Editor's note: In the coming weeks, the Free Press will feature the different vocational programs offered at Mesa County Valley School District 51's Career Center, a place where high school students earn credit for learning employment and trade skills.
In Mike Frick's audio-visual technologies class, students learn the basics of photography, including photo editing, applying photos to print media, and filmmaking. The course is one of 10 programs available to high school students at the district's Career Center, 2935 North Ave.
Like most of the center's vocational programs, the work students perform is for the "real world." Community members pay the students for their expertise.
Customers get a good deal, and students gain valuable experience.
Matt Andis-Bruehl, 18, said he's known since he was 15 that he'd like a career in photography or graphic design, so he signed up for the class after moving here from California.
On Tuesday, Andis-Bruehl was redesigning a brochure for Black Crown Rod and Kustom, a car restoration business. Andis-Bruehl is a second-year student in the program, thus he has the skills to complete a customer job.
"I've learned a lot in this class about cameras, and computer work," Andis-Bruehl said.
Other students were practicing their computers skills by integrating photos with scanned hand drawings.
"I want everybody to know they can create, be confident, take chances," Frick said.
Students are writing film scripts, creating story boards and dabbling in filmmaking.
Last year, a community member hired the class to film her as she answered questions for an out-of-state job interview.
For a minimum fee, students also shoot video for websites, design logos for companies, and design and print posters.
The elective course is available each year to any Mesa County high school student. Students earn elective credit, plus a half credit in English after a year, and a half credit in math after two years.
"We do a lot of writing," including stories, journalistic pieces, scripts and poetry, Frick said.
The math credit comes from working with digital media, and geometry, proportions and perspectives, Frick said.
Some students build on their skills by taking the course in subsequent years. Others move on to Western Colorado Community College to further their learning in animation, film and graphic arts, Frick said.
One of Frick's students, Jessie Ward, will graduate in December and plans to open her own photography business after earning a two-year business degree, Frick said.
"She does good work," he said.
Sixteen-year-old Zach Ellsworth's interest in photography was sparked after taking a media production class at Fruita Monument High School. A school counselor there told Ellsworth about the audio visual technologies class.
"It has been life-changing for me," Ellsworth said, who's in his second year of the program. "It's all so good."
His favorite project is creating animation films.
Students in the course also spend time learning portrait photography. On Tuesday, Oct. 30, the students will take class portraits of their fellow Career Center students.
"The bonds kids make here are strong," Frick said. The one-hour, 50-minute classes allow time for students to forge friendships, he said.
"The whole culture of this building is nurturing, safe," he said.