How a Boise career-technical school prepares students for jobs in high demand

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Idaho Education News and Boise State Public Radio are partnering to produce a week-long series about how the statewide elections will affect students, communities and taxpayers.

High school junior Erin Frazer is laser-focused, moving her mouse deftly as she manipulates an image on her computer screen.

“I think Illustrator is my favorite out of all these programs,” she says.

Frazer is studying graphic design at the Dennis Technical Education Center in Boise. The teen spends the first part of her day at Borah High then goes to the tech center where she’s enrolled in the graphic design program. She says she’s always liked art, but it wasn’t until she tried graphic design that she realized she could make a career out of it.

Her dream job?

“Either an art teacher, or [an animator for] Pixar. When I was watching ‘Finding Nemo’ when I was younger, I was always like ‘how do they make the fish look so real?’”

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High school student Erin Frazer works on a graphic design project at the Dennis Technical Center in Boise.

But before she lands that dream animation job, Erin is excited about the steps along the way. Right now her class is making T-shirt designs for a motocross club. The student says assignments like this make what she’s learning in school feel more real.

Erin’s mom, Mary Frazer, says she’s seen a change in her daughter when it comes to her academic life.

“At the beginning of the school year, her math teacher did say to her, ‘math is very much like art,’” says the mom. “And so it has opened up for her to really see herself [as someone who] can conquer math. Whereas in the prior years she’s really struggled with it.”

Mary Frazer says her daughter has expressed more interest in attending a four-year college since starting the design program.

“It’s kind of made her excited for her college career. Instead of thinking ‘Oh, four more years,’ she’s thinking ‘four years and I can do whatever I want.’ ”

At another part of the Dennis Tech campus, students are hard at work in a welding class.

Senior Bryce Lytle is from Kuna; he’s an online student. But today he’s in the welding shop.

“This class lets me take that math and stuff into something to where I can apply it and build something,” says Lytle. “So it’s easy for me to understand … other than just numbers on a paper I can put it into a project and build into a project. And then it really comes to life for me; [it] stays in my mind.”

A bond for the future of Dennis Technical

Named after the late Tony Dennis – who served as Boise Superintendent in the late 90s – the Dennis Technical Center attracts students from around the Treasure Valley. Besides graphic design, the alternative school offers students job-training in auto body technology, welding and nursing.

If voters approve the $172 million bond in the upcoming March election, the tech center would be able to expand its programs to include heating air-conditioning, electrical and plumbing.

According to tech center Career Development Advisor Chelsie Wilson, these programs would not just benefit the students – but the whole Treasure Valley. Wilson says she gets calls from employers looking for young recruits to take jobs as more people in these industries retire.

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If voters pass the district’s $172 million bond, the school will expand its programs.

“That would be a fantastic opportunity for students and our industry locally,” says the career development advisor, “because they are in desperate need of trained technicians and we would be able to help start that pathway for those students.”

She estimates that 75 students would be added to each new track.

As the election gets closer, Wilson – who attended Dennis Tech herself – says she’s heard mostly support from the community. One voter who plans to show up at the polls is mom Mary Frazer.

“I really think the best use of our taxes is with this bond and to really bring these schools and programs up to par,” says Frazer.

Her daughter Erin probably won’t benefit from the new programs, but she wants to make sure other students get the opportunity.

Click here for the audio version of this story.

Idaho Education News and Boise State Public Radio are partnering to produce a week-long series about how the statewide elections will affect students, communities and taxpayers.

Here are links to the entire series:

Upcoming events

Thursday, March 9
Forum: Education and Elections: a K-12 Roundtable11:45 a.m -1:15pm, The Grove Hotel, Ballroom 2nd Floor. The City Club of Boise event will feature Boise district Superintendent Don Coberly, West Ada Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells and Kuna Superintendent Wendy Johnson.

Friday, March 10
Forum: Donuts and Democracy: A discussion on education policy and funding. Panelists will be Don Coberly, superintendent of the Boise school District, Karen Echeverria, executive director of the Idaho School Boards Association, Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, and Clark Corbin, reporter for IdahoEdNews.org. IdahoEdNews.org senior reporter Kevin Richert will moderate. The event is free and open to the public from 9 to 10 a.m. at the Yanke Research Center, 220 ParkCenter Blvd. The event will be broadcast live on EdNews’ Facebook page. And yes, there will be free donuts and coffee.