vocational school santa cruz
May 2019

Teens Talk Back

These Students are Well on Their Way to Beloved Careers

By Mary Gaukel Forster

“The Talk” With Your Teen was the focus of last month’s article, about how parents  can begin conversations about and encourage career explorations.  This month teens “talk back” about their work based experiences in Career and Technical Education courses offered at high schools throughout the county.

Our organization, Your Future Is Our Business, held its annual luncheon, on March 8, which highlighted the work of Career and Technical Education teachers and students along with the support given by the community. 

vocational school santa cruz
Caption: CTE award winners Adriana Avila-Medrano, Riley Rozario, Grace Bailey, Elijah Galster and Trevor Hill

 Five scholarships were given to students who evidenced the importance of Career and Technical Education courses, having a role model, and a plan for the future.  There are no better testimonies or inspiration than the words of the teens, from their scholarship speeches, which I am sharing in this column.

Riley Rozario, Harbor High School

Riley, a junior, is taking a Biotechnology course, “My CTE biotechnology course has been the most challenging yet rewarding class I’ve ever taken in school. Ms. Pfeiffer doesn’t just teach us essential lab techniques, but how to be successful in a business, and in life. I believe that when I finish this course, I will be much better suited for college and a career than someone who didn’t have the privilege of taking CTE biotechnology. Riley also credited her mother who became a nurse in 2014. “Her becoming a nurse opened up so many job possibilities for me because she would come home and tell me about the different things I could do in the medical field, and got me interested in them.  This is how I discovered by dream to job of becoming a forensic pathologist.”  

Elijah Galster, Aptos High School

Elijah spoke passionately.  “ Over the years I have been able to develop my artistic and creative ability, however, I struggled to put them to use. I had no place or tools to develop and put my skills into practice. That was until I began my CTE Graphic Design course. This course has greatly built my real-world skills helping me not only in the technical aspects of graphic design but also the technical aspects of life. I had the opportunity with this class to build my resume, develop a portfolio and earn a look into what the real world is like. The skills I developed in my CTE Graphic Design course helped me move one step closer to my dream career. I now feel ready to take on the real world and develop my skills further as I continue to college where I will continue on my graphic design career path.”

Grace Bailey, Soquel High School scholarship winner

Taking Career and Technical Education course, Sports Medicine, led Grace to assisting in a biology lab at Santa Clara University, a Stanford University internship, and participation in a global medical project. “I not only fell in love with Sports Medicine, but I was galvanized to find out what other types of medicine I was interested in.”  She continued her career exploration, taking CTE Biotechnology, “CTE Biotechnology, like Sports Medicine, is unlike any class I have ever taken; the hands-on labs propel me to critically question, analyze, and objectively test ideas through the scientific process.” 

Adriana Avila-Medrano, Harbor High School

Adriana, a senior explained the impact of taking multiple Career and Technical Education Courses, “In my Digital Photography class, I learned that beauty can be seen anywhere no matter how far or close you look. In Medical Technology, I learned how to connect with the people around me. In Graphic design, I learned how to get along with the computer and be creative.”  She acknowledged her role models, “my wonderful teacher, Ms. Stahl,” and “my mom, a Cardiac Technician”.   Courses and role models led her to a plan for the future, “to be a part of improving the quality of life for myself and others by being in the Medical field…in either becoming an Ultrasound Technician, Physical Therapist, or a Nurse.”

Trevor Hill, Harbor High School

Trevor is currently enrolled in three Career and Technical Education Courses:   Fire Technology, Photography, and Biotechnology.   He ended his speech clearly stating the power of CTE courses for career explorations.  “Each of us has the power to help make the world a better place. I know that I will make a difference by continuing my education and obtaining a career in Firefighting or Forestry. I’d like to work with others to come up with a resolution to reduce the fire danger in our forests and communities that we are currently encountering. The CTE program has given me the opportunity to find a career path that I am passionate about.”


I hope that you are inspired by these teens to learn more about how Career and Technical Education courses can start your student on a career pathway.


All of these questions have been a part of my life since I was first asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, then I began teaching elementary school, had my own children, taught in middle school and high school, became a high school principal, finally a grandparent, and currently the executive director for the non-profit organization, Your Future Is Our Business.  I now focus on fulfilling our mission of providing all youth in our county with career explorations, funded by the County Office of Education in partnership  with University of Santa Cruz, Cabrillo College, and Cal State University Monterey Bay.   

Reach Mary at [email protected]

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