AURELIUS | At Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES, one of the main goals is to offer hands-on experience to students interested in certain career fields, and no age is too young to start.
For the past decade, BOCES has been offering its Summer Career Connections Camp for students who will enter grades 7-9 in the upcoming school year. This year's camp, held this week at the school, included more than 130 participants who got the chance to perform some of the everyday tasks required in the occupation of their choice.
"It's meant to mirror our career technical education classes," said Steve Woodard, director of career and technical education, or CTE, at BOCES. "This gives them the chance to experience it in a fun way."
The camp, which is funded by a grant from Partnership for Results, is run by BOCES teachers who are dedicated to teaching trades to young students aspiring to enter their field. Many of the teachers working at the camp also had assistants who were recent graduates of the BOCES programs themselves, which Woodard says is a nice way to give them an opportunity to give back to the community and the school.
Each year, BOCES chooses which programs will be included in its camp and students spend four days focusing on one trade of their choice, such as computer graphics, entrepreneurship, cosmetology or heavy equipment operation. In the culinary arts classroom, students spent the week in the kitchen learning to cook foods such as homemade ravioli, potato salad, brownies and cookies. On Friday, the students prepared a picnic for themselves to enjoy on their last day of camp that included pasta salad and grilled chicken.
One of the most popular programs this year was the Crafty Fashions class, where students learned to work with a variety of fabrics, duct tape and other craft materials to create notebooks, wallets and other products. The items were sold and the proceeds were donated to the Cavalry Food Pantry at the camp's end.
Renee Hoey, the BOCES teacher who ran the craft class, said that the students learned much more than arts and crafts during their four days at the camp.
"It's about entrepreneurship," Hoey said. "We worked on marketing, choosing a company name, creating a logo and everything."
Woodard said that many of the students who come to the camp end up loving it and often return for the next year. One camper, 13-year-old Joshua Wlad, said he learned a lot from the program and said he would definitely continue with it in the future.
"The best part was designing our own computer," he said. "We got to disassemble and reassemble one, learn what makes it work and learn what makes it faster or slower."
Though this year's camp has now passed, Woodard said it is never very long before the school starts getting calls from parents asking when they can register for next year's programs. As the program continues educating young children in their favorite career fields, they will earn knowledge and experience that will stick with them for many years to come.
"They're certainly learning but they're also having fun," Woodard said. "Maybe they'll be interested in this later on and maybe they won't, but they'll have these skills for a lifetime."