the fall.

“There’s a huge interest in any type of STEM education, and making this available is a huge asset to our students at Walker,” Polozola said. “Walker has already been using drones for aerial shots at their sporting events and with their school’s TV studio and journalism program, so this will only help expand their existing programs.”
[STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.]
The Drone Program will prepare students to receive their FAA Pilot’s 107 License which is a commercial license to fly drones commercially and professionally.
“What’s really impressive is the success rate for students. It is a very rigorous program but it gets student’s job-ready with job skills, and they can get credentialed as a Licensed Pilot,” Polozola explained. “This is basically Career and Technology Education on steroids.”
Educators are trying to get folks out of the mindset that technology education is college- or career-based. Career and is designed to provide hands-on training, teaching students job skills and getting them certifications and credentials to start earning money straight out of high school.
“Some 19% of students end up with a four-year degree (and the debt that goes with it) while some 50% of those graduates enter the workforce in a position that does not require the 4 year degree, but, instead, a specific skill set. Career and Technology Education strives to prepare the 81% of students not attending a four-year program with relevant workplace experiences and the skills to make them marketable to potential employers.
She added, “We can simply educate people to death. But, it’s my job to get them job-ready skills to take these students from high school to the work force and in skilled labor positions, often with benefits. That’s why the Career and Technical Program is so effective.”
The Drone Program falls under the Jump Start part of Career and Technical Education that gives educators the leverage to put very relevant opportunities in the laps of Livingston Parish students.
“I love anything that’s outside of the box and gives students skills for the workforce,” Polozola said. “That young person may then go on to the next level and achieve even greater goals.”
Polozola is sending the Drone Program Instructor, Steve Johnson at Walker High, to Anchorage, Alaska, in June to attend the two-week program to get certified to teach the program.
“He (Steve Johnson) will then enter into a contract with the Livingston Parish School System to implement the program. I will oversee the funding, credentials, input the data and meet with Northshore Technical College to develop a partnership and the next steps of the program,” said Polozola.
The drone program will be a one-year program, for roughly 20 students, age 16 and older to sit for certification and get credentialed from Alaska Aerial and then sit for their FAA credentials and go on to that part of the certification.
Career and Technology will cover the entire cost of the program and partner with Northshore, which will help purchase more advanced drones.
Polozola said, “It’s about $500 a seat for licensing and while that’s not cheap, the return on our investment is more than worth it.”
Walker High hopes to eventually provide afterschool or night classes to assist students from other schools in the Livingston Parish who may want to enroll in the program.
“I know this will be a hit because the demand is so high for this type of technology. Walker High School is excited, and I am excited, and we are eager to get this program off the ground!” Polozola stated.
“There’s a huge interest in any type of STEM education, and making this available is a huge asset to our students at Walker” Livingston Parish Career and Technology Supervisor, Staci Polozola

Jordan Lemon displays new Nike school merchandise available to purchase at ChecqueMATE, another new program to be offered at Walker High School.

Just do it! could be  Walker High’s motto also
The Drone Program isn’t the only new innovative addition to Walker High School career and technical course offerings; the school’s entrepreneur and marketing programs will soon be opening a Nike store on campus.
“It’s going to be called “ChecqueMATE,” explained Staci Polozola. “We have entered into a contract with the Nike brand to purchase Nike products at a significantly-reduced rate and offer these products to students at Walker High. Money made will go back into the school’s program.”
The store will be totally run by students in the Career and Technology Program, and they will develop a business plan, a business model, as well as do all the ordering, purchasing, inventory, merchandising and selling. They conducted a survey to research which products were most popular with students.
The ChecqueMATE Nike Shop at Walker High is set to open in April. Initially, the store will be open only to students from Walker schools, but, eventually, they plan to open it to the public.

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