Allison Gass speaks with excitement about a topic that makes some people break out in a cold sweat: dentistry.
“I did a dental observation yesterday,” she said, “and I wanted to jump right in and start helping them.”
The senior at Chiawana High School, whose mom attended dental hygienist school, is getting a jump start on her career by taking a 2 1/2-hour class five days a week at Tri-Tech Skills Center.
“Coming here to Tri-Tech, it’s only been a few months, and I already realized this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” Gass said.
I did a dental observation yesterday, and I wanted to jump right in and start helping them.
Allison Gass, Tri-Tech dental student
While the course at the Kennewick center giving Gass a head start on her future, it’s also helping with her high school career.
With the state increasing requirements for high school graduation — from 20 credits to 24 for the class of 2021 — school districts across the region are working to help students like Gass reach their goals and graduate on time.
And that’s where places like Tri-Tech come into play.
In Sherrie Croshaw’s dental assistant class, students learn to mix chemicals, take vital signs and train in basic life support.
“We usually start off with a little bit of information and lecture,” Croshaw said. “Then we get into the labs.”
Students get hands-on experience with dental chairs, X-ray machines and other technical equipment.
Those skills translate into a science credit for Gass, which is once less science class she needs at Chiawana.
The skills center is filled with these equivalencies across it’s 19 programs. It expanded from technical English, and now there are math, science and other credits available.
Though the path through higher education still tends to aim at a four-year institution, officials point out a large portion of jobs don’t require a bachelor’s degree.
Paul Randall, Tri-Tech’s director, said students who come to the skills center know what they want to do after they graduate and are driven. They are required to meet both grade and attendance requirements.
“These are students who have options and they’re exercising their choice,” Randall said. “Fifty-seven percent of the employment opportunity is in what we do.”
Tri-Tech serves school districts across the Mid-Columbia, but many individidual districts are running their own career and technical education programs.
The Kennewick, Richland and Pasco districts also are looking at expanding credit equivalency options. Richland, which already offers a financial math class, is in the process of adding a math class for careers in construction, plumbing or other trades. Claudia Cooley, the district’s director of Career and Technical Education, said that class should be in place by fall 2019.