This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe Kensington High School’s stand at Philadelphia’s annual Career and Technical Education Holiday County Fair.
The engineering students sold pins, placards, and plastic foxes shaped to serve as cellphone holders. Next door, Kensington’s computer students displayed homemade ethernet cables that they constructed by taking apart wire purchased wholesale and rearranging its strands.
Brietny Vega, a senior in the engineering concentration, specialized in some of the school’s more humorous items. One of the placards read, “If you’re looking for a sign, this is it.” She also took a wooden block, painted it red, and emblazoned it with the phrase “your mom.” Why? Because Vega just likes the expression.
The only thing limiting what you’ll find at the CTE County Fair — held Friday at School District headquarters — is the outer bounds of the teenage brain. In other words, there was a lot of funky stuff to be had.
Philadelphia has 120 CTE programs spread across 30 schools. There are culinary arts programs, engineering programs, sports marketing programs, business administration programs, and, well, a lot more programs.
Part of the appeal is that students get to make stuff, do stuff, and otherwise apply their learning. Each year, that includes creating holiday gifts and trinkets for this citywide expo, the proceeds of which go right back into each school’s CTE programs.
Students at the Workshop School in West Philadelphia made their name in past years selling “Jawnaments,” Christmas ornaments carved in the shape of the word “jawn,” that ubiquitous and inscrutable Philly slang. They’ve since added “jawn” menorahs — or “jawn-orahs,” naturally — to their growing craft empire.