Ceres High shop classes move into future

CERES -- Ceres High showed off its new shop buildings and academy program this week, designed with input from local manufacturers and paid for with district funds and Ceres Unified school bonds.

The metal fabricating shop has state-of-the-art equipment, including welders with 196 settings that offer stick welding and a variety of arc settings. There's also a spot that's ready and waiting for the star of the show, a computer-driven plasma cutter that can slice through 4-inch-thick metal.

It's been ordered, said ag teacher Mike Patterson.

The electrical shop has a bank of circuit boards and work tables for robotics. Lining the walls in several shop rooms are computers, the future of craftsmanship in manufacturing, instructors said.

All the equipment is geared to get students familiar with what is used in industrial shops, Patterson said.

"We're trying to change the focus of the shop (classes)," he said. Traditional welding and other skills are taught, but also "applying those skills into building something and fixing something."

That's where the jobs are, he said.

"You can get out of high school and, sure, you can get a job and get a little bit of money. But it's going to stay a little bit of money unless you go further in school," Patterson said.

That's the point of Ceres' academy, a way to reach at-risk students and "give them the 'why' of education," said Ceres Unified Assistant Superintendent Jay Simmonds. Test scores are going up, he added.

The academy operates as a school within Ceres High, Simmonds said, with students going to math and English courses that complement what they are learning in vocational classes.

The program, one of the first in California, was developed in conjunction with industry leaders and Modesto Junior College, Learning Director Mike Corsaut said. Each of the 47 students in the academy is paired with an industry mentor and goes on field trips to plants and behind-the-scenes sections of retail centers.

The curriculum is designed to let students move seamlessly into MJC vocational programs after high school. Students getting a B or better in manufacturing courses earn MJC credit while in high school, Corsaut said.

Junior Yaneli Espinoza, one of two girls in the program, said she's weighing her career choices.

"(Study of) electricity would be an option," Espinoza said. "I have to keep my grades up."

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at or 578-2339.