American RadioWorks |
A student learns welding at a vocational high school in Massachusetts. (Photo: Emily Hanford)

Ready to Work

Vocational education was once a staple of American schooling, preparing some kids for blue-collar futures while others were put on a path to college. Today the new mantra is "college for all." But not everyone wants to go to college, and more than half of jobs don't require a bachelor's degree. Many experts say it's time to bring back career and technical education. This American RadioWorks documentary explores how vocational education is being reimagined.

Recent Posts

  • 09.11.14

    A 21st-century vocational high school

    For years, vocational education was seen as a lesser form of schooling, tracking some kids into programs that ended up limiting their future opportunities. Today, in the nation's best vocational programs, things are different.
  • 09.10.14

    Career academies: A new twist on vocational ed

    Across the country, thousands of high schools are transforming into career academies. The idea is that students will be more engaged if they see how academics are connected to the world of work. And they’ll be more likely to get the postsecondary schooling they need to support themselves in today’s economy.
  • 09.09.14

    The troubled history of vocational education

    Vocational education was once used to track low-income students off to work while wealthier kids went to college. But advocates for today's career and technical education say things have changed, and graduates of vocational programs may have the advantage over graduates of traditional high schools.
  • 09.04.14

    Four-year institutions brace for population shifts

    Colleges and universities are accepting many more students of color, many more students from working class and poor families, and many more people who are sometimes referred to as "nontraditional" students.

American RadioWorks |
A student learns welding at a vocational high school in Massachusetts. (Photo: Emily Hanford)

Ready to Work

Vocational education was once a staple of American schooling, preparing some kids for blue-collar futures while others were put on a path to college. Today the new mantra is "college for all." But not everyone wants to go to college, and more than half of jobs don't require a bachelor's degree. Many experts say it's time to bring back career and technical education. This American RadioWorks documentary explores how vocational education is being reimagined.

Recent Posts

  • 09.11.14

    A 21st-century vocational high school

    For years, vocational education was seen as a lesser form of schooling, tracking some kids into programs that ended up limiting their future opportunities. Today, in the nation's best vocational programs, things are different.
  • 09.10.14

    Career academies: A new twist on vocational ed

    Across the country, thousands of high schools are transforming into career academies. The idea is that students will be more engaged if they see how academics are connected to the world of work. And they’ll be more likely to get the postsecondary schooling they need to support themselves in today’s economy.
  • 09.09.14

    The troubled history of vocational education

    Vocational education was once used to track low-income students off to work while wealthier kids went to college. But advocates for today's career and technical education say things have changed, and graduates of vocational programs may have the advantage over graduates of traditional high schools.
  • 09.04.14

    Four-year institutions brace for population shifts

    Colleges and universities are accepting many more students of color, many more students from working class and poor families, and many more people who are sometimes referred to as "nontraditional" students.


Adoption stories


Caroline Huan Weintraub as she looked in her referral photo and how she looks now.

Amy Weintraub
Charleston, WV

Birth Country: CN
Decade of adoption: 2000 or later

I attended a multi-family dinner party with my children the other night. The host had invited a family whom I had never met before. After being introduced to my 3-year-old daughter and me, the husband asked me, in front of several others, where Caroline was adopted from (Shanghai, China). He then said, "Why would you bring her out of there? She would have been a lot better off staying."

I knew that his statement was an attempt at humor and an allusion to the booming Chinese economy relative to the woeful economy here in West Virginia. But the mother lioness in me rebelled. My daughter's history is not to be material for jokes or commentary on international trade. "But she had no parents!" I exclaimed.

And, now, after having had nearly 24 hours to reflect on this quick exchange, I stand by my initial reaction: Chen Yi Huan had no parents. And nothing that was happening in her international, national, or local economy would change that fact.

Shanghai, a beautiful boomtown of modern skyscrapers and gigantic housing developments, is the financial and trade center of China. Its growing population places it as the biggest and most developed city in China and among the top five in the world. With a strong base in manufacturing and technology, Shanghai also provides critical links to both the Chinese interior and the central government for international businesses.

And in the midst of all this burgeoning economic growth, a 3-day-old infant was abandoned outside a police station on September 29, 2001. This healthy girl was taken to the Shanghai Children's Home, named Chen Yi Huan by her caregivers, and spent her next 14 months eating, sleeping, and playing. If she had stayed there, she would have eventually attended the local public elementary school, perhaps going on to secondary or vocational school, and with a great deal of perseverance, special aptitude, and luck, there was a slim chance that she would have gone to college. And, yes, there was a chance that she would have eventually reaped the benefits that come with living in a boomtown. And that certainly would have been worth something.

But as luck would have it, Chen Yi Huan was referred as an adoptive child to this family. And, in an instant, on November 25, 2002, at the tender age of 14 months, she was placed in our arms and her life was transformed. She went from being Chen Yi Huan with a questionable future, to being Caroline Huan W.: a beloved sister and the owner of a black and white tomcat. She suddenly had doting grandparents, aunts, uncles and a posse of crazy cousins. At that moment, Caroline was given her own room, a guaranteed pass to the best American college she could get into, and the freedom to choose her own destiny.

And, most importantly, Caroline suddenly had parents who pledged eternal commitment to help her through life, to protect her, to advocate for her, and to provide. The ongoing attention and affection that I, along with my husband, pour into this girl builds her character and her esteem in immeasurable ways that she never would have experienced in an institution.

Will Caroline be better off than if she'd grown up in China? Will she be a more productive, happier member of this World? I don't know. But I do know this: This mother's love knows no bounds. It is a priceless resource that I'd stack up against the booming economy of any world-class city any day of the week. And that, my friends, is no joke.



Back to Adoption Stories


American RadioWorks |
A student learns welding at a vocational high school in Massachusetts. (Photo: Emily Hanford)

Ready to Work

Vocational education was once a staple of American schooling, preparing some kids for blue-collar futures while others were put on a path to college. Today the new mantra is "college for all." But not everyone wants to go to college, and more than half of jobs don't require a bachelor's degree. Many experts say it's time to bring back career and technical education. This American RadioWorks documentary explores how vocational education is being reimagined.

Recent Posts

  • 09.11.14

    A 21st-century vocational high school

    For years, vocational education was seen as a lesser form of schooling, tracking some kids into programs that ended up limiting their future opportunities. Today, in the nation's best vocational programs, things are different.
  • 09.10.14

    Career academies: A new twist on vocational ed

    Across the country, thousands of high schools are transforming into career academies. The idea is that students will be more engaged if they see how academics are connected to the world of work. And they’ll be more likely to get the postsecondary schooling they need to support themselves in today’s economy.
  • 09.09.14

    The troubled history of vocational education

    Vocational education was once used to track low-income students off to work while wealthier kids went to college. But advocates for today's career and technical education say things have changed, and graduates of vocational programs may have the advantage over graduates of traditional high schools.
  • 09.04.14

    Four-year institutions brace for population shifts

    Colleges and universities are accepting many more students of color, many more students from working class and poor families, and many more people who are sometimes referred to as "nontraditional" students.