By: Pamela Macek
It’s 8 a.m. and the National Anthem begins to play. No, this isn’t an early morning football game. It is the start of the school day at Passaic County Technical Institute, and only one of the many ways this high school sets itself apart from the others. Historically known as “Vo-tech,” PCTI was once considered a county vocational school that offered a simpler alternate career route for students not wanting to pursue college. Not anymore.
Today, PCTI is more than a vocational school, it is an educational epicenter, boasting a brand-new STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Academy, with an academic curriculum that leads every student to college. The high school is actually made up of 14 little schools, and as Chief School Administrator Diana Lobosco shared, “It is a school that encompasses the trades, sciences, arts and technology – every career path that parents want their children to take.”
Located in Wayne, New Jersey, PCTI welcomes students residing anywhere within the borders of Passaic County. Enrollment is a process that for interested students, begins during their eighth grade school year and requires a review of grades, attendance, discipline records, current report cards and standardized test scores. Students not accepted into the ninth grade school year may reapply again for tenth grade only.
There are additional steps for Special Education students seeking enrollment. PCTI is an extremely diversified school. There are over 500 special needs students as well as a deaf program that provides opportunities for everyone.
John Maiello, the school’s Assistant Superintendent explained how the facility has, “created an environment of order and discipline throughout the campus. Opportunities are given, but it cannot be easy.” Students clearly understand that many fun filled experiences will be made, but they are primarily there to learn and prepare for their future career. One way PCTI reinforces this is through their requirement for school uniforms, which has been successfully ongoing for the past seven years. With the obligated colors of blue, khaki and white, there is a slight selection of what can be worn that the students may choose from. PCTI’s mascot is the bulldog, and that “bulldog pride” is reinforced through how the students conduct as well as carry themselves, which includes their appearance.
Principal Michael Parent went on to discuss how important it is for both parents and educators to work together to help guide young people, well before high school. He shared, “The time to address development issues dealing with character, attitude, self-awareness, emotional stability and consistency, is during the middle school years, not high school.” When this occurs, it is natural to see students enrolled who want to learn all they can, work hard and apply themselves to their coursework. When it comes to expecting excellence from their students, the bar is high. Principal Parent said, “We push the counterculture here and the kids respond to it.”
PCTI offers a wide array of career choices for consideration that include opportunities for students to experience and participate in right on their campus. Upon entering the school lobby, there is a fully functioning bank that the students pursuing careers in Finance help to run. Meals have become a first-class dining experience, as “Chez Technique,” PCTI’s own gourmet restaurant, staffs students who are enrolled in their School of Culinary Arts, for meal preparation, cooking and serving.
There is an Academy of Criminal Justice and Public Safety. Under this rigorous course of study students are exposed to the US Legal system, covering topics such as court and criminal proceedings, how laws are created, crime scene investigation, fire science and the roles of field personnel, which include defense attorney, prosecutor, judge, court clerk, probation officer and law enforcement, to name a few. PCTI hosts a Mock Trial, which they have successfully positioned themselves as County Champs. Students desiring a career in public service are being given a college education at a high school level.
For students working towards a career in Finance – including areas such as banking, accounting, real estate, international finance, consumer law, and many others, PCTI’s Academy of Finance creates a strong foundation through their commitment to financial literacy. The program they use is certified by the National Academy Foundation. The career opportunities for students in this field are endless, and as Assistant Superintendent Maiello said, “PCTI is like no place else.”
For students following a career path pointing in the direction of health and healing, the Academy of Health Sciences offers over a dozen opportunities to choose from. This is one of the most popular areas of study on campus, with membership in the national organization of HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America) included as part of this program. Classrooms in this academy are designed to mirror real world medical offices and health facilities, giving students a pragmatic understanding of what employment in the health field will be like. Leadership and community service opportunities are available for students to participate in, which will help to further their learning experience.
Not all students are considering college and are already set on a path for vocational training only. PCTI’s School of Automotive Technology is here for them. With the ever-changing world of technology prevalent in the automotive industry, it is imperative that students learn skill sets and techniques that go beyond repairing an engine or changing a tire. Boasting high tech diagnostic automotive labs as well as equipment that is found in major dealerships and repair facilities nationwide, PCTI is committed to providing a state-of-the-art educational experience to every student enrolled in this school. Students can graduate feeling accomplished and able to embrace a career in the automotive or autobody industry.
The School of Cosmetology paves the way for students to pursue ten career paths upon graduation. From esthetician, to hair stylist, or make-up artist to beauty product sales and salon owner, students who are serious about pursuing a career in this industry are given a quality advantage in their work endeavors. Community service activities are provided, offering students opportunities to get a jump start in fulfilling state required training hours in pursuit of their cosmetology license.
With the Arts now a permanent educational path of learning at PCTI, the School of Communication Arts has steadily grown, as students are exploring their artistic skills in this highly sought-after program. Covering areas such as Advertising Art and Design, Graphic Design and 3D Animation, and Audio Visual Production, this school develops each students’ artistic gifts, allowing them to show case their talents at the annual art exhibition. There are thirteen career paths for students to choose from, ranging anywhere from art director, to game designer, traditional illustrator, commercial printing or videography, and so much more.
Business-minded students can enroll in PCTI’s School of Business Careers. After freshman year, students can choose either Global Management, Global Marketing, or Marketing for their concentration of study. With fifteen career paths to choose from, a well-rounded, business education will be the reward for any student applying themselves in this school. Marketing, Sales, Accounting, Administration, Management and Entrepreneurship are all profitable and well sought-after career choices.
With the most current, cutting edge equipment and technology available, PCTI offers in their School of Construction Technology a top-notch education to the master trades in Carpentry, Plumbing, Electrical Technology, Green Technology/HVAC, Welding and Building Maintenance, with eleven career paths to choose from. Licensing and certification exams are available. Lobosco shared, “There was a student who selected welding as his course of study. When he graduated, his skill set, combined with his high academic portfolio led him to secure a welding job that earned 85k per year.”
The School of Education and Human Services is the place where students can learn, develop and progress into thriving adults equipped to perform career services in nine employment paths available at PCTI. This popular program will instill foundational concepts of education, growth and development of children. As part of this course, students prepare for the CDA (Child Development Accreditation) certification, which is given through Passaic County Community College. This gives students the opportunity to accrue six college credits.
Dance, Instrumental Music, Theatre Studies and Vocal Technique are the four majors students seeking an Art Education may choose from. Whether its an actor, choreographer, dancer, singer, stage director, sports announcer or any other of the seventeen paths available in this school, students who love the arts are going to be amazed at the opportunities made available while enrolled here. This year, friends and families can attend the school play. Tryouts are open for every student. All the work that goes into the play – costumes, make up, set design, etc., are done by the students.
PCTI is committed to maintaining a forefront position when it comes to the world of technology. Their Academy of Information Technology provides two courses of study: Computer Science and Information Technology & Network Security for students to choose from. Out of this academy, thirteen career options are available for those students who successfully complete the course. There are many certifications, including Security Pro, Network Pro, and Routing and Switching Pro, that students can obtain, helping to solidify their ability to secure employment in this ever-evolving IT industry.
Apart from the STEM Academy, PCTI also offers engineering education in their School of Applied Engineering. Applied Engineering and Manufacturing Technology are the two career paths for students to choose from, which in turn will open up sixteen career opportunities upon graduation, should they not pursue college. Both programs participate in the NASA HUNCH program, which allows PCTI students to help design and build solutions to problems astronauts face in space.
This past September, PCTI opened up their long-awaited STEM Academy. It is here that students learn and master subjects within the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math majors, in a state-of-the-art facility that connects all the subjects together. There are laboratories, classrooms, seminar halls and rooms for collaborative group instruction. Upon completion of ninth grade, students will select one of three fields to choose from. They are: Biomedical and Life Science, Computer Science and Engineering. As graduation approaches, PCTI offers dual enrollment options and advanced placement courses. With over forty career choices available for students to pursue, the STEM Academy will continue to be a highly sought-after educational institution for many years to come.
As if this wealth of academic excellence isn’t enough to cause a multitude of parents to seek acceptance for their children, the school continues to impress with their additional resources, clubs, activities and sports for Passaic County’s youth. There are a whopping 38 clubs for students to choose from, covering interests that address social issues, student government, Honors, year book, academic and career related, Karate, performing arts and student-initiated interests.
One of PCTI’s most valuable programs available to their students is enrollment and training in NJROTC. This program emphasizes citizenship and leadership development, allowing students ample opportunities to give back to their communities. PCTI is happy to share that they have the largest ROTC in the State of NJ with over 500 students. NJROTC students learn skills that help equip them to be model citizens. This character development continues and is nurtured as PCTI honors and respects our veterans four times a year; Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Pearl Harbor Day and 9/11.
Finally, after a long, active day, the students head home. Once again, music can be heard – happy, upbeat sounds, filling the halls as students collect belongings from lockers and make plans for tomorrow. The Administration understands that music helps to set the tone of how everyone starts and ends their day at PCTI. This is truly a whole school experience.
“Our purpose as administrators, teachers and counselors is to equip students in such a way that upon graduation they will go back to their communities and contribute as a successful person,” shared Lobosco. Her perspective is reflective of every parent’s dream for their child. PCTI offers all that and more. And that is what an epicenter of learning is.