Genders change classes at high school

Junior Nishia Guerrero takes a look at an engine during Macs McDonald’s after school progarm.  - Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times
Junior Nishia Guerrero takes a look at an engine during Macs McDonald’s after school progarm.
— image credit: Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times

After high school let out for the day, a group of girls made their way to the automotive shop to crawl under cars for an oil change, solder electrical circuits and change out spark plugs.

In a classroom nearby, a group of boys were creating graphics in a digital publishing class.

For the students, jobs such as these are considered nontraditional fields, meaning one gender comprises less than 25 percent of those employed.

Oak Harbor High School recently picked up a $9,000 state grant to place teens into nontraditional classes based on gender, and hopefully, spur interest.

The students were chosen from local middle schools; in addition, some of the lower classmen from the high school, who wanted to experiment with the classes, also signed on.

“It was open to everyone but counselors sought out girls that were most scared about coming to high school or that would be most interested in getting a jump start,” Career and Technical Education director Sandee Oehring said.

Thirteen girls enrolled in Macs McDonald’s automotive class in the new CTE building to study the basics of automotive.

On day one, instructional assistant William Hammond raised a car on the hoist, asked the girls to crawl underneath and warned them they would get messy.

“We lost five girls that day,” Hammond said. “I told them if they can’t handle being under the car, they can’t handle the shop.”

But the other eight teens stayed in the class for its nine day duration. A bus shuttled students from the middle school to the CTE building after school.

Most of the girls had limited experience working on cars, but some found that being auto savvy could eventually save them money.

“I don’t have a car but I’d like to get one. The class is helping me prove that I can take care of one,” junior Madison Shipley said.

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction also qualified the high school to teach females marketing, pre-engineering and video production.

Only desktop digital publishing was approved for the boys.

“We won’t know if the students are interested in the classes until they decide to sign up,” Oehring said. “But many of them say they’re going to.”

Oehring said she will also apply for the nontraditional fields competitive grant next year.

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