by George J Elbaum
City Arts and Technology High School (CAT) is a small (400 students) college preparatory public high school. It has a highly diverse student body: 60% Hispanic, 20% Black, 5% Filipino, 5% White, and 10% all other – 75% socio-economically disadvantaged, 10% English learners, and 18% with disabilities; yet its ambitious task is to transform their lives by preparing them for success in college and beyond. It does so by providing a rigorous academic experience within a strong community, with small classes and all students taking the course sequence required for application to University of California and other four-year colleges, and with an on-site college advisor who works with students all four years to make sure that they get into a four-year college/university. CAT success in its focus on college preparation results in 95% of its graduates over the last 3 years currently attending college.
In addition to their academic preparation for college, CAT students also participate in a Workplace Learning Experience internship during the 11th and 12th grades, working with an adult mentor within a field they are interested in pursuing. This has included internships with teachers, doctors, business owners, scientists, politicians, filmmakers, real estate agents, and many others. The mentor works with the student on location once per week for 9 weeks to give the student a “taste” of the work in the field. Students complete a major project for the organization where they work. This program gives students the opportunity to apply their learning and get a sense of what they might want to study in college. Students must meet the clearly defined WLE standards as part of CAT’s graduation criteria.
My talk to 10th grade students was organized by World History teacher Allison McManis and arranged by Brian Fong of Facing History and Ourselves, and the conversation that he and I shared on our drive to and from CAT was a valuable part of that day.