Kingman High program focuses on job, business skills
From left, Kingman High School students Robert Stubbs and Analisha Harter close out a cash register at the Dawg Pound, a student-run store. Behind them, David Amador stocks a refrigerated case of beverages.
10/29/2013 6:02:00 AM
By Kim Steele
KINGMAN - Sophomore Joseph Dalton had a good reason for taking this semester's gaming class at Kingman High School.
Dalton, 17, is considering a career as a video game developer and wanted to find out how they are created and whether he would enjoy spending his time in that field. And he couldn't believe he was being graded on building a spaceship that could effectively dodge meteors, comets and enemy alien spacecraft.
"This is a fun thing to do," said Dalton as he showed off his work. "I like playing these games, so I might as well make them. A good game is challenging and visually appealing. I've thought about making games professionally. If I get in the right company, this could be a good career."
Dalton was participating in the school's Business Management and Administrative Services (BMAS) program, which is a part of the district's Career and Technical Education division.
The high school's CTE division is funded by the Western Arizona Vocational Education/Joint Technical Education District, which pays for supplies, equipment and certification tests. CTE programs at KHS include automotive, culinary arts, early childhood education, nursing services and welding technologies.
The BMAS program, which is about 20 years old, teaches students employable skills in computer software, personal finance and business management. Classes include marketing, advanced store management, Microsoft Office, Flash animation, gaming, web page design, accounting, computer information systems and applied economics. Students can participate in on-the-job training at local businesses while attending school.
Also, the program offers dual-enrollment opportunities allowing students to earn college credit while attending high school classes. Microsoft Office certification is available, allowing students to get industry-recognized training before they graduate. The program also features a Future Business Leaders of America club, field trips, guest speakers and a student-run store called the Dawg Pound.
"This is a really well-rounded program for our students," said Amy West, the CTE coordinator for Kingman Unified School District. "Business programs get forgotten sometimes because they are so quiet. But there are a lot of skills taught in a business program that everyone needs for life, from career knowledge to being a good citizen.
"Our kids may not get a job in the particular class they're taking, but they will use what they've learned wherever they go."
This year, about 450 students are enrolled in BMAS classes under the direction of teachers Peg Williams, Jean Meersman and Melissa Gonzalez. Williams teaches web page design and gaming, and runs the on-the-job training program. Meersman is in charge of classes in Microsoft Office, accounting and economics. Gonzalez teaches Microsoft Office, marketing and computer information systems classes, as well as manages the Dawg Pound store.
Gaming students are taught basic computer programming skills so they can build platform games and Wii dual-player games. Williams said the training encourages logical thinking and teaches computer skills that will enable students to proceed with networking and graphic design classes in college.
"Most of these kids are interested in computers and it's easy to teach them," said Williams. "They come in with good skills already in place. The hard part for me is staying caught up with what they know and providing new information for them."
Meersman is seeing a growing interest in her Microsoft Office classes, where students can earn certificates. Meersman said that last year, 150 students earned basic Microsoft Office Specialist certification, while two students went on to become experts. She noted the BMAS classes help students decide whether they want to pursue college or a job paying more than minimum wage.
"The students are getting into the meat of the business world so they can see whether they like these fields and what career route they want to take," said Meersman. "For the most part, these are regular, middle-of-the-road kids and these classes give them self-confidence and experience."
Senior Ammah Billington, 17, took her first business class last semester and discovered that she liked what she was learning and enjoyed the course.
This semester, Billington is taking Microsoft Office. She also plans to take introduction to computer information systems, Microsoft Office II, web page design and another undetermined business class.
Billington has wanted to be a psychologist since sixth grade but is leaning towards a career in business. She began making glass bead earrings in seventh grade and started selling them at fairs and festivals last year. Her business is called "Artzy Ammah."
"I really enjoy business and it's helpful to me with my other school work," said Billington. "I like talking in front of people and managing my own life, so I know I'll like managing a business. I like coming up with my own business plan and marketing my product. But even if I don't go into business, what I'm learning in these classes will help me with whatever career I choose."
Gonzalez, who oversees the student-run Dawg Pound store, said her students learn a variety of business and marketing lessons as they run registers, stock product, reconcile receipts, order goods, create flyers, deposit money and interact with customers who frequent the store during the school's two lunch hours.
Gonzalez said that of BMAS "completers," or students who have passed a minimum of six business classes, 95 percent consistently pass their AIMS tests.
"Working in the store helps the students be accountable," said Gonzalez. "They see it as a different way of earning a grade. It gives them a new outlook and can be a fun learning experience.
"But I think we're really getting to the students through all these business classes. We're showing them the skills they can learn and practice that will prepare them for wherever they go. It's nice to see our kids planning for their futures."