Students at Live Oak High School are learning more than just English, algebra and science as more nontraditional classes are being added to its list of college-preparatory classes.

The classes, which are part of the school’s career and technology education program, include a culinary program, early childhood education, woodworking, electrical education, welding, screen printing, sports medicine, small animal care and a program for first responders. The array of classes offers students a chance to determine if their interests could develop into a career before taking college courses, said Delanea Gates, head of the school’s early childhood education program.

“These classes are for students who plan to major in these fields or attend technical schools,” Gates said. “They have an opportunity to have a leg up for college, and if not, they have an employable skill.”

“For the longest time, students had to choose a focus, and if they can learn about it in high school, they’ve decided what they want to do or don’t want to do,” she said.

“It’s still education but with real-life skills they can use no matter what,” she added.

The programs are for juniors and seniors, Gates said, adding that her students in early childhood education learn how to write lesson plans and they visit elementary and middle schools with a mentor.

Billy Doron, who teaches the welding and electrical programs, said students receive certification when they complete the class.

“It’s the hands-on basic skills required to go out into the workplace,” he said.“They can work anywhere. They can leave here and get a job.”

Anthony Watson, 19, who has been working with his father, a welder, since he was 14 years old, decided to give the class a try and receive the necessary certification.

“I love it,” Watson said of the class, adding that he’s able to go at his own pace. “I find it interesting.”

Shane Rushing, 17, said he plans to follow in the footsteps of his father, who is also a welder.

“I just like being in the shop,” Rushing said.

While Alexxis Barrington, 18, may be the only female in the male-dominated class, she too has worked around her father, who is a welder.

“Welding just interests me,” Barrington said.

Several sponsors help keep the welding program running, and many of the corporate sponsors hire the students when they graduate, Doron said.

Just down the hall, Kathryn Hodges and JoAnn Harrison run the school’s screen printing shop, where students learn work ethics and responsibility, Hodges said.

Students who work in the school’s business learn everything from cleaning print screens to designing T-shirts, she said.

“We’re teaching them how to use their creative side,” Hodges said.

The shop takes orders from school clubs, both from those at the high school and other area schools, at discounted prices, and puts the money right back into the shop, Hodges said.

“We’ve grown more than we could have ever imagined,” Hodges said, adding that the business has been operating for about a year and a half.

To date, Live Oak High offers the largest number of nontraditional classes of all of the schools in Livingston Parish, and Gates said she is hoping more will be added in the coming years.

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