Beattie Tech open house draws curious about career programs

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A.W. Beattie Career Center’s recent open house ignited excitement about the future from parents, students and school administrators.

“We had a huge turnout that was beyond our expectations,” said director Eric Heasley. The McCandless school is currently enrolling students for 2014-15.

“I want to come here because Beattie has JAVA classes and offers me the opportunity to learn different computer languages that my school doesn’t provide,” said 14-year-old Zander Cherry of McCandless. A ninth-grader at North Allegheny Intermediate High School, Zander will be eligible to attend Beattie next year.

“I like that he’ll still get his academics at NAI,” said his mother, Christine Cherry. “But since he’s so interested in the computer programming field, this is a place where he can really check it out.

His father, Tom, said he was excited about the opportunities offered by the school. “I support Zander, and I realize that computers are the way of the world now. This school could help him put his best foot forward,” he said. “I’m all for it.”

The career center serves students in grades 10 through 12 from Avonworth, Deer Lakes, Fox Chapel, Hampton, North Allegheny, Pine-Richland, Shaler, North Hills and Northgate. Beattie offers the students an opportunity to explore careers in robotics, advanced manufacturing, health sciences, computer programming and hospitality. Courses provide hands-on instruction and certification opportunities and the school has a statewide articulation agreement with many colleges and post-secondary institutions.

For three years, Ashley Barton, 18, has split her days between Northgate High School and Beattie’s robotics program. Set to graduate this year, she has amassed 17 college credits.

“Going to Beattie has been a wonderful experience,” Ashley said. “My home school just has a small robotics program, but our room here was just expanded, and it has a lot of incredible equipment that lets us learn hands-on.” She’s now looking forward to getting her OSHA — Occupational Safety and Health Administration — certification, which will give her an advantage in the job market, she said.

Mr. Heasley said the school’s newest addition to the advanced manufacturing program is a virtual welder.

“Now our students can get the experience of welding in a virtual environment,” he said., The $49,000 Lincoln VRTEX 360 Virtual Welder Trainer was purchased with a $19,000 grant from the Alcoa Foundation. The rest was paid through Beattie’s capital reserve equipment fund, Mr. Heasley said.

“Our students are doing authentic projects with real-world applications that they are able to use as they enter the workforce and post-secondary education,” said Mr. Heasley.

Beattie’s new introduction to pharmacy program attracted Delaney Gibson, 15, of Hampton. The program is open only to seniors, but Delaney can still attend the school’s Health Science Technology program, which would give her a taste of what it might be like to work in the health industry.

Her mother, Nesa Gibson, said, “She needs to do well in high school. This [attending Beattie] will help to a degree, but it’s not the cure-all. I need to learn more and get a feel before we make this decision.”

As the spring scheduling process takes place, Beattie’s administrators are working to increase the school’s enrollment

“Each of the sending districts has a different need,” said principal Wesley Kuchta. “We can meet those needs more and more each year with new equipment and new course offerings. We collaborate with the districts to provide a different outlet of learning to create the best educational setting for each student.”

The March 11 open house was 14-year-old Gaby Hollander’s first encounter with Beattie. A ninth-grader at Fox Chapel, she said she was impressed with what she saw. “The equipment they have here is much more sophisticated than we have at school,” she observed. “I like that you can get credit for college and get to go to a different school for half the day.”

Jill Cueni-Cohen, freelance writer:

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