Satellite Center celebrates 10 years of preparing students for real world jobs

Learn using high-tech equipment like 3D printers, television studio

Originally opened in 2005, the Satellite Center will celebrate 10 years at a special ceremony on Jan. 30. But many residents don’t fully grasp how important the center is when it comes to preparing St. Charles students for today’s work force.

The Satellite Center offers high school juniors and seniors in St. Charles Parish the opportunity to study industry-focused topics for half of their day. The topics range from process engineering, which prepares students for careers at area refineries and petrochemical companies, to tourism management, culinary arts and TV production.

The center represents a complete shift of the “school” paradigm—it has “facilitators” instead of teachers, “team members” instead of students.

“I’m an ‘administrator’ and not a principal,” laughs Lasca Anderson. “It’s a whole different environment. There are no bells, no hall passes…they go into their classrooms to work on whatever their project is.”

The school emphasizes preparation for the working world in a number of ways. Staff members are typically pulled from within their industry and are provided tools that mirror—or even go beyond—what is found in the business world. In the culinary arts program, for example, a massive kitchen offers two cooking ranges, dishwashing facilities and more.

“This would be like in a hotel kitchen. It’s a good teaching and learning kitchen, but if a kitchen is going to be this big, the restaurant has to be 15,000 square feet to make the money necessary to fund it,” Patrick ”Chef Pat” Phelan said.

Such tools, however, are all but standard issue in a school that emphasizes job preparedness. In engineering courses, students work with two 3D printers and a portable circuit-making system while learning about transistors and more. In the media wing, students have access to a full, high-definition television studio, complete with television show set and green screen.

The media wing is also an example of how the Satellite Center gives to more than just its students. In these halls, the recent addition of a sports show set from Cox cable and a mobile equipment truck has allowed the facilitators and students to produce shows for the St. Charles Parish government, including “Parish Today.”

Destrehan senior Emily Rigby will produce a talk show for the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office as her senior project. To prepare for the show, Rigby pored over footage shot by Satellite Center team members during the Sheriff’s Office’s last “active shooter” drill.

That footage will be taken around the state by Sheriff’s Office members in order to train other departments.

“I have kids that are doing movies, working for TV stations…I’ve got three working for the Pelicans now,” said TV Broadcasting facilitator Albert Dupont.

The recent addition of a mobile equipment vehicle has allowed students to more easily cover parish and school events. The increased speed with which video equipment can be transported has also allowed students to begin covering basketball games. The recent lighting of the parish Christmas tree was also televised by the Satellite Center.

“Students are actually paid to go out and cover these events, so they’re getting the experience, but they’re also getting a little money,” Anderson said.

The center is one of only four members of the state’s New Technology Network, an initiative that includes support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and strives to integrate technology in the classroom. At the Satellite Center, every student is leased a laptop for $1 to use both in and out of school.

Unlike many trade programs, which often seek to serve only those students who might otherwise be underperforming, the Satellite Center requires students to have a 2.0 grade point average. Some programs have additional requirements, such as recommendations or concurrent enrollment in certain high school courses. During a tour of the Satellite Center last Friday, students were released for break from a project, gathering quietly in the center’s spacious entryway.

“We don’t teach just the content, we talk about work,” Anderson said. “They’re actually graded on work ethic, they’re graded on oral communication, on written communication, on problem solving, collaboration–we grade on all that as well.”

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