Dallas ISD New Institute Creates Career-Ready Graduates

Students prep for ‘high-skilled, high-wage, high-demand jobs’

Dallas ISD’s Career Institute North recently completed its first semester in its new permanent home — the site that was Walnut Hill Elementary School before the October 2019 tornado.

Students on the campus can participate in one of five career clusters that result in what district deputy chief Oswaldo Alvarenga describes as “high-skilled, high-wage, high-demand jobs”: information technology, health sciences, transportation (aviation and autotech), construction and advanced manufacturing, and culinary arts.

The district works with regional industry partners that look for students graduating with industry-based certifications.

“Unlike other CTE centers around the state, we offer not just one industry certification but we offer multiple,” Dallas ISD Deputy Chief Oswaldo Alvarenga said.

The district piloted the career institute in the 2019-2020 academic year at temporary north and south locations. A successful pilot program led the district to permanent north and south institutes and soon-to-come east and west locations.

Students spend half their school day on the institute’s campus every other day.

“Instructors bring real-world knowledge and instruction to each lesson, applying concepts to hands-on learning,” Career Institute North Director Jean Laswell said. “Industry partners mentor students, providing guidance, work-based learning experiences, and internship opportunities.”

The campus serves more than 1,300 students from five high schools: W.T. White, Hillcrest, Thomas Jefferson, North Dallas, and Conrad. Once at full capacity the campus will accommodate 3,200 students.

The student population is made up of 59% males and 41% females, Laswell said: “We have a good mix of females in a lot of our traditionally male programs.”

It also is made up of 10% gifted and talented students and 14% special education students.

Career Institute North keeps the pre-existing white facade and adobe tiles on the roof, but construction on the campus added 110,000 square feet to the previously 55,000-square-foot Walnut Hill Elementary School.

Some career track offerings include cybersecurity, game design, software development, dental assistant, EMT, lobotomy tech, plumbing, carpentry, and welding among others.

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