Pathways to success: Grants expand school career programming

Madison Small with the nursing program at Dover High School answers questions during a Delaware Pathways press conference at the school on Thursday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Prepared for success — that’s how the group of Dover High School students felt, thanks to their high school career pathway programs.

The students discussed their experience with career-based education last week as Secretary of Education Susan Bunting announced more than $458,000 in federal grants to expand high school pathway programming.

“I think it’s important to recognize that in the state of Delaware, we really do focus on two things. One, we want you to have all the opportunities that you could possibly have in school. And secondly, we want to grow our economy,” Dr. Bunting said in a meeting with students and staff at Dover High. “What we’ve learned is that they’re two sides of the same coin.”

The funding will allow school districts and charters to implement career and technical education programs. Through these programs, students gain college credit, work experience and industry certifications.

Dr. Bunting noted that more than 16,000 students are enrolled in 26 pathways across the state. The hope is that by 2020, more than 20,000 students will be in career pathways to fill in-demand jobs, she continued.

Capital School District will be utilizing its grant money for PIPEline to Career Success, which supports students with disabilities and will enable greater participation in the school’s career and technical education pathways. Other districts plan to utilize the funds for PIPEline, work-based learning or expanding and creating new pathways.

“I often think about the fact that years ago in high school, it was four years of math, it was four years of language arts, it was three years of history and three years of science and other things thrown in, but no connection at all to what it is that you might do — you didn’t even know what the choices were beyond school,” Dr. Bunting said. “Now we’re looking at education much differently.”

The students, representing an assortment of pathways — from communication technology, to nursing, to animal science — agreed that getting to develop skills for their intended field has been beneficial to their education.

Madison Small, a nursing student, said that the seniors are already getting clinical experience by working with a nursing home.

Dover High School students answer questions during Thursday’s Delaware Pathways press conference at the school. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“I think that the CNA program opens up so many different opportunities and possibilities that you can go out and do,” she said. “We’re already going to be ahead of everyone when we go to college or go to become an RN or wherever else we go.”

By having the students identify their interests and explore the opportunities in high school, it helps them find the career suited for them, Dylan Tucker, who is in the K-12 teacher pathway, added.

“A lot of people don’t have the opportunity, therefore, when they get out of school, they don’t know what they want to do,” he continued. “But if you stay committed to your pathway, then you know that’s what you want.”

Capital Superintendent Dan Shelton said that the students are the key to future success for the state.

“This is how we’re going to build the economy in Delaware,” he continued. “Education is the driving force of economic development. We all know that, but sometimes people forget that once they leave. We all know that we’re the ones building our next generation of workers, our next generation of workforce.”

The funding will support 51 grant awards, which benefits 17 school districts or charters schools statewide.

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