Father Judge High School for Boys
Philadelphia, Pa.
Grant: $150,000; Funded 2019-20


When the Father Judge High School board concluded their academic strategic planning process more than two years ago, they cited strong stakeholder desire for a career and technical education program to complement the traditional college prep and honors curriculum. Employers with critical shortages of skilled workers, due to retiring Baby Boomers and other factors, were turning to high school career and technical programs to find them. Administrators coupled this data with a profile of the school’s location and primary student population: a traditional, blue collar community with deep roots in the building trades, military, and first-responders. The opportunity for a new perspective on secondary education appeared to be right in front of them, but the problem bubbling to the surface was clear: how to offer comprehensive, skills-based teaching in strongly-designed CTE programs that produce well-prepared skilled tradesmen while not sacrificing the school’s traditional academic framework of mission, focus, structure, and schedule that continues to send its graduates off to Penn, other Ivies, and other four-year institutions.


Follow the research that suggests high schools can no longer focus solely on college prep, and recognize that other paths are possible for students to prepare for productive, meaningful work that returns attractive livelihoods for themselves and their families. Launch a CTE Academy alongside — not in place of — the traditional academic curriculum, align the projected CTE programs with rigorous industry and academic standards, equip graduates with a high school diploma and NOCTI Certification in their respective field, examine academic scheduling, and explore ways to accomplish all instructional requirements, including internships, electives, and dual-enrollment college credit courses, within the four years. Emphasize high-priority, high-demand occupations for program development. Introduce the CTE Academy with welding, a skill that research indicated would equip Father Judge students for desirable positions in the Philadelphia area’s manufacturing, construction, and industrial marketplaces.


Father Judge High School upended the traditional archdiocesan high school model and kick-started its CTE Academy in 2019-20 with a welding program, complete with a welding classroom and a welding lab equipped with work stations and ventilation/exhaust systems required for certified instruction. Student demand exceeded “seats” — 90 sophomores applied and interviewed for 44 spots as the first welding cohort in a curriculum offered by no other high school in the archdiocese. Another 22 spaces opened up for freshmen-turned-rising sophomores in 2020-21. Students are working on OSHA certifications, blueprint reading, and theory of welding. Employers are tapped for job placement and co-op opportunities for students emerging from the three-year program. Student commitment is strong, evidenced by their buy-in of a 12-month academic cycle instead of the traditional nine, including a four-week summer school for acceleration and associated experiences.

“Our CTE curriculum complements our college prep academics and helps us fulfill our mission of educating young men in the ‘be who you are and be that well’ spirit of our patron, St. Francis de Sales.”

Brian Patrick King, M.Ed. ’97
Father Judge High School for Boys