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Trades high school marks first year: ‘Experience, that helps you a lot more’

Wyatt Foster is excited to get excavating training and do excavating work in the upcoming school year.

The incoming junior at Southern Nevada Trades High School, an east Las Vegas charter school that focuses on educating students to work in trades in the construction industry, spoke of his goals at Saturday’s open house at the school.

“College is nice, it helps you get jobs,” Foster said. “But experience, that helps you a lot more.”

Foster was joined by dozens of people, including Gov. Joe Lombardo and school faculty members, at the open house. The event was held to mark the end of the high school’s first school year and to showcase what the still-under construction facility offers for its close to 90 students and to highlight the fact enrollment is now open for grades 9, 10, and 11 for the upcoming 2024-2025 school year.

That relatively small student body is expected to grow next year to almost 200, with school officials hoping to teach up to 400 students once the building’s construction is finished, speakers said at Saturday’s open house, which also featured food trucks.

The school, at 1580 Bledsoe Lane, differentiates itself from other high schools by focusing on giving students experience, skills and the certificates they would need for their chosen career path, school officials said.

“What makes (this school) special is that we’re not only preparing them for college. We acknowledge that college is not for everyone. We want to give students skills so that they know if college is not the path they want to take, they can get good-paying jobs straight out of high school,” said Principal Candi Wadsworth.

While students receive a typical education in math, English and science, they also receive hands-on training in various trades as electives. The school has regular classrooms, but also boasts a construction workshop, where students can work on larger projects.

Wadsworth said that students will construct, from start to finish, a tiny home as their final project. Working on a tiny home will allow students to try different aspects of construction, like flooring, insulation, HVAC and electrical work, she said.

“This structure used to be a church whose purpose was to teach and prepare the community spiritually,” said Brett Willis, the chair of the school’s board. “Now, this building has been given new life as a high school, ready to teach and train 400 students to go out into the community prepared for both college and career.”

Parents at the open house spoke of how the curriculum offered at the trades-oriented high school is a much better fit for their child.

“College is not for everyone. I know my child. I know that’s not his thing and I’m glad he has something else,” said Natasha Garcia, whose son is enrolled for the upcoming school year.

Lombardo, who met with students, parents and school administrators, said he hopes to see more similar trade schools opening up.

“Of course, I want more trades schools like this to open but that’s dependent on the private sector to make that leap,” Lombardo said. “The basis of a charter school is a private-public partnership, so we need private parties to take on the hurdle of funding it and maintaining it to the future.”

Lombardo, spoke about signing into law the highly-contested Assembly Bill 400, which allowed cities to sponsor charter school development.

As a result of the bill, the City of North Las Vegas and the City of Henderson were approved to sponsor charter schools.

For parents like Garcia, the focus on real-world job experience is something that has, for the first time, ignited an eagerness to learn in her son.

“It’s not just learning about something, they’ll be doing something, hands-on. This is the first time I’ve seen him excited for school. I think its going to be the change that he needs. You know, you can’t force a love for school,” joked Garcia.

Contact Annie Vong at avong@reviewjournal.com.

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