ATWATER, Calif. (KFSN) -- Atwater High School has the largest ag education program in the country, with everything from floral design to diesel mechanics.
Monday, students and teachers had a chance to show why they've been successful and what state leaders can do to support districts across California.
From welding to woodwork to horticulture and more, Atwater High had a chance to show State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond how students here are improving their academic and career skills.
"It's really great exposure and getting all these higher officials who kind of control what we have as a school and what we do as students to really appreciate our program and what just students can do," said high school senior Sophia Rhodes.
Thurmond was invited to the Merced Union High School District by Assemblymember Adam Gray and was joined on this tour by State Board of Education Member Ting Sun, Senator Anna Caballero, and several local leaders.
"All this equipment that you see that you would expect adults to be driving and getting paid, no these are run by students," said Dave Gossman.
"I hope to get some ideas today as we walk around and talk to the local experts, and I'm really proud of Merced, the Central Valley, agriculture, and the Merced Union High School District, for all the great things we're doing," Gray said.
The district has been at the forefront of the statewide shift toward career technical education and currently offers more than 30 different CTE pathways.
Starting with the class of 2020, all MUHSD students are required to complete at least two CTE courses.
"It's important for our college-bound students so they understand and get a little exposure to industry before they go to college so they might have a better idea of why they're going to college," said Superintendent Alan Peterson. "And then students who are going into the work world, we want them to leave us with those skills."
Thurmond spoke about the recent increases in state funding for public education and CTE but says more can be done to ensure students are ready for bright futures in high demand fields.
"This is a great opportunity. Every student in our state should have this opportunity, and I'm committed to doing everything I can to make sure that happens," he said.
State, local leaders tour Merced Unified's CTE programs