Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Adult Education students blazing Career Pathways toward college

Yenny Salas, right, offered her audience examples of packaged foods
to become aware of specific ingredients during her team's presentation
on organic nutrition.
Sachiko Colombo, Yenny Salas and Sindy Poveda can teach you a thing or two about organic foods. They’ve done their research. So has Michelle Meade, a mother of six who can provide you all the necessary documentation on the dangers of the often abused prescription drug Oxycodone.

These students enrolled in Daytona State’s School of Adult Education are participating in a Career Pathways cohort that is preparing them to transition from secondary education to college. Last week, the students made presentations on their research topics before a full house of fellow adult high school and ESOL students, the culmination of five weeks of planning and inquiry on a topic related to allied health.

“These are alternative type students,” said Virginia Fitzpatrick, a learning specialist in the School of Adult Education who is a lead instructor in the Career Pathways program. “They are not typical by any means. With this program, we are trying to get them to understand how the transition to college works, and most of them are yearning to get to that point.”

Michelle Meade presents on the prescription drug Oxycodone.
Michelle, for example, hopes to become a paramedic or radiologist - and show her children that all things are possible if one is willing to put in the work. Yenny, from Colombia, also is interested in an allied health profession, as is fellow Colombian, Sindy, who wants to study biology in college. Sachiko, from Japan, is keeping all her options open. “I am curious about a lot of careers, but I want to master English first,” she said.

Career Pathways is funded through a one-time grant from the Florida Department of Education and US Department of Education with the intent of helping schools build systems for career exploration into their curriculum and mitigate many of the barriers students face in transitioning to college-level coursework. The program will continue to evolve and eventually become a permanent part of Daytona State’s Adult Education program.

Thus far, two Career Pathways cohorts have been developed since the program began this fall, one in cosmetology and this most recent one focusing on allied health careers, said College Transition Unit Manager Beth Hoodiman. “We are also developing a public safety cohort and another that focuses on career programs offered at the Advanced Technology College,” she said, adding that the division hopes to do at least six more cohorts this year, including several for students attending the college’s regional campuses.

Students who apply to participate in a Career Pathways cohort attend class two days a week for five weeks as a supplement to their Adult Education or ESOL studies. There, they work in groups and acquire a variety of skills and knowledge, from conflict resolution and negotiation, computer literacy and study skills to career exploration and the type of work responsibilities and ethics employers expect.  Each group is provided a syllabus, taken to the library to learn basic research skills and assigned a research project which they must present at the end of the cohort.

“We structure each cohort like a college class so students will know what to expect when they make the transition to college-level coursework, and they are having a lot of fun with it,” said Fitzpatrick. “They are learning how to see things from different perspectives, contextualizing the language and math skills they are learning in their Adult Education and ESOL programs and discovering that their career aspirations are, in fact, attainable by taking things one step at a time.”

Students who complete the Career Pathways cohort will be tracked upon transitioning to college-level programs, and while it is too early to measure the effectiveness of the first two groups, Hoodiman said the enthusiasm of the participating students is a good preliminary indicator.

“These students don’t fit the standard mold,” she said. “We try to match them with a career pathway in which they have an interest and the experience seems to significantly help build their confidence.”