Construction of the Chester County Technical College High School is well underway.The school's first students will begin their career-driven education this fall.

In the mean time, Seth Schram has been making preparations for the school that he believes will become a major asset to the Southern Chester County area.

Schram was appointed principal of the school in July. He brings with him a diverse background in education, administration, and the culinary arts. After graduating from West Chester with a degree in secondary education in 1988, Schram ventured down another career path, attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

He spent several years working as a chef, eventually becoming the catering manager at the University of Delaware's hotel restaurant. That was when he learned he could combine his passion for teaching with his experience in the culinary arts.

In 1994 Schram did just that. He became a culinary arts instructor at the Center for Technical Studies in Montgomery County. During the six years he spent there, Schram was recognized for his excellence in vocational education. He was Montgomery County's Educator of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce in 1999, and in 2000 he was named Pennsylvania Vocational Teacher of the Year. During this time he also received his Master's Degree from Temple University.

He was promoted to supervisor of vocational education and assistant director at the Center for Technical Studies in 2000. After serving in this position for seven years, Schram, a West Chester resident, applied for the job as principal at the new Chester County Technical College High School.

Schram was drawn to the possibility of serving as the new school's principal, not only because of his ties to the Chester County area, but also because of the unique character of the school.

"Being that it's the first hybrid school in Pennsylvania, it seemed like an excellent opportunity and a challenge I would embrace," he said.

Indeed, the school is the first technical high school to be built in Pennsylvania in more than a decade, according to Schram, and the very first dual-enrollment high school in the state.

"We are housed with a community college and partner with them in the same building," said Schram. "I haven't seen a model like this anywhere."

The Chester County Technical College High School - off Pennock's Bridge Road in West Grove - presents a one-of-a-kind educational option to its students. Along with offering a broad range of high school vocational programs including cosmetology, early childhood education, pre-engineering, and carpentry and cabinetmaking, the school allows students to take for-credit college courses while working towards high school graduation. Dual-enrollment programs in applied engineering technology, automotive technology, construction technology, health care, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), and industrial systems will make it possible for high school students to graduate with up to 16 credits towards an Associate's Degree from Delaware County Community College.

Schram explained that whether or not a student chooses to participate in the dual-enrollment program, he or she will graduate from the Technical College High School prepared for a career.

"The nice thing is, our students walk out of these programs with some kind of certification," he said.

"With the growing population in Southern Chester County, it made sense to have a school where [the students] are located so they didn't have to travel so far," explained Schram. He also noted that the students, who will come from Avon Grove, Oxford Area, Kennett Consolidated, and UnionvilleChadds Ford school districts, will be in close enough proximity to their home districts to allow them to participate in sports.

Groundbreaking for the Chester County Technical College High School occurred in June of 2006, and the building, which is nearly complete, will be chock full of cutting-edge features.

"Everything will be state of the art. We pride ourselves in technology, being a technical school," Schram said, adding that all computers and technological equipment will be the most advanced available.

Schram emphasized that the Chester County Technical College High School could be a fit for any local student.

"We can gear it towards very high level students who are academically inclined, and less academic students, all students who are looking for a career," he said.

"My goal is to have a very successful program with very successful students who utilize all of the opportunities being offered at the career and technical school, along with the college," he said.

Chester County Technical College High School is currently accepting applications for the 2008-2009 school year. Parents and students interested in applying may pick up an application in their high school guidance office, online at www.technical-collegehighschool.org, or by calling Kevin Ballisty at 484-237-5325.

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