Area businesses provide the practical part of learning at DHS
By Robin Scott
Students in the Ag Mechanics classes at Dalhart High School are enjoying an added feature to their curriculum this year. Hilmar Cheese is participating in the practical part of the students’ learning two days each week by showing the students the “how to” of what they are learning.
Bryce Hines, teacher of the two Ag Mechanics courses, offered at DHS, prepares the students with the theoretical part of their lessons then two days each week employees from Hilmar Cheese visit his classroom to provide the practical training. On Wednesday, October 14th, students were learning about parallel and series wiring of electrical circuits. They learned that components of an electrical circuit are wired in a series or parallel. When connected in series they are connected along a single path, so the same current flows through all of the components and when connected in parallel they are connected so the same voltage is applied to each component. The students’ textbook explained the theory and relied on photographs for demonstration, but the actual physical demonstration provided by the Hilmar employees brought the textbook to life.
Tony Garcia and Javier Garcia with Hilmar Cheese demonstrated the process on a wiring board. Afterward, the students had the chance to practice wiring two light fixtures, then flipping the switch to discover just how well they did. Lighting up the bulbs was proof of their success. Students present in class Wednesday were Tex Wing, Kip Frates, Brandon Vance, Alex Halbert and Jonathon Summers. Two other students were not in class that day.
David Ahlem, General Manager of Hilmar Cheese in Dalhart, noted, “Hilmar Cheese Company is proud to be making an investment in Dalhart’s students and their future. Hilmar has continued to innovate and invest in state of the art processing facilities. As these facilities have grown in sophistication, the skills required to operate these facilities have also become more complex. Today’s jobs require more than physical effort. They require employees to problem solve and integrate technology/computer skills with traditional mechanical and electrical skills.” Getting area businesses involved in the classroom experience has been the dream of Jennifer Read, the Vocational Coordinator at DHS. Her dream has become a reality with the Ag Mechanics class.
Read stated, “We are excited to have Hilmar Cheese Company involved with our program, and many other area business are getting involved as well. Cargill is already onboard and United Supply Company and Heartland Electric, are planning to bring their expertise and skills to our students in the very near future.” Read is largely credited with bringing construction, mechanical, small engine, welding and other vocational skills to the school’s program, which is also connected with technology.
Ahlem also noted, “The High School staff, administration and Jennifer Read have done a tremendous job putting this vocational education program together. It teaches a variety of skills, allows students to discover if they have the aptitude for these types of positions, and provides a vision of the long-term career opportunities regardless if they go to college or not. This skill set will benefit Hilmar Cheese Company and the region as these skills are in high demand by local employers. We look forward to continuing to support the efforts.”
Hilmar Cheese Company’s involvement in the program has included contributing to the vocational coordinator stipend for three years, provided experienced employees to help teach the lab portion of the electrical class and encouraged other businesses to partner together to create the program, which Hilmar states, “Is much needed.”
This is the second school year that Hilmar has been involved. In the second half of the first year, Read spent a great deal of time putting the practical portion of the program in motion. A large advantage that the students have, according to Hines, is the small number of students in each of his two classes. His second period class has seven students and his third period class has nine students. The small size of the classes allows each student to get the hands on experience that changes the words they read in their textbook to knowledge they can actually use.
Hines, who has been with DISD for four years, also teaches the welding classes, which he states, “Are very large classes. The students always want to learn how to weld. It is nice to have such small groups in the Ag Mechanics classes.” He also noted that soon students would have the opportunity to learn about small engines, a course that he is scheduled to teach as well.