This fall, Catholic social teaching is coming to life at Bourgade Catholic High School in Phoenix. The school recently instituted a uniquely Catholic career and technical education (CTE) program for students interested in exploring healthcare professions.

As a traditional college prep school, Bourgade already offers students a range of AP and honors classes as well as extracurricular activities. CTE, the specialty focused teaching of career skills at high school and post-secondary levels, is becoming an increasingly popular learning model for 21st century education. Now, with at least 12.3 million participating in CTE programs throughout the United States, the staff at Bourgade is ready to bring this opportunity to their students.

“The world of college is changing; If you look at the statistics, it tends to not be a straight four-year path for most people. With the expense of college and the size of student loans it has become important for us to help our students become independent and empowered,” said Dr. Carrie Shanahan, vice principal at Bourgade.

“For students who want to pursue specific careers, [achieving] certifications in high school helps them to apply to programs in college,” Shanahan continued… “Then they can make industry relevant wages which support them and help them to be independent. This gives them a little more room so they are less at the mercy of college loans.”

Recognizing the need for education to support the development of practical career skills, Bourgade began its journey with CTE three years ago when Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC) offered them 12 student spot placements. When Principal Tom Brennan stepped into leadership at Bourgade a little over a year ago, he used his experience leading programs at three other East Valley public schools to bring CTE to Bourgade’s campus.

Since his arrival at Bourgade, Brennan has set in motion four separate CTE programs including health care professions, graphic design, sports medicine, and business management.

“We’re excited to be ‘off the ground,’” said Brennan.

“Our enrollment in our four CTE programs is strong — over 105 students [which is] almost one third of our total enrollment! We still have a lot of work to do to grow these programs and to make sure they have sound ‘roots’ — developing business and industry partnerships; collaborating with post-secondary education; creating work-based learning experiences for our students; and equipping all of our CTE programs with first rate hardware, software and industry-specific tools and equipment.”

This school year (2023-2024) is the first year for Bourgade’s Introduction to Healthcare Professions CTE course. Working in conjunction with advisors Dr. Lisa Jauregui, a nursing professor at Arizona State University, and Dr. Christina Ryan, Bourgade has developed this curriculum for students to begin during their junior year. Under the instruction of Dr. Martha Elena Corral, MD, they will learn initial practices in clinical activity such as how to measure a patient’s vital signs or how to help a patient transfer from bed to wheelchair. These classes will be supplemented with job shadowing field trips during which students will be able to explore labs and anatomy facilities at universities.

Brennan hopes to develop the course into a two-year program through which, pending approval from the Arizona Board of Nursing, students would have the opportunity to earn their certifications as Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) through observations and practice at long-term care and acute facilities.

Among the many other high schools in the valley offering CTE, what does Bourgade provide that is unique?

“Bourgade’s program will be the first of its kind in a diocesan Catholic school,” said Domonic Salce, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Phoenix.

“Several of our high schools have courses related to CTE, but Bourgade will be the first of its kind to follow a prescribed CTE course structure [hopefully] leading to an industry certification.”

Bourgade’s program is also special because it applies Catholic social teaching and incorporates the principles of a Catholic worldview. This ties into Bourgade’s mission: “to help students to discover and develop their God-given potential.”

“From the very first conversations we had about CTE at Bourgade, we acknowledged that any programs we launched must be aligned with the catechism and teachings of the Catholic Church,” Brennan said.

“The dignity of the human person, the individual’s contribution to a just society, and the dignity and value of work are examples of specific values we consider in CTE courses for our campus.”

“We are able to focus on the notion that the human being has dignity and worth simply because they are a child of God; simply because they are a creation of God,” said Shanahan.

“So, if there is someone who is frightened or concerned about what may be happening to them from a health standpoint, that person is your brother or sister in Christ; you have the opportunity to journey with them and use your training in a kind, compassionate, and caring way to be able to respond to them.”

“We are asked as followers of Christ… as faithful Catholics to acknowledge the importance of Catholic social teaching; this is what it looks like in the real world!”