CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) More than double the number of Natrona County School District (NCSD) high schoolers are taking classes at Pathways Innovation Center during the fall 2019 semester compared to last school year.
Pathways principal Ron Estes said about 160 students took classes at the school last year. This year, enrollment is up to around 440.
Opened in 2017, Pathways offers 18 certification programs. These Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses including construction, auto repair, welding, nursing, culinary arts, journalism and more. Juniors and seniors can spend part of their school day at Pathways after taking the necessary courses at their specific high school.
CTE programs across Wyoming got a major boost in February when Gov. Mark Gordon signed a bill into law allowing these courses to count towards the Hathaway Scholarship. Students can now substitute foreign language for CTE courses and still qualify.
Pathways construction teacher Rob Hill said the new law gives CTE students the same opportunities as others.
“Our students can begin to focus on areas of interest in high school and up through into Pathways where we take our advanced courses,” he said.
Hill is also the president of Wyoming Association for Career and Technical Education, which lobbied hard for the new law.
Pathways offers students trade-level certifications and obtain certifications generally reserved for trade school or college graduates. Faculty also work closely with local businesses to get students jobs after graduation. Students can even work at some companies as a part of their CTE curriculum.
“It means a lot because I know then I don’t have to go and send a lot of my own money after high school, or try to work for scholarships while I’m still in high school, in order to get a decent job out in the industry somewhere,” Pathways auto repair student Tryston Knapp said.
Pathways is also adding new courses. Two new ones this year include a drone class and cyber security. Estes said Pathways always working with businesses to add courses that meet industry needs.