Maroun Nehme, director of Buena Park High School’s Advanced Robotics and Mechatronics program, started folding SACA into his program shortly after he became the head of it. He said it started off as a way to get something in the hands of students along with their diplomas, but it’s turned into a lot more.
He got his Gold SACA instructor certification and began testing his students for the Gold credentials. After seven students passed the Silver exam, six attempted and passed the Gold exam.
“We became the very first college or high school in California to have Gold Certified students and a Gold Certified instructor,” Nehme said.
He said he wanted to make sure his students got a little recognition, so he began posting their projects and accomplishments on social media.
That’s when his community began taking notice. A councilman for the Buena Park City Council saw the hands-on training in action, and asked Nehme to bring his students to a public meeting to honor them and their work. He also said industry began taking notice and wanted to see how they could benefit from Nehme and his lab.
“Their parents were super stoked and I think it just gives more recognition to the program,” Nehme said. “And now we’re beginning to partner up with some companies that may use my classroom as a training facility for their employees, which is pretty big for a high school.”
He said it was a big deal, especially since he wasn’t sure how to deliver SACA curriculum at first. Nehme said a presentation from Joe Russo at Klein Educational Systems helped him see how to keep things moving. Working with students in pods helped him make sure he could keep 30 students going at once and still give them time to test on the necessary skills.
Watching them gain interest in the first year is huge, he said, and part of that is how the initial curriculum is built.
“I like the 101 curriculum because it gives students a taste of everything,” Nehme said. “It doesn’t go super deep into anything, but it gives them a taste of all these different things, whether it’s electrical, pneumatics or robotics. They go into year two, they’re doing the same thing and they can decide what they want to learn, what they want to pursue.”
He said that gives them opportunity once they graduate outside of just going to a four-year institution. He said it helps motivate students while they’re in high school, and find paths to high-paying careers once they graduate.
“I think one of the roles that SACA fills is provide for not just the students, but their parents, a purpose for them to go to school,” Nehme said. “They would like them to get into some kind of career where they can learn a trade and earn a decent living, especially in Southern California. If a student wants to go into a field, they can stack those certifications and use them to get a job.”