California’s State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson visited Millennium Charter High School in Salinas yesterday. He called this new school a role model. This as California looks toward a future where K-12 schools not only educate students in traditional subjects, but prepare them for careers.
Mornings at Millennium Charter High School in Salinas start in the school’s Black Box Theater. The aptly named room has black floors, black walls and black stadium seating.
That’s where the school’s 80 or so freshmen and sophomores start their day with a morning assembly that can feature everything from a TED talk to student performances to debate.
Whatever they do it all revolves around the school’s hands-on education program in arts, media, entertainment and technology.
“This is about exploration. They’ve chosen to be here because they want to have an experience that’s creative, that involves art, that involves digital media,” said Peter Gray, MCHS Principal.
To that end Millennium Charter is part traditional high school, part career training. The students are here five days a week, 8:00am to 5:00pm.
Millennium is housed inside the Monterey County Office of Education’s Media Center for Art Education and Technology – which includes a state of the art television studio, a radio station in the works and three public television stations where students assist in operations.
For example, this past fall sophomore Hunter Thompson spent his Friday nights shooting high school football games for a live broadcast.
“Just long nights out there in the cold. They send you there, and hand you your equipment, and you had to know where to set it up, where to take it, and be ready by the time the game started,” said Thompson.
Millennium Charter High is part of a growing trend in California’s public education system where schools are setting students on career pathways. There’s a Clean Energy Academy in Elk Grove, a Health Professionals High School in Sacramento and a Law Academy in Richmond, to name just a few.
And this month, State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson and State Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg opened the application period for the Career Pathways Trust. It’s a $250-million grant program to create more programs like this in K-12 schools, as well as community colleges.
“Success for us would be more students having a better direction,” said Rusell Weikle, Division Director of Career & College Transition at the California Department of Education. “So, I’m hoping there’s more focus from high school students, and when they decide to go to college, they have actual a reason to go to college, they know where they’re headed.”
Weikle says grant recipients will need to define the needs of their regional economy, partner with local business and create pathways to careers, that may or may not include college.
“So it’s really looking at business and industry as being our client, and trying to meet those regional and statewide needs for employees,” said Weikle.
For its part, Millennium Charter High School has partnered with local media businesses like the Monterey County Herald and Comcast.
“Our students will be ready to work in TV, media production. They can work for a television affiliate. They can go to work for a company like Lucas Films. They could go work for a company like Pixar. They would be qualified to go into the workplace as an intern with skills,” said Principal Peter Gray.
That opportunity has caught the interest of enough students, so that Millennium will have to hold a lottery for Fall admissions. Gray would like to see the school will grow in other ways too. He’s hoping to receive some of that Career Pathways Trust money, so that he can add video game design to the school’s curriculum.
Millennium Charter High School will hold an open house on Thursday, February 6th from 6:00 to 8:00pm.