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Hunterdon County students discuss career-focused education with NJ Board of Education


To mark February as Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, the New Jersey State Board of Education invited Hunterdon County Vocational School District (HCVSD) to highlight the value of career-focused high school education.

Superintendent Dr. Todd Bonsall and three students traveled to the state capital to share how the district supports students in developing both technical and professional skills.

Beyond reflecting the educational experience offered at HCVSD, the district represented New Jersey’s 21 county vocational-technical schools. These schools deliver a breadth of career programs and opportunities for students to explore careers and take purposeful steps toward realizing their future college and career goals.

Bonsall shared the district’s hands-on approach to learning, led by passionate and qualified instructors with experience in industry. He also spoke of the effectiveness of teaching technical skills in classrooms that are equipped with technology and tools used in the workplace. But, the students’ own testimonials added validity to the district’s formula for success described by Bonsall.

Nina Weiland, a student in HCVSD’s Environmental Sustainability & Applied Engineering Academy, focused on her involvement in FFA, a career and technical student organization that supports agricultural education. Weiland has earned recognition from the organization for a composting project and she has repeatedly competed in FFA career development events.

“I greatly enjoyed representing Hunterdon County Academies and New Jersey FFA at the State Board of Education. ... It was a fantastic experience, and I am extremely grateful to have been chosen to represent our programs,” Weiland said. “I love sharing the value of my CTE because it helped direct me towards the path I want to take after high school.”

Ally Kusmiesz, a student in HCVSD’s shared-time Principles of Teaching program, spoke of the opportunity to earn college credits through a dual enrollment agreement with Raritan Valley Community College. She shared how she appreciated gaining exposure to a collegiate environment and getting a jumpstart on her post-secondary education.

“Being able to share my perspective on dual enrollment and hear all the positive feedback from educators and board members present was an extraordinary moment,” she said. “Attending a professional meeting was a learning opportunity and gave me even more exposure to the education field.”

Zach Gillespie, a shared-time culinary arts and hospitality student, detailed how work-based learning is incorporated to give students the chance to practice what they learn and make important industry connections. He currently participates in work-based learning at the Sergeantsville Inn, where he is a prep cook.

“It was an honor to be selected to represent my fellow students; I hope that the NJ Board of Education gained insight on the importance of work-based learning and CTE programs in general,” he said.

“This was a tremendous opportunity to raise awareness of the many aspects of a career and technical education and specifically our district,” said Bonsall. “Our students rose to the occasion and spoke with poise and passion about how their education has helped prepare them for future success. I could not be more proud of them.”

Enrollment is open for HCVSD’s shared-time high school, Hunterdon County Polytech, for the 2024-2025 academic year. Rising juniors and seniors are encouraged to apply before programs reach full capacity.

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