Petaluma High School's engineering, design and apprenticeship trade skills program received a state award on Dec. 4.

The program received a Golden Bell Award from the California School Board Association for its outstanding performance in the partnerships and collaborative category, one of 19 categories in the competition.

Dan Sunia, the program founder as well as the PHS engineering and manufacturing teacher, has been working with site staff for more than eight years to develop and expand the program. It has helped around 525 students by developing lessons in applied academic skills, machine manufacturing, AutoCAD skills, National Institute of Metalworking Skills certification and workplace skills.

"Manufacturing is about applied academics, and working with my academic colleagues to reinforce critical life skills with our students has been very rewarding to the teachers, the community and most importantly, our future workforce," said Sunia, who worked as a machinist at Mare Island Naval Shipyard for 31 years.

The trade program is perhaps most widely known for the Downtown Project in Petaluma, in which students designed and manufactured plaza benches, bike bollards, trash receptacles and benches for local community members. Students have participated in job shadowing and internships in engineering firms such as PAX in Novato, where they designed legs for an impeller that circulates water in tanks to ensure clean and sustainable delivery.

"The engineering and design apprenticeship trade skills program is one of five career-oriented clusters at PHS that offers student advanced preparation for college and careers beyond high school," said Brian Howard, the school's principal.

The trade programs has developed partnerships with many groups, organizations and businesses in the Petaluma community.

—Argus-Courier Staff