By Margaret Zheng
Have you ever had a class where you just kept wondering, “When am I ever going to use this?” Do you have “ants in your pants” when listening to a lesson in class and would rather be learning by doing? Are you passionate about computers or cosmetology or cooking or cars and wish that you could dive deep, beyond the few electives offered at North?
Middle Bucks Institute of Technology (MBIT), located in Jamison, is a school for career and technical education that enrolls 10th-12th graders from four local school districts: Central Bucks, Centennial, New-Hope Solebury, and Council Rock.
Its three-year programs include a wide range of career areas, such as Web Design, Public Safety, Sports Therapy, Early Childhood Care & Education, Commercial Art & Advertising Design, Culinary Arts, and Engineering.
CRN students who attend MBIT spend half of their school day (either morning or afternoon) at MBIT and half at North, so they still have to take non-elective classes like English and health. But when they’re at MBIT, they learn career-oriented skills through real hands-on practice and even earn numerous industry certifications along the way.
To learn more about MBIT for this article, I attended their Open House one evening in November. I got to speak with several current MBIT students from various high schools, some teachers and administrators, and even an MBIT graduate. They all were enthusiastic about their school, not just about how well it prepares teens for a job in their chosen career areas, but also about its welcoming social atmosphere.
“There is no drama -- save the drama for your mama,” said Abagael Shaffer, a CRN junior studying cosmetology at MBIT.
When all your classmates are just as passionate as you are about your hands-on, collaborative classes, naturally you grow to enjoy each other’s company. As for the teachers, Shaffer commented, “They’re always on your side.”
From what I observed, it seemed that every adult at MBIT cared a lot for their students’ success, not just at MBIT, but also their post-secondary endeavors.
“Do you want to be ahead of the [other] students in your nursing courses?” asked Dante Tomkiel, senior at Central Bucks East, when telling me why students should consider MBIT.
She’s a student in MBIT’s Medical & Health Professions program and aims to go into nursing. At the Open House, she showed me the state-of-the-art simulation mannequins that the students practice on, listening to heartbeats and wheezes with a stethoscope and performing other medical operations. They even are required to have conversations with their “patients” (with teachers filling in the missing dialogue), as social skills training is key for working in a service field.
The teachers themselves have worked in health professions and are eager to share their knowledge and experience with the enthusiastic students. Said Tomkiel, “They know what they’re teaching because they have performed it already.”
According to Nick V., who graduated from William Tennent HS and studied Networking & Operating Systems Security at MBIT, training at MBIT can sometimes be so comprehensive as to make additional college study superfluous.
“This class taught me everything that I do every day,” he said. “[It] is what made me all my money.”
Most of the students in his program do not seek higher education, simply because all the certifications they receive at MBIT make them more than ready for the job market. The one former classmate that he recalls going to college now sorely regrets it as a waste of money and time, as he already learned everything he needed at MBIT.
However, in most of MBIT’s programs, the majority of students do pursue some higher education, such as an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Those who do often take advantage of MBIT’s associations with area colleges such as Bucks County Community College and Bloomsburg University, which allow you to transfer credits from MBIT to your college studies, saving you time and money for your degree.
But what if you have your heart set on an academic challenge and have dreamed of a prestigious college or even of graduate school?
Kathryn Gingolaski, senior at Central Bucks South and an MBIT student in Medical & Health Professions, shows that smart overachievers can thrive at MBIT. Through her MBIT years, she has participated in MBIT’s chapter of SkillsUSA, a national association supporting technical and skilled service education, and this school year she serves as a SkillsUSA PA State Officer, representing technical schools across the state.
Basically, she explained to me, SkillsUSA is like a Student Council, except substantially more involved in leading the school and in advocating for better education. “I went to Washington D.C. to talk to Brian Fitzpatrick about advancing career and technical education,” she told me with pride. (Think about having that on your college resume!)
After MBIT, Gingolaski hopes to attend a four-year college and eventually go to medical school to become a doctor. She is more than ready to shoot for her dreams, having studied health sciences at MBIT since tenth grade and taken advanced Honors and AP classes at her home school.
If you’re an underclassman itching for something other than the same-old high school classroom experience - if you want to learn practical things that you’ll actually use in your career - if you’re enticed to accelerate your path towards your dream career, then consider applying to MBIT for next school year.