Dallas ISD Launched an Ambitious Program to Prep Students for Careers. How’s it Going During a Pandemic?

Plumbing instructor Merv Scurlark (right) and freshman aviation student Israel Olivares pose for a photo at the Career Institutes South campus in Dallas on Nov. 20, 2020. This fall marked the opening of three DISD Career Institutes -- centralized facilities designed to give students hands-on experience in industries like plumbing, cybersecurity and construction. But with the coronavirus pandemic raging, fulfilling the promise of that hands-on training became much more complicated. Scurlark said the pandemic has affected the number of students that would normally enroll in his classes, but that he’s hopeful the interest would return post-pandemic. “It’s good, honest work that provides a lot of opportunity after high school,” he said. (Lynda M. González/Staff Photographer)
Plumbing instructor Merv Scurlark (right) and freshman aviation student Israel Olivares pose for a photo at the Career Institutes South campus in Dallas on Nov. 20, 2020. This fall marked the opening of three DISD Career Institutes -- centralized facilities designed to give students hands-on experience in industries like plumbing, cybersecurity and construction. But with the coronavirus pandemic raging, fulfilling the promise of that hands-on training became much more complicated. Scurlark said the pandemic has affected the number of students that would normally enroll in his classes, but that he’s hopeful the interest would return post-pandemic. “It’s good, honest work that provides a lot of opportunity after high school,” he said. (Lynda M. González/Staff Photographer)

This story, originally published in The Dallas Morning News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and TMN. The partnership seeks to boost coverage of Dallas’s communities of color, particularly in southern Dallas.

By Talia Richman
Dallas Morning News Writer

The career institutes offer training with hands-on experience to steer students toward high-demand, high-wage jobs.

Fourteen-year-old Israel Olivares logs into school from home most days. He’ll usually sit in his bed, staring at a screen for seven hours.

Then, for a couple of treasured class periods each Friday afternoon, he explores the skies above Oak Cliff.

Israel is learning to operate drones and log time in a flight simulator, where he can practice “taking off” from the Dallas Executive Airport. His aviation course is housed in one of Dallas ISD’s career institutes, which opened this fall as part of an effort to give more teenagers hands-on experience in booming industries.

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