Boise State Public Radio and Idaho Education News are partnering to produce a week-long series on how the March 14 statewide school elections 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?’”
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.’”
Video of the Dennis Technical Center by Andrew Reed of Idaho Education News.
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.”
Named after the late Tony Dennis – who served as Boise Superintendent – 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.
“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.
Correction: The audio version of this story refers to Dennis Tech as a magnet school. That is not correct, although the school does teach students not just in the Boise School District.
Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill
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