Pathways to Graduation Come with a Bounty of Options at Lynden High

Lynden High School embraced career and technical education (CTE) well before the state realized its importance as part of graduation plans. And now Lynden is once again ahead of the state, spearheading new CTE pathways that give Lynden students innovative ways to learn about careers while fulfilling high school graduation requirements. 

The state has three main avenues high school students can follow to fulfill graduation requirements. The most common—and most traditional—features college preparation by passing SBA tests to show proficiency in English and math. A second is a military direction, allowing students to take the ASVAB placement test to see if their score meets the cut level for the branch of Armed Forces they choose. The third route is through CTE.

Lynden serves students in all three, has ample opportunity for the college-bound students via College in the High School classes, AP classes and honors classes, but is well ahead of other schools its size and larger (and especially ahead of smaller schools) with a diverse CTE offering. 

“Small schools tend to only offer one or two pathways in the CTE realm and that pushes students back to the college or military route,” says Ian Freeman, LHS principal. “That is where we are different. We have lots of different offerings.” 

Traditionally, schools—and the state—forced all students through the narrow hole of college-bound testing, even if students had passions, skills or abilities to be successful in other places. Recent changes to state graduation requirements open the door for CTE pathways, allowing students to take a set number of CTE classes in a specific pathway, combined with moving toward a certification, to serve as a graduation requirement. 

At Lynden, those CTE pathways include woodworking, welding and fabrication, IT, education, culinary and medical. Expect more in the coming years. 

“In some cases, we even have multiple course pathways within a particular program area,” Freeman says. “There are different ways students can follow their passions and meet graduation requirements.”

As Lynden embraces CTE, Freeman says they want to intentionally offer options. “We are going to do things by design, not by default,” he says. This means, Lynden plans to design even more CTE pathways and is already working with the state to craft more creative options. For example, if a student has an entrepreneurial passion in the culinary world, Freeman says they’d like a student to be able to merge Lynden’s culinary and business classes together for a specifically designed pathway. 

“If this student wants to own a restaurant, they will need to know how to cook and operate the business,” Freeman says. “Those things can be accomplished at our school.” 

Three of those existing pathways also include opportunities for students to work with real-world providers. The woodworking pathway features a partnership with Lynden Door that has LHS students attending classes at the company’s Technic Training Center site. The Education pathway includes LHS students spending sixth period dispersing across the district’s three elementary schools for internships, and the medical pathway features students conducting internships with local healthcare providers. 

Pathway design takes forward thinking. Counselors are having conversations with students and giving in-classroom presentations on the options, encouraging students to start planning by their sophomore year to create a pathway that meets their interests. “We want to be forward thinking and give the students a vision,” Freeman says. 

When teachers know the specific interests of students in their classes, they can also mold curriculum to better serve those interests. 

Freeman says that with the state realizing the importance of CTE and the skills learned through CTE classes, districts across the state are working to add more CTE back into their school. “We never lost them,” he says. “We actually grew them and now they are being recognized by the state.”