Career Center turning 15, planning annual open house March 4

Two students play the role of attorney and witness while the pretend defendants are visible in the background during a mock trial at Michael Berry Career Center.

A renewed emphasis on preparing high school students for careers has Michael Berry Career Center seeing renewed growth as it approaches its 15th birthday.

MBCC enrollment has doubled since 2015, with about 615 students attending this year. Most students attend for two or three hours in the morning or afternoon, but about two dozen spend all or most of their high school day at the center, often mixing those classes with co-ops or dual enrollment in college courses, said Dr. John Bayerl, career and technical education/Perkins supervisor.

“Some students, who, for whatever reason don’t fit in at their home high school, find a home here,” he said.

MBCC has long offered classes focused on healthcare fields, culinary arts, business, and digital media design.  Now, it has added computer programing and, new this year, criminal justice programs.  New construction trades and teacher cadet programs are technically part of MBCC, but they are housed at the three home high schools.

Fordson and Edsel Ford high schools also offer auto tech and welding tech classes for students.

Michael Berry Career Center is holding an open house on March 4 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. to highlight all its programs.  High school and middle school students who might be interested in MBCC are invited to attend, along with their parents.

Many MBCC programs offer the chance at certifications from groups such as Red Cross, Microsoft, Adobe, ASE, NOCTI and more.  Several programs also offer the chance to earn Henry Ford College credits.

Any high school student can attend classes at MBCC, but most do not start until junior or senior year after completing many of their graduation requirements at their home schools. 

Three years ago, Fordson High School started a Career Academies model to help students better focus on exploring career options.  That first Academies class is now juniors, and that career focus shows in the number of Fordson students enrolled (more than half of MBCC students).

But Dearborn High and Edsel also are sending more students to MBCC, and their Career Academies are launching with this year’s freshmen.  Bayerl expects to see another enrollment increase as those students move to higher grades.

He is excited about the growth of the programs and helping students explore careers and find their place and their direction.  But, with the failure of the BRICS Bond in November, he is also worried about how to continue to offer all the programs.

The bond included a plan to buy two buildings at Henry Ford College which, among other things, would have moved Adult Education out of MBCC, freeing up several more classrooms for career-tech classes. The MBCC classes, in turn, pull students out of the home high schools and ease crowding in those buildings.  (The HFC buildings also would have held the District’s three Henry Ford Early College programs, which also help alleviate enrollment at the traditional high schools.)

Each of the District’s career-technical education programs covers several possible career fields.

For example, Allied Health classes range from dental assisting training to sports medicine/physical therapy assistant.  Students get hands on experience making dental molds or wrapping joints, depending on their focus.

The Dearborn Business Academy has programs in marketing and sales, accounting and finances, and business tech and management.

The new criminal justice program drew 54 students this year.  The diverse mix includes students who want to go into law enforcement and others interested in practicing law.

The class is taught by Sgt. Aaron Huguley of the Southfield Police Department.

“It’s going well.  As we move along we find what works and what doesn’t, more of what does,” he said.

Huguley is mixing bookwork with hands-on experiences for his students, from practicing with handcuffs and exercising as they would for the police academy, to holding mock trials and conducting criminal investigations.

“I hope to touch every student with what they want to do,” Huguley said.

Bayerl noted that Dearborn Schools uses several different names for various programs that help students pick their own education path, even from elementary school grades.  MBCC is just a part of those options.

“It’s about helping kids pick the right class to take next,” he said.