Magazine article Techniques

Career Exploration for At-Risk Students: A Partnership in Cincinnati, Ohio, Is Helping Young Students See the Possibility of a Successful Future through Career and Technical Education

Magazine article Techniques

Career Exploration for At-Risk Students: A Partnership in Cincinnati, Ohio, Is Helping Young Students See the Possibility of a Successful Future through Career and Technical Education

Article excerpt

Improving the odds for severely at-risk children to achieve success in school and in their adult lives constantly challenges educators and social workers alike. In Cincinnati. Ohio, a partnership between the Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development and an intensive mentoring program offers an innovative approach.

Using a series of career camps, Great Oaks and Friends of the Children reinforce and extend the ongoing work of paid, professional mentors who start working with the children in first grade and continue on through high school. The camps combine introductions to career paths with hands-on activities. The children develop basic, everyday skills and create products--a clock, a stepstool, a basket of plants--to take home.

These results support the goals of the Friends program, which aims to have severely at-risk children graduate from high school with a plan for the future, avoid involvement in the criminal justice system, and avoid teenage parenthood. Cincinnati's Friends is a project of Family Service, a private, regional social service agency.

The 13-year-old national Friends of the Children organization originated and is headquartered in Portland, Oregon. Nine chapters spread across the country serve more than 600 children.

In order for these elementary-school children to achieve the goals set by the Friends, they need to broaden their vision. They need to see and experience possible careers. Consequently, Great Oaks has designed the career camps, using Ohio's Career Development program concepts, to give them a vision of how they can succeed as adults. The concepts include not only what the child wants to do as an adult, but also what kind of person the child will become. This essential element for success involves developing decision-making and team-building skills, encouraging self-esteem, reducing bias, and acquiring the behaviors that enable a young person to become a productive member of society and a good citizen.

Experiencing Options in CTE

The camps make use of a great strength of career and technical education; that is, hands-on education. First, the children have the opportunity to experience a variety of career options. Second, they acquire practical knowledge in such matters as safety and hygiene. Third, they are exposed to the intangible, but essential, employability skills they will need to build successful careers.

The camps are held on Great Oaks' Diamond Oaks campus. Career and technical instructors and their students provide instruction. The Diamond Oaks students also present themselves as role models for the children.

The first career camps for the more than 70 children currently participating in the Friends program took place in the spring of 2004, when the children were third graders. This past fall, the same boys and girls, now 10 or 11 years old and in fifth grade, returned a second time. This spring they will take part in a third camp.

The fall 2005 career camps were typical. Half the children were brought in on one Saturday morning for half a day; the other cohort arrived the following Saturday. In three hour-long sessions, the camp covered horsemanship, construction technology and health technology.

The equine science and management instructor and students worked with the children in grooming, leading and riding horses. …

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