Uwharrie-Ridge Six-Twelve to expand career pathway opportunities

The Randolph County School System’s Board of Education provided an updated on the marketing priority regarding Uwharrie-Ridge Six-Twelve during a board meeting earlier this month.

“Over years, I’ve gotten the chance to really be immersed in that culture,” said CTE director David Cross. “I’ve asked a lot of questions, I’ve talked to a lot of staff members, talked to the guidance counselors to try and figure out … Uwharrie-Ridge is a special place. They have a great culture and I want to make sure that as we take our next steps with CTE that we make sure we’re doing what we can to really provide solid building blocks on really what’s going to sell the seven years that kids get when they walk into Uwharrie-Ridge.”

Uwharrie-Ridge is a conjoined middle and high school that focuses on community engagement opportunities and career integrated units with an aim to immerse students in learning experiences that develop 21st century skills.

“I really want to keep what’s in place,” Cross said. “They have the School of Leadership and Communication, the School of Design and Technology and the School of Public Service. … My big mission is that I want to link these three schools to the middle and high school career pathways and look at it really like a seven-year career academy focus.”

According to Cross, the two main goals for Uwharrie-Ridge are retention and recruitment.

“A big overarching goal for our department, really, is just to really attack this incoming growth and just figure out how to be relevant and make sure we’re engaging kids,” Cross said.

As a way to further address that, Uwharrie Ridge will also be adding three new CTE pathways starting next year: early childhood education, Adobe Academy and public safety.

In addition, Uwharrie Ridge will be expanding the light-duty diesel program to 10th grade students, improve ag education enrollment through the exploration of new programs and pathways and phasing out the drone program.

“Getting kids into these feeder schools is great,” board member Tracy Boyles said. “I’ve been a part of it over the years at Uwharrie-Ridge. However, they bring the fifth graders over there and you only get five minutes to tell them about your CTE programs. In five minutes, you can’t get a kid to wrap their head around it. So taking Uwharrie-Ridge kids to these schools would be a great thing. That’ll get the kids thinking, ‘I want to stay at Uwharrie-Ridge.’”

“I was at Wheatmore High School… we were there kind of late in the afternoon and I felt like the group of kids that I had, and I hate to say this, but I felt like 20% of them were pretty much tuned in and probably 80%… I went home that night feeling kind of sick to my stomach because I felt that they were missing something,” board chair Gary Cook said. “I just thought, ‘Gosh, are we losing these kids?’ There needs to be something and it’s got to come from this because a lot of them are not ready to go to a four-year university or stuff like that and so you have to get them with something like this.

“I just thought that a lot of kids would be a perfect fit at Uwharrie-Ridge. I mean it’s so much easier fishing in a smaller pond, sort of speak. It makes you feel like you’re not lost in deep water. That’s tough on a kid if you feel like you just don’t belong.”

The Randolph County Schools Board of Education will next meet June 27.

By Ryan Henkel