Devonta’ James Edmonds is studying precision machining at Max Hayes High School.
At Max Hayes, students get hands-on preparation for life after high school
by Justin Glanville photos by Julia Van Wagenen
This month’s stories feature voices of students at Max S. Hayes, a career and technical high school on Cleveland’s near west side.
In addition to learning technical skills, Max Hayes students make field visits to local manufacturers with the help of an in-school office of WIRE-Net, a nonprofit with the goal of maintaining and strengthening Cleveland’s manufacturing sector. Many students participate in half-day internships.
Max Hayes is one of five newly designated Academies of Cleveland — career and technical high schools adopting new curricula to better meet the needs of today’s employers and colleges. Ensuring career and college readiness is one of the pillars of Cleveland’s Plan for Transforming Schools. The school moved into a new building in the fall of 2015. The interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
Elizabeth Rodriguez, 17, is a junior at Max Hayes. She’s studying computer-aided design, one of nine career pathways the school offers to help prepare students for college or careers. She lives in Old Brooklyn with her mother and sisters.
In middle school, whenever I didn’t have anything to do, I’d sit down and draw — stick figures, flowers, cartoons. I’d show my mom, and she was like, “That’s amazing, I can’t do that!”
When it was time for high school, she said I could go anywhere I wanted. I ended up picking Max Hayes because they teach different trades. It seemed like a chance for me to expand the drawing skills I already had, to get out of my comfort zone.
What I love about computer-aided design (CAD) is it’s where everything starts. You go from making a sketch on the computer to seeing something made. Right now, we’re designing robots for a competition we’re doing in April. We sketch them in CAD and then we make them and see whose robot can survive the longest doing battle with the others.
Along with our classes, WIRE-Net puts us in touch with different companies. We went on a class field trip to Alcoa for our robot project, and recently I went to Jergens Inc. to shadow their engineers. I watched them designing tools, then sending those designs off to the manufacturers.
Our school is all about getting us prepared for the workforce. At other schools, the rules are more lenient. We have a dress code, for example. If you don’t dress nicely, there are consequences. So it’s like getting us ready for that next step when we’re out.
I’ve been thinking about what I want to do when I graduate. I’ve been looking into colleges like Kent State and Ohio State but probably I’m most interested in Case Western Reserve. I’m kind of nervous because I’ve heard college is more work and they’re on top of you more than high school!
Education is really important to me. My mom came from Puerto Rico and she didn’t get to graduate high school. So she puts that on me. She’ll say, “Don’t be like me, education is everything. It’ll let you go far.” I remember her saying she would have gone to culinary school if she could have.
I show her my robot designs and she supports me. She tells me I can do anything I set my mind to. She says if this is what I want, go for it.
Devonta’ James Edmonds, 18, is a senior at Max Hayes. He’s studying precision machining, and lives in the Central neighborhood with his mother and sister.
I wasn’t necessarily the best kid. I was fat, and the other kids talked. When I got skinnier and taller, I started fighting and got a reputation. Everybody said, “Don’t mess with him.”
In eighth grade, I was told I had three chances to shape up. I blew two of them within a month. Strike three came a few months after that when I got in a giant fight. I could either be expelled or moved, so I went to PEP (Positive Education Program, a nonprofit dedicated to kids with special needs). That’s where I started high school.
Another girl at PEP was attending Max Hayes half days. I’d always wanted to go to Max Hayes because I like to be hands-on. I don’t care for writing on paper and sitting in a classroom all day. So I thought, “If she can get there, I can too.” I told her I was coming to Max Hayes, and she didn’t believe me because I wasn’t the best kid.
I put myself on the right track. I made myself stop fighting and misbehaving and all that. After a year and a half at PEP, I got to start coming to Max Hayes. I saw the girl from PEP in the lunch line. I tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Here I am, I told you!” She gasped and gave me a hug. She was happy for me.
Once I started working on the machines and getting my hands dirty, I fell in love with it. I like a challenge, and measuring parts down to the thousandths of an inch — that’s a challenge! I also like being good at something, knowing “I can operate this machine but you can’t.”
Machine operating is a really in-demand job. They’re looking for machinists everywhere, and the typical hourly rate is $21 an hour. It feels good knowing I have a skill coming out of here.
I’m in an internship right now at Buschman Corporation. They make rods that distribute ink onto paper, and I operate the lathes. I’m here at school until noon, then I go over there. I can walk home because they’re at 41st and Payne, really close to my house.
When you get up in the morning you’re supposed to feel like you’re having fun. That’s how I feel. When I go to work, it doesn’t feel like I’m going to work. I get off at seven and someone has to tell me to stop working.