Magazine article Techniques

Reengaging Youth by Rebuilding Communities

Magazine article Techniques

Reengaging Youth by Rebuilding Communities

Article excerpt

OFFERING CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION (CTE) PROGRAMS IN HIGH SCHOOLS TO REENGAGE students who have left is not a new idea, yet traditional school structures do not often provide the content, flexibility and supports required for these students. Those who drop out of high school tend not to go back; consequently, they lose out not only on their high school education, but also on postsecondary training opportunities. These individuals tend to earn less over their lifetime than their peers who do complete high school (Bloom, 2010).

A variety of approaches designed to pull these students back into the educational system are underway. Successful programs for young adults ages 16-24, who do return to complete high school after dropping out, have these elements:

* career academies with occupational credentials

* dual enrollment

* paid work experience/internships

* mental health and case management support services

* flexible, self-paced programs

* adult relationships and connections (Bloom, 2010; Cooper, Ponder, Merritt & Matthews, 2005; Fleischman & Heppen, 2009; Martin & Halperin, 2006; Treskon, 2016; & Zammitt & Anderson-Ketchmark, 2011)

In a survey of programs designed to reengage students who had left high school in southeastern Wisconsin, we found that a majority of programs provided flexible programming and some support services, but they did not provide students with dual enrollment opportunities, paid employment opportunities, or career and occupational credentials (Litzau & Rice, in press).

In the 2015-2016 school year, a new school opened in Racine, Wisconsin, that is designed to help students who have left or been pushed out of traditional schools. Certification and Emergency Response Training (CERT) School incorporates the elements noted earlier. CERT is affiliated with the Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps, which has roots in the depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps. That program provided work for young men, teaching skills while conserving and developing natural resources. Modern-day Corps programs continue that tradition, with the goal of training young adults (known as Corps members), ages 18-24, for the workforce while participating in community service and public infrastructure development projects. At CERT schools, all students are Corps members.

The Structure of CERT School

CERT School prepares students to serve the community in an emergency or natural disaster, providing an introduction to a number of potential education and career pathways. Students acquire skills and credentials required by employers and earn a high school diploma at the same time. The curriculum features courses and hands-on learning practices that are often restricted for minors, so it is ideal for students 18 or older, though younger students can enroll. The training is paid for by funding from workforce-development programs and other grants. CERT students complete a sequential curriculum of occupational courses embedded with the rigor of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) required for high school graduation by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI).

The school is organized into trimesters and provides students with portable industry credentials in areas related to disaster response, recovery and rebuilding (each trimester is focused on one of these topics), and environmental sustainability. Students take short courses, attending classes in the morning and participating in project-based learning in the afternoon.

All students enter as seniors. In order to receive a high school diploma, they must earn 10 credits in a combination of class time and demonstrated proficiency in certain areas. CERT School students are also affiliated with AmeriCorps, and they earn college credit for their national service and training in disaster response. For some courses, CERT offers dual enrollment into local technical colleges for math and Language Arts courses, allowing students to complete postsecondary requirements while attending CERT School. …

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