School of the Week: Breithaupt Career and Technical Center

Francisco Llobell, a junior at Western International High School, has no doubt where he wants to be in five years – at General Motors Headquarters, working as an automotive engineer designing cars.

But if that doesn’t work out, he’s not worried, because he plans to pursue his talent in computer animation while at college and could fall back on a career in computer gaming.

Thanks to his coursework  in computer-aided design at Breithaupt and Career Technical Center, Llobell, 16, is already on a path toward realizing his dreams.

“These are skills I need to have the job I want in the future,” he said recently, taking a brief break from a lesson on the manufacturing process (including concepts like machine forging) to talk about the benefits of attending Breithaupt, one of Detroit Public Schools’ four career and technical centers.

Stellar culinary programs and high-tech learning

Anyone who knows anything about Breithaupt Career and Technical Center knows of its renowned Culinary Program, where the on-site Reflections Restaurant and catering business teaches future chefs to prepare mouth-watering menu items like carved strip loin, roasted chicken, pan-seared grouper, saffron rice, roasted red skin potatoes, and the latest Reflections house specialty – a spicy, savory Tuscan vegetable ragout with a base of tomatoes, beans, spinach, onions and rice. Monthly buffets offered at the Center, which include Italian, African-American and Southwestern themes, can draw up to 300 people.

But the school also draws many of its students for its high-tech programming, like the Electronic Network Systems (ENS) Program, in which students compete nationally on an annual basis. Many of the programs are attractive to industry experts looking for students who have experience in their chosen field.

“We have met with people in industry like Chrysler and GM,” said Breithaupt’s Director Charlene Mallory, “and they want to cross-train with our automotive program. They need that skillset.”

Historically, career and tech centers (formerly called vocational centers) carried a stigma that they were warehouses for students with poor grades who needed a technical skill because they would never succeed in college.

That’s the opposite today, Mallory said. Most students like Llobell attend Breithaupt so they can gain hands-on experience so they can have an edge over their peers entering college. Indeed, the center brings in representatives from colleges to meet with students at least twice a week, Mallory said. And many of the courses at Breithaupt are jam-packed with rigorous math and science and the latest technology learning.

The students also benefit from direct connections to people in the careers they aspire to have and are often mentored by the school’s business partners, which include auto dealerships, downtown restaurants and US Foods.

In the Cisco Networking Academy, students are taught a college-level curriculum and are evaluated via Henry Ford Community College’s (HFCC) Cisco Networking Academy Local Academy.

In the Reflections restaurant, students get experience daily in the culinary industry working in the on-site restaurant and catering business as servers, helping to create the succulent menus, and learning to prepare foods. The school also has a meat-cutting class, where students learn to carve and handle raw meat, and a mouth-watering bake shop, where students whip up breads, cakes, pies, pastries and other bakery products for retail distribution, for consumption in a commercial food service establishment or for special functions. Instruction includes making, freezing and handling of baked products, decorating, counter display, and packaging of merchandise. The culinary program is part of the school’s Hospitality, Tourism & Culinary Services program.

Hands-on learning and college preparation is the mantra at Breithaupt

Indeed, students have been bringing in copies of their acceptance letters to colleges recently, Mallory said, and routinely tell her of their job offers.

Everywhere you turn, students are busy learning how what they are learning in class will help them in the future.

In the Pre-Engineering Design Technology Program, students learn STEM concepts that are necessary to support engineering design and development work, by preparing detail drawings with exact dimensions and specifications for production purposes. Students also receive instruction on the fundamentals of drafting and utilization of the computer (CAD system) to apply learned knowledge and skills of design, mechanical operations, geometric dimensioning and tolerances, strength of materials, solid modeling and 3D visualization to comprehensive design-based projects in a practical hands-on learning environment, which applies directly to the world of work.

Students in Automotive Services and Collision Repair, Welding and Pre-engineering Design team up annually to customize a vehicle in preparation for the AutoRama. The students in this program recently serviced the district’s Driver’s Education program, refurbishing and preparing cars used in that program so they were ready to be on the road.

They also have an opportunity to learn about electric cars, including one that Breithaupt students built from the ground up in 1995. Automotive instructor Jerome Crawford now has plans to have his current students convert that car in a solar-powered vehicle.

Western International High School Senior Felix Andino, 19, has been working in his classes on high-fuel engines, diesel engines and other engines used on racing cars. He has already been accepted to the University of Northwestern Ohio.

“The teachers here motivate you to get better so you can get farther in life,” he said.

Because of their hands-on experience in the school’s body shop, learning everything from suspension systems to brakes to framework to engines to computer car systems, Breithaupt’s students are often pursued by car manufacturers while still in high school, said Kenneth Williams, special instructor for the Automotive Program.

That’s the case with both Michael Owens, 16, who was home-schooled, and Western International senior Oscar Hernandez, 17. Both have job offers at Chevrolet, where they may work while attending college.

“After getting hands-on experience here, I’m more experienced and confident,” Hernandez said.

On occasion, bright students from nearby high schools attend Breithaupt courses to pursue a hobby. That’s the case with Veronica Vela, 18, a senior at Western International with a 3.5 Grade Point Average, who plans to become a genetics nurse and is fully complete with her math and science requirements. So she decided to attend Breithaupt to pursue an interest in car repair.

“I’ve learned a lot of things here, including how to really push yourself,” she said and considers herself an expert in changing tires, checking a steering column, and conducting a full tune-up.

“I love it here,” she said.

Preparing students for colleges and careers

Lawrence Neely, the Computer-Aided Design instructor, said the fundamentals students learn in his class, such as drafting and sketching, are used to build every single manufactured product in the world. His students can easily pursue highly-paid career fields such as engineering or architecture, he said.

“We’re dedicated to making sure that students will obtain the job they are interested in,” Mallory said. “And we’re working on building our partnerships with businesses and industry and sustaining those partnerships, which gives students exposure as they choose a career path and an opportunity to see their chosen career field come to fruition.”

Something You didn’t know

Breithaupt has 4 former students who are Chef Instructors in the Culinary Arts Department:  Mark Brown, Veronyca Cornish, Bradford Williams, and Mark Hartfield

Staff spotlight: Chef Bradford Williams

  • Former Breithaupt student
  • 1st Recipient of the Breithaupt Scholarship
  • Graduate of Johnson & Wales University, Providence, Rhode Island

Degree: Culinary Arts

Chef Brad returned to Breithaupt after a 4-year leave. “Chef Brad has accepted the position as Gourmet Cooking Instructor and took little and made it multiply. He has high expectations for his students, and his students have risen to the occasion and made the challenge their success story,” Ms. Mallory said.

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