TODAY   |  September 25, 2012

High school kids get a head start on vocations

Students at Worcester Technical High in Massachusetts are getting on-hands on experience in fields such as carpentry, engineering and welding thanks to a vocational education program that combines advanced college courses, resulting in impressive statistics for the kids and the school.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back new at 8:51, and this morning on education nation today, how schools are changing the way they operate to better prepare kids for the future. nbc's chief education correspondent rehema ellis was at the education nation summit at the new york public library . rehema, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, savannah. we went to massachusetts to visit a school that's redefining itself to meet students' needs, turning something old into something new. 14-year-old damien negron is a high school sophomore in massachusetts, learning all about autobody repair.

>> i'm making new threads for the seat, and i just undercoated the body of the car.

>> reporter: at first glance the classes such as welding, carpentry and engineering look like traditional vocational training , but this is not your grandfather's trade school . damien says working on cars is just part of his preparation to become a pilot.

>> i'm learning and getting technical skills and doing stuff like that.

>> reporter: worcester technical high has combined the best 21st century vocational education with advanced college prep courses, from statistics to biotechnology women pressive results. once considered the lowest performing high school in the city, today the school has a 96% graduation rate. math proficiency has soared from 4% to 74%, and 77% of students go on to college.

>> they have specific skill sets that industries are looking for, but they also have the transcripts so they can apply to a two-year school or four-year school and continue their education.

>> reporter: the school also credits a longtime supporter for its turnaround. businessman ted coughlin. he's raised millions of private dollars for this public school , convincing numerous companies that these kids are worth the investment.

>> we couldn't do it without the business community and the financial wherewithal that's needed to assist with some of the major materials here.

>> reporter: at this $90 million school , more than half of the 1,400 students here at worcester technical high are female, all heavily invested in the state of the art program and helping to change the perception of what it means to go to a trade school . girls, girls, won the world

>> why not go to high school and learn something out of the trade instead of doing something people don't think girls would normally do.

>> reporter: architecture and printing and even a vet center where students are supervised with doctors of tufts university school of veterinary medicine .

>> we get to inact with clients and give the animals vaccines and work with the veterinarian and knowing coming to school , other people might just be in class and i'm doing this, pretty much like a job. it's awesome and a job that i love, it's awesome.

>> this place definitely brings back memories.

>> reporter: worcester tech grad a anthony duchimo finished college this year making more money than ever imagined.

>> working with the cutting-edge technology, computer-based simulations and algorithms out there.

>> reporter: anthony gives a lot of credit to what happened in here, worcester technical high, a school giving kids a competitive edge. nationwide, more than 14 million students are enrolled in schools similar to worcester tech. heard a lot of great examples about schools that are working here during the summit, and it's all part of our continuing education nation coverage online. savannah.

>> all right. rehema ellis, thank you. if you want to find more on this story, head to, and tomorrow we'll get governor romney's thoughts on our nation's schools. is neither affiliated with the authors of this page nor responsible for its contents. This is a safe-cache copy of the original web site.