Robert Clark Jr. has the best of both worlds.

The 18-year-old received a vocational certificate from the Carroll County Career and Technology Center after completing a two-year program in electronics. Healso received his diploma from Westminster High School during a ceremony Friday at Western Maryland College.

Although the Westminster resident could enter the electronics jobmarket, he is leaning toward attending Fairmont State College in Fairmont, W.Va., to pursue a bachelor's degree in electronics engineering technology.

"I'm prepared to go into the work force," Clark said. "I've been offered a couple of jobs. I could go to work, but I havebigger goals. One way to achieve those goals is to go on to higher education."

Robert is one of 203 graduates who completed two-year programs, which range from auto mechanics to cosmetology, at the county's vo-tech school. Three-quarters of the graduates have found work -- 126 in their actual trade and 27 in unrelated trades. Twelve seniors plan to join the military and 34 will go on to college.

These students have pursued one of three high school tracks that state Superintendent Joseph L. Shilling wants Maryland's secondary school students to follow.

Shilling, responding to task force report on high school graduation requirements, wants Maryland students to prepare for college, a skilled job (by following career and technology education programs), or both. His recommendations are before the state Board of Education.

Robert, the son of Robert and Jeanne Clark, has prepared himself for both.

He maintained a 3.6 grade-point average duringhigh school and took advanced courses in English, science and math. He scored "close to 1,000" on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, commonly used as a measure of student academic success and college readiness. The highest possible score is 1,600.

"I did what every student at Westminster High School does who wants to go to college, but I went off to vo-tech and learned a trade," he said.

Learning that trade garnered him a gold medal in electronics service technology at the 1991 Maryland State Vocational Industrial Clubs of America Skill Olympics earlier this year. He will compete in the National VICA Skill Olympics at Louisville, Ky., in June.

His interest in electronics beganas a youngster when he would pull apart electronic toys and then rebuild them. He said he was encouraged to pursue electronics as a career by Frank Eastham, who was his teacher at both Westminster High School and the vo-tech center.

"He saw my potential," Robert said. "Hepushed me toward the vo-tech program. He knew I liked electronics and would get a lot out of the vo-tech school."

Learning the electronics trade required Robert to leave Westminster High School every afternoon for his junior and senior years to attend courses at the vo-tech school next door.

He said the vo-tech courses reinforced some of the basic skills he learned from an electronics course at Westminster High School. The vo-tech courses, though, also taught him more about technology and science and analytical thinking.

He had nothing but praise for the electronics program.

"It gave me an awareness of myself and the potential of what I can do," Robert said. "I worked at my own pace and did not slack off."

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