Wednesday morning was the end for the second period at Back Bay High School. But few students in classroom oneA moved an inch. They chose to carry on their work and ring the bell.
The machines hummed and lasers were used to cut wood. Other stations had designs printed on fabric and sticker papers. Students called out to each others, then to Jason Kovac and his mentors for help. From the sidelines, district staff witnessed the activities taking place in Back Bay’s own Spyder Lab, which was two years in the planning.
Spyder Lab offers a work-based school program which enables students to develop skills in graphic media careers and entrepreneurship. Brea-based, the consultant has labs in all Orange County schools, including Back Bay. However, the Spyder Lab in Back Bay is the only one with this caliber within the Newport-Mesa Unified school District.
“This program itself is training students in a one-year period of time to run a business and be certified in all of the machinery in this room. They’re building an amazing portfolio to go into the industry; whether they’re getting certified in QuickBooks — they’re going to learn how to operate an actual business— but it’s also all these pieces of machinery,” career technical education program analyst Anne Younglove said.
In 2020, plans to create the $200,000 Spyder Lab at campus were put on hold due to the pandemic. The lab was built over the summer and final installations were completed in September. According to district officials, about 80% of the funding came from state career technical education grants. The remainder was provided by the school district.
“It has been our goal for many years to bring a pathway back to this school. They had one eight years ago and this worked out very well because it’s a one-year pathway and the students are taking two courses every quarter and they’re side-by-side,” said Younglove. “So, they’re really in this classroom for about two hours a day, five days a week.”
Younglove stated that she was first introduced to Spyder Labs by a presentation at the Orange County Department of Education.
“I thought, ‘With grant money, this is completely possible to do anywhere.’ But the one place where we really need it most is the place where students need to get work as soon as possible and also get credit,” said Younglove. “So, what’s great about this is that the things they’re learning in here they can continue on into community college and go into any of the graphics things. They’re learning all the Adobe applications, so there’s lot of diversification. They can go into digital media, business, graphic design, … the clothing industry, which is huge here.”
Spyder Lab’s walls are covered with products designed and printed in class by a handful of students. According to Back Bay senior Davian Sanchez, one of the machines was used by the students to create the blue hexagonal wall covers.
Gonzalez, 17, claimed he is from Newport Harbor High School. He said he wasn’t doing well in school and ended up coming to Back Bay, where he felt “relief” and was able to find time to work on himself.
He said the class is challenging and requires work, but that he’s really enjoyed learning about a trade that he could do straight out of high school. He expressed his desire to be able to work in a similar environment and use the same machines.
Students learn how to operate a business and are divided into five roles. Students will be expected to become general managers, office managers, sales representatives, or creative directors on every project. Each role has different responsibilities.
“This showed me there’s a business type to this because we do make this stuff. We can see the marketing, production and business sides. [We learn] What happens if there is a problem? That’s basically something that I like and I think a lot of students will like too,” said Gonzalez.
Back Bay senior Lindsey Sanchez said she wasn’t sure about the class at first. She said she didn’t think any of the knowledge she’d acquire would be useful, but her interest really took off once she learned clothing and other products could be made in the Spyder Lab.
Sanchez started with the direct to garment printer but is now working on the laser cutter. She said she recently visited an artists’ market and saw wooden music boxes on sale. Sanchez explained that she saw similar products at an artist’s market and realized she could make them and sell them.
Sanchez indicated that she plans to return after graduating this year to teach other students how to use the machinery.
“I want to show other students how you work the machines, what you know from the machines … it’s not bad to ask for help. You always can ask for help and that’s what I like about [the staff mentors],” said Sanchez.
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