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Dallas ISD launches career institutes: building new bridges to opportunity

Career Institute North building bridges to opportunity for Dallas ISD students
Career Institute North building bridges to opportunity for Dallas ISD students 02:34

DALLAS (CBSNewsTexas) - William Milligan, a Cordon Bleu trained chef, has done his share of slicing and dicing.  

But now he says his career search is done. He teaches culinary arts at Dallas ISD's new Career Institute North.

"This is my dream job... this really is," shares Milligan and he begins urging his afternoon class to wash up and get prepared to tackle the celery stalks he's pulled from a refrigerator. "I've never been some place where I look forward to coming to work everyday. Seeing their faces light up? It's very special... it's a feeling I've never had."

Three other career institutes will serve students in the south, east and western quadrants of the city. Students attend their home high schools then travel to the career institutes to get trained for good paying jobs.

"Carpentry and construction, HVAC, electrical and plumbing, all the things we need in our homes," shares Career Institute North Director Jean Laswell.  "Also we have aviation flight for those interested in becoming pilots. We have automotive technology."  

On campus programs also include health services and patient care.  If a student has a career interest, chances are the institute has a pathway to allow them to get started on it, early.

"Our students are very, very fortunate, because they can get started on a career before they even leave high school," says Laswell.

The Career Institute North culinary arts program is unique in that it is inclusive... which means special needs students are also being taught life skills and career skills that will help them work in a restaurant one day. Some of the menu items are basic like mashed potatoes and pasta-- but today they're making watermelon mint soup!

"You get to learn how to cook," explains a beaming Kiara March, a 17-year-old special needs student who comes to the campus from Pinkston High, "and I like it because it's fun."

Plans are already in the works to expand the culinary arts program in the coming months to operate a small dining room for special events .

"It's incredible what our students can do given the opportunities," explains Laswell, "and that's exactly what we do here: we give them opportunities to show what they can do."

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