Aug. 10, 2023– The career and technical education (CTE) program that launched at High School South in 2018 thanks to the Youth Career Pathways grant from the United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties almost instantly became one of the school’s most popular courses. Project SPEAR-IT (South’s Pre-Vocational Educational Alternatives Resource Institute), led by teacher Tim O’Leary, had students doing everything from basic electrical work to creating cornhole boards, building lifeguard stands, and refurbishing various objects throughout the school.
SPEAR-IT not only impressed the board and leaders at UWMOC; it sparked the imagination of students throughout the district. This led to UWMOC approving a three-year extension of the Youth Career Pathways grant program last year, including its expansion to High School North beginning the 2023-2024 school year.
"We couldn’t be happier with how our partnership with Toms River Schools has evolved," said Lori-Anne McClane, president and CEO of United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. "We're excited to see the completion of the fully outfitted classroom at High School North and can’t wait to see the impact this program will have on its students."
North’s iteration of the CTE program is dubbed NorthStar, and it will be led by teacher Brian Ainley who, along with the school’s administration and its students, have been making preparations including writing the program’s curriculum into the course guide, ordering supplies and equipment, and identifying and carving out the space to withstand the saw dust.
“Seeing this program thrive at High School South, I couldn’t help but think, I want that here,” said High School North Principal Ed Keller. “Now, thanks to United Way, I couldn’t be more excited for our students. I know that once they see NorthStar in action or experience it for themselves, more and more kids are going to want to be a part of it.”
With a month until the start of the school year, classroom E-02 is stacked with boxes of new supplies and equipment, in addition to its existing 3-D printers and other resources. But even with boxes stacked, the space is clearly plentiful, and students will have ample room to work, measure, cut, design, and collaborate.
"NorthStar is going to expand our students' vision for what their options are as far as future careers are concerned," said Keller, "and at the same time help them develop real, practical, everyday skills no matter what academic or career path they choose to pursue.
"I can't wait to see where this goes."