While Madison's public schools were mostly unoccupied on Friday morning during summer break, Madison High School and its staff members did host about 20 motorcyclists wearing Harley-Davidson T-shirts and other H-D apparel.
The motorcycle riders were wearing nontraditional garb for the high school -- but similar to students coming to classes, the men and women were there to learn.
Most of the cyclists were among a group from the Fremont, Neb., area who had an interest in learning about Madison High School's career and technical education courses, a part of the school's curriculum that was created and expanded during the last decade. The Nebraskans toured classrooms, laboratories and shops that offer learning in skill areas of auto mechanics, welding, metal work, bio- and med-sciences, culinary arts, computers and aviation.
Adam Shaw, MHS principal, showed the visitors the different learning areas for courses such as chemistry, chorus, visual arts and alternative education classes.
When asked about their interest in the CTE courses, several of the visiting Nebraskans said Fremont residents were preparing a school bond issue and considering its passage for a project to expand career-education offerings in their community.
Marta Hultren, an elementary special education teacher from Fremont, said officials at their public high school were considering building a career-path program similar to Madison's.
Shaw explained how the high school's current program was created in stages. When MHS underwent a remodeling program during the past decade, the home economics program added culinary arts classes called ProStart that teach teens the commercial side of cooking in settings such as restaurants and resorts. Shaw said the ProStart students learn outside the school by working in the local bakery and restaurants.
"I think that (the students) are getting those true restaurant experiences by working in those partnerships," Shaw said.
According to Shaw, MHS had formed other partnerships with area businesses to develop other career courses -- Prostrollo Auto Mall and F&M Co-op for auto mechanics, Manitou-Gehl for welding and metal fabrication, the Madison hospital and ambulance service for bio-med sciences, and Riggin Flight Service for aviation studies.
Shaw said the MHS courses featured visits to businesses and organizations related to the skill sets that the teenagers were learning, such as studying under registered nurses and EMTs at Madison Regional Health System. Shaw spoke about the philosophy that the teens' studies were "...not to be contained by the (school) building."
Tara Lea, executive director for the Fremont Chamber of Commerce, accompanied about 20 of the Nebraska motorcyclists on their tour of MHS. Lea said the group from Nebraska totaled 52 men and women. The other motorcycle riders in the group went on a tour -- held at the same time -- of the Madison Cyber Labs (also known as MadLabs) at Dakota State University.
According to Lea, the Fremont Chamber organizes a motorcycle trip annually under the program's bare-bones title, "Chamber Motorcycle Ride." Some of the motorcyclists said most of the riders had an association with Fremont's motorcycle dealership, Dillon Brothers Harley-Davidson.
The CTE programs at MHS had their origins before the renovations at the high school with its agricultural education classes, continued with the addition of programs such a ProStart, and saw expansion to courses such as bio-sciences and aviation. Shaw said the CTE curriculum was improved during a $14.5 million renovation program for the high school and the addition of a $377,000 grant from state government to improve technical-education courses.