PHOENIX – Charles Yarbrough wants to be a chef when he finishes college, saying he loves to cook and is intrigued by the science behind a great-tasting dish.
As one of a record 600 freshmen enrolled this year at Metro Tech High School, he’ll be able to take culinary courses that have students preparing dishes in a fully staffed kitchen during his junior and senior years. Yarbrough and his mother moved from the Tolleson Union High School District closer to Metro Tech.
“I decided to come here because they have programs that will help me further my skills and to be successful in life,” he said. “I’m excited about learning new skills: how to cut faster, how to make different soups and work with spices.”
A magnet high school within the Phoenix Union High School District, Metro Tech offers 19 career and technical education (CTE) tracks to students during their junior and senior years in conjunction with traditional courses. Students get hands-on experience in areas such as early childhood education, construction technologies and business management.
Craig Pletenik, Phoenix Union’s community relations director, said the tracks at Metro Tech aren’t the only differences from a traditional four-year high school. The student body has full-time, four-year students and “dual students” who attend other Phoenix Union high schools and take CTE courses at Metro Tech.
“We’d have about 1,500 full time Metro Tech students – ninth through 12th grade – and we’d have 11th and 12th graders who would come in half day to take career and technical education classes, sometimes in the neighborhood of 1,500 of those,” he said.
Principal Kate McDonald said Metro Tech has steadily increased the number of incoming freshmen allowed to enroll in recent years because exponential growth in interest.
In 2006, the number of incoming freshmen was cut off around 350 students, McDonald said. As the wait list grew, the school increased the freshman class to 600 slots for the 2013-2014 school year.
“We’ve always had a good, strong demand at Metro Tech,” she said. “We had usually limited the number of incoming freshmen based on staffing.”
Meanwhile, enrollment for the district has topped 27,000 for the first time in 36 years, increasing 2.8 percent from the 2012-2013 school year.
McDonald said the school is appealing to students because the faculty focuses on students’ academic success as well as career and college preparedness.
“Some of the same skills that make you good at being a student are the same skills you’ll need to be a good employer or employee or business owner,” she said.