The Mobile Access to Careers school bus, also known as MAC, serves as a way to teach elementary, middle and secondary students in Shenandoah County, Virginia about various career options.
Triplett Tech, which offers 13 programs for students across three high schools in Shenandoah County Public Schools, allows students to specialize in careers such as auto body masonry, carpentry, cosmetology, culinary arts, cybersecurity, early childhood education, electricity, and health care. Students in their junior and senior years can choose a specialty to study half-day when not attending their general education classes. About 240 students participate in the program.
“When they leave here, for example … they’ll have their cosmetology license to go cut hair in the state of Virginia,” Crystal Lynn, career counseling coach at Triplett Tech, said. “We do have some students that go on to college and different things, but our real focus is getting students ready to go out and join the workforce.”
She noted that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Triplett has been able to educate students in person for the entire school year. “I can’t teach you to lay a brick if you don’t have a brick in your hand,” Lynn explained, adding that the carpentry class has been working with Habitat for Humanity to build houses. “They can’t do that sitting in front of the computer at home. So, we have been lucky to be back in person.”
Triplett was already prepared to take learning out into the community with a retrofitted school bus at the end of 2019, thanks to a $25,000 county innovation grant. But then COVID-19 impacted the school’s ability to provide in-person tours to students who are interested in joining the program.
“[We wanted] to create a bus that could kind of simulate some of the things that we do here in Triplett,” Lynn said, adding that Triplett officials have also talked about bringing the MAC bus to local fairs and festivals to get more engagement from the community, once those events resume.
“The other cool thing that we thought is, it’s a win-win with our students who work here in Triplett, who are learning these skills and can help us retrofit the bus for the younger students,” she said.
She noted that the auto body class stripped the seats out of the bus and helped design the outside as well as helped paint. The carpentry class installed donated floors, cabinets and countertops.
The district’s transportation department donated the bus and is supplying the drivers for the time being. Lynn added a couple of Triplett staff do have their commercial driver’s license and could potentially drive.
Transportation is also taking care of any maintenance issues that come up. Lynn added Triplett is also working on partnering with transportation operations to create a program focused on maintenance.
The bus demonstrates other programs Triplett offers as well. Lynn added that the bus allows students to explore different careers, in a short amount of time.
“For example, for cosmetology, we have a mannequin that the students will be able to curl hair on,” she said, adding that an outside generator supplies the electricity.
The bus will be up and running next school year. Lynn said the plan is to visit one class at a time and allow students to walk through the different stations, adding that it was a priority to have experiences suitable for all age ranges.
Related: Family Engagement School Bus Makes Waves in Virginia Community
Related: WATCH: Deer Crashes Through Virginia School Bus Windshield, Lands on Student
Related: Virginia’s First Electric School Buses Head to Districts
Related: New York Classroom on Wheels Serves Students, Community
Related: Massachusetts Science Teacher Takes Class on the Road During Pandemic
Lynn added the bus is also equipped with Wi-Fi, which was provided free of charge by T-Mobile. If a student is interested in a career that isn’t offered at Triplett, for instance, marine biology, Lynn said she can pull up information via the internet and display it on a smartboard installed in the bus.
“There are so many options for students when they’re thinking about careers and what they want to do next and we don’t expect elementary or middle school students to have it figured out, but at least they have an idea of the options available, now that they’ve seen the bus and know what the bus is about,” she said.
Lynn said it is important to give students the opportunity to learn about the careers and training available to them.
“That’s really the goal and what we’re trying to do. I can stand up in front of an auditorium and talk to them all day long about what we do here in Triplett, but until they put their hands on it, they won’t know what it’s like,” she concluded.