When students enter Highland School of Technology as freshmen, they are exposed to a variety of academic pathways to choose from, ranging from health to engineering.
Before being able to make those choices, however, students first have to be chosen for admission to the school in the School Choice lottery which will take place on April 14.
Since the school’s opening in 2000, it has offered its students hands-on classes meant to prepare them for the workforce.
Here is what Highland School of Technology offers its students.
Pathways of study
There are seven pathways students may take advantage of while attending Highland School of Technology.
These are business and legal, computer engineering, allied health, dental sciences, medical science, graphic design, and manufacturing and engineering.
“Highland is a public school with a very unique structure. Students here focus on a career and educational course of study, yet, they also take their regular core classes such as English and math throughout their four years,” said James Montgomery, Highland principal and a former music teacher at Hunter Huss High School.
While in school, students are also able to obtain various certifications depending on which pathway they are enrolled in.
“The happiest memory I have is passing the Excel Expert exam. I really could feel how the school has helped develop me. It taught me how to use the skills to get a real-life certification,” said senior Anna Stewart who’s part of the graphic design pathway.
“It was hard because that was the second time I had to take that. Instead of discouraging me, my teachers only encouraged me to take it again,” she added.
Stewart, who will be attending Appalachian State University in the fall, says the school has prepared her for whatever she encounters in college, as most of the basics that are usually taught in the first few years of college, she has already learned during her first few years of high school.
”I am currently undecided about what I would like to major in, but I am prepared. I have learned a lot about both Adobe programs and Microsoft. I even learned how to manage my time and social life while dealing with classes and homework,” Stewart said.
Additionally, students are offered state-of-the-art equipment to help them prepare for realistic scenarios they will encounter in their chosen fields.
These resources are funded by Gaston County Schools and the Gaston Community Foundation.
”We receive the same funding of other public schools, however; we do receive additional funding from the Gaston Community Foundation to help us with the upkeep of our labs. This allows us to make the most out of the programs we offer,” Montgomery said.
These include a $500,000 manufacturing lab filled with 3D printers and all sorts of designing software, meant to give students the opportunity of designing and printing their materials for class projects.
Aside from its career pathways, Highland offers its students various clubs and extracurricular activities for students to participate in.
”Sometimes kids are not interested in a career that involves technology, however; no matter what, they will need a fine education and that’s what we offer here,” said Montgomery, “Our students can express their creativity in sports and fine arts.”
Freshmen Katie Fangman, a student in the Health Sciences Pathway — Dental — says the athletic department at the school was a contributing factor in her decision to attend the school.
”I’m one of those people that enjoy sports. So that was another reason that I wanted to come here because it’s not just like Gaston Early College, where they do vigorous schooling and then no athletics,” said Fangman who runs cross-country and is on the basketball team.
“The fact that I’d be able to do sports and get a higher level of education was cool for me,” Fangman said.
According to the former principal of Highland, Lee Dedmon, who now serves on the school board, the idea to start the school came in 1998, when school board members wanted to open the county’s first magnet school.
“This is a phenomenal school that gives its students an amazing education,” said Dedmon, who became principal of the school five months after it opened.
To gain admission to the school, students enter a lottery system, where 145 students are selected each year based on their interest in a career pathway and feeder high school area.
“We look for students in good standing with their schools in regards of conduct and attendance — 94% rate — and of course, they must be a Gaston County resident to be considered,” said Montgomery.
Currently, Highland School of Technology has a total of 545 students from freshmen to seniors. Only upcoming freshmen are allowed to begin their academic journey at Highland, transfer students are not accepted.
Since 2012, 99.3% of students admitted to Highland have gone on to graduate. In 2015, that increased to 100%.
Where students are placed is based on the pathway they choose when they first apply, however; that first choice isn’t guaranteed.
“When students apply they must choose up to three possible pathways, then we place them based on each pathway space,” said Montgomery.
However, Montgomery says students will obtain a great education regardless of what pathway they are placed in.
Beatriz Guerrero can be reached at 704-869-1828 or on Twitter@BeatrizGue_.