An estimated 600 people visited this year’s open house at the Eastern Center for Arts and Technology (Eastern) Feb. 27.
Potential students, their families and Eastern alumni experienced a day in the life of Eastern students and the 14 career programs the school offers.
Eastern is one of five technology arts schools in Montgomery County. Its student body consists of high school students from nine school districts in the eastern section of the county, including Hatboro-Horsham, Upper Dublin, Abington and Upper Moreland.
“Everybody knows what a high school is; not everybody knows what a career center is,” Kurt Adam, Eastern’s assistant director, said. “We provide the students the world outside of our school.”
The school’s 14 career programs cover a wide variety of interests. Technical programs include construction, landscape contracting and electrical technologies. Art programs include commercial, cosmetology and culinary arts.
He said that whether or not a student decides to immediately pursue a career or seek further education, Eastern students gain a competitive edge because of the hands-on opportunities gained at the school.
“The opportunity is special,” Tom Campbell, a Hatboro-Horsham High School (HHHS) senior, said.
Campbell, who studies automotive technology at Eastern, said he came to the school because of the opportunity for hands-on learning, and to be with people who share similar interests.
“I’m with people who enjoy working with cars, and I connect better with them,” Campbell said.
Campbell was one of the many students, instructors and school administrators to greet and guide visitors during the open house. His particular role, as the SkillsUSA p.m. vice-president, represented the school’s student body.
Eastern students have the option of attending a.m. or p.m. arts or technology classes while attending their academic classes at their sending high school. Programs are typically attended by 11th and 12th grade students.
He said his daily transition from academic classes at HHHS in the morning to his afternoon automotive technology courses at Eastern, located in Willow Grove, doesn’t really feel like a transition at all.
“It’s like a normal day at school,” Campbell said. “Actually, it’s even better because I get to leave for lunch.”
The open house, which took place from 1 to 3:30 p.m., was catered by Eastern culinary students.
According to adjunct culinary arts instructor Kelly Ann Knorr, the students started off their day at 7 a.m. to prepare a V.I.P. brunch at the school, and then prepared hors d'oeuvres and small meals for open house visitors.
Food selections included the delicacies:
▪ Citrus-marinated shrimp cocktail
▪ Mortadella-smear bruschetta and assorted deviled eggs
▪ A carving station, featuring baked side of salmon with horseradish crust and hollandaise sauce
▪ An omelet station
▪ A baked goods station, featuring scones and muffins
According to Knorr, the culinary arts program at Eastern is one of the most attended programs at the school.
Knorr, a 2003 graduate of the program, went on to attend Johnson and Wales University, in Providence, R.I. Knorr went on to work at Disney World, in the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa and at the Polynesian Resort.
She credits her time at Eastern as a gateway for the higher learning and job opportunities she has experienced.
“I knew I had a one-up against everybody when I went to college, and I knew what I wanted to do already,” Knorr said.
She is currently working at the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia, where she saw the opportunity to volunteer at her alma mater as part of the school’s Occupational Advisory Committee (OAC).
The OAC is made up of local business representatives who lend their guidance and expertise to students in their particular programs.
According to Tim Weaver, Eastern’s school improvement coordinator, the members of the OAC help students become attractive prospects to post-secondary schools or employers by keeping the skills taught in the classroom relevant to the skills needed outside the classroom.
Weaver said that some OACs have been with the school for over 20 years.
In addition to the OACs, Weaver said that the school guarantees that the skills learned at Eastern will remain relevant for up to one year after certification in their field. If the student lacks certain skills, the school will take the student back for further training.
“If we give students a certification of completion, we hold ourselves to it,” Weaver said.
Eastern students also get the opportunity to directly work in the field of their study.
According to Gary Devine, the welding program instructor, students in their second year of the program are matched with local businesses for a co-op.
“When they’re in their senior year, we phase them into industry,” Devine said. “And, when they graduate in June, they’ll have a full-time job waiting for them.”
Devine said that 90 percent of his certified welding students become employed at their co-op.
During the first year of the welding program, students are introduced to theory.
“We learn the theory behind it, how to read blue prints, and, instead of just learning how to weld, we are welding,” said Andrew Benischeck, Eastern Welding Program student and Upper Dublin High School senior.
Benischeck had attended Kennedy Kendrick Catholic High School, but didn’t want to commute to Royersford every day when the school became Pope John Paul II High School.
“I heard about Eastern, and found out they had a tech shop,” Benischeck said. “I visited one day, and said, ‘This looks like fun.’”
For more information, visit www.eastech.org.