North Point’s graphic com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­gram earns state recog­ni­tion

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The graph­ics com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­gram at North Point High School re­cently re­ceived the 2017 Ca­reer and Tech­nol­ogy Ed­u­ca­tion Out­stand­ing Sec­ondary CTE Pro­gram of Ex­cel­lence by the Mary­land State De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

“The of­fice of Ca­reer and Tech­nol­ogy Ed­u­ca­tion (CTE) chose to nom­i­nate graph­ics com­mu­ni­ca­tions and [teacher Chris] Gil­bert be­cause of the ded­i­ca­tion to CTE, in­dus­try, stu­dents and the Charles County Pub­lic Schools com­mu­nity,” Traci Chap­pe­lear, co­or­di­na­tor of Ca­reer and Tech­nol­ogy Ed­u­ca­tion, said in a news re­lease. “Mr. Gil­bert has con­sis­tently been a leader, mod­el­ing best prac­tices for his stu­dents while pre­par­ing them for post-sec­ondary op­por­tu­ni­ties that are di­rectly linked to the four-year pro­gram at North Point.”

Work done by stu­dents in Gil­bert’s class­room is seen around the county. Graph­ics stu­dents at North Point pro­duce lo­gos, de­signs and pro­mo­tional ma­te­ri­als for high school plays, as well as those for choirs and bands. While some “clients” send in a nearly com­plete prod­uct that graph­ics stu­dents just “clean up,” other projects are de­vel­oped from scratch. Graph­ics stu­dents work on pro­mo­tion ma­te­ri­als for Math­e­mat­ics, En­gi­neer­ing and Sci­ence Achieve­ment (MESA) events, schol­ar­ship ban­ners for grad­u­at­ing classes, pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment ma­te­ri­als for Charles County Pub­lic Schools and any­thing else thrown their way, in­clud­ing as­sign­ments.

And 100 per­cent of Gil­bert’s stu­dents pass cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Gil­bert stud­ied print­ing in high school and car­ried it on while in the U.S. Navy. In his civil­ian life, he con­tin­ued in the in­dus­try at Au­to­mated Graph­ics Sys­tems in White Plains and has his master’s in graphic de­sign. In­spired by his high school print­ing in­struc­tor, Gil­bert al­ways wanted to teach. When he started at North Point nine years ago, graph­ics com­mu­ni­ca­tions was then a print­ing pro­gram. Thirty stu­dents were en­rolled, and were tasked with print­ing ba­sic forms for CCPS’s cen­tral of­fice.

Evolv­ing into a graph­ics com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­gram, it now has 80 stu­dents. It went from pro­duc­ing about $3,000 in ma­te­ri­als a year, to $15,000 cur­rently.

The in­creased work­load came when Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools Kim­berly Hill took of­fice. “Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy and In­dus­try (STI) pro­grams are de­signed to pre­pare our stu­dents for the real world, and real work,” Hill said in the re­lease. “Hav­ing our graphic com­mu­ni­ca­tions stu­dents prac­tice their skills and learn by do­ing was an ob­vi­ous move. Stu­dents are not only sav­ing the school sys­tem money; they are fill­ing their port­fo­lios with qual­ity work that is seen by a coun­ty­wide au­di­ence.”

The call went out to schools around the county to start send­ing projects to North Point. “It gets a lit­tle hairy at times,” Gil­bert said. “There’s four or five projects al­ways go­ing on.” But that is how a real work sit­u­a­tion would be. The class has a pro­duc­tion board set up to keep track of progress on projects — pinned to the board is the cur­rent work­load and where each stands in the de­sign, proof­ing, print­ing or billing phase. When stu­dents hit a cre­ative wall on a project, they move on to an­other one for a while. When a dead­line looms, it’s crunch time. “You have to gauge how much to put on their plates,” Gil­bert said. “You want to en­gage the kids, but not over­whelm them.”

“The graphic com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­gram is in­te­gral in pro­duc­ing qual­ity work for the en­tire school sys­tem,” Chap­pe­lear said. “Stu­dents are project man­agers and are im­mersed in the projects from start to fin­ish.”

Fresh­men are in­tro­duced to the Adobe pro­grams like Il­lus­tra­tor, Pho­to­shop and InDe­sign. Sopho­mores learn more about the in­dus­try and ju­niors get an in­tro­duc­tion to dig­i­tal print­ing — the di­rec­tion print­ing is head­ing in world­wide. By se­nior year, stu­dents are in­terns charged with more am­bi­tious projects. Gil­bert, as a cus­tomer, asks them to de­sign and cre­ate a brand for a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion. They have to pitch him a pro­posal and then cre­ate it.

Tavis An­der­son, a se­nior, is in the midst of de­sign­ing a mag­a­zine for the fic­tional gam­ing com­pany, Frost­bite. He is the kid who is al­ways draw­ing — the mar­gins of work­sheets and tests were never safe from his doo­dles. “I just have to do it,” he said. Graphic de­sign al­lows him a cre­ative out­let while mak­ing way for a fu­ture in the in­dus­try. He’s look­ing at at­tend­ing Sa­van­nah Col­lege of Art and De­sign in Ge­or­gia or the Mary­land In­sti­tute Col­lege of Art in Bal­ti­more where he plans to study an­i­ma­tion.

El­iz­a­beth Wash, a fresh­man, is also an artist. But she wasn’t in­ter­ested in graph­ics — at first. She came to North Point eye­ing the Academy of Health Pro­fes­sion­als pro­gram, then her mother sug­gested look­ing at Gil­bert’s classes.

“I came in and lis­tened to what the pro­gram was and this is the one I had to be in,” Wash said in the re­lease. “Hon­estly, it’s helped me do amaz­ing things.”

With the skills she’s learned so far, Wash has de­signed her brother’s grad­u­a­tion party in­vi­ta­tions, and she might have some more busi­ness lined up to prac­tice as she ad­vances. “I’m so ex­cited for the fu­ture.”


North Point High School se­nior Tavis An­der­son works on a project in graph­ics com­mu­ni­ca­tions. An­der­son plans to at­tend a col­lege spe­cial­iz­ing in art and de­sign where he wants to study an­i­ma­tion.

North Point High School fresh­man El­iz­a­beth Wash, left, helps graph­ics com­mu­ni­ca­tions class­mate Gabriella Cross, a fresh­man, with a de­sign project.

North Point High School graph­ics com­mu­ni­ca­tions teacher Chris Gil­bert, left, sees how fresh­man Alex Wal­te­myer’s DVD cover is com­ing along in class.

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