Milford High School receives grant to expand work-based learning opportunities

Preparing students for life after high school is the goal of Milford High School administrators and staff. Help from a federal grant will afford them the opportunity to get one step closer to their goals.

Delaware’s Secretary of Education Susan Bunting announced the funds in November as just a small portion of federal grants totaling $458,000 which was awarded to expand high school career pathways throughout the state. The funds will benefit 51 different pathways and opportunities for students through 17 school districts.

The grant money given to Milford High School for its digital communications technology and plant sciences programs will be used to expand programming. The work-based learning grant is new this year, Supervisor of Secondary Student Learning Dr. Kate Marvel said.

“This grant is designed to assist students with becoming better prepared for the workforce, focusing on soft skills and employability skills,” she said.

Work-based learning can also include helping advance students’ education through dual enrollment courses, or college level classes taken while they are still in high school. These opportunities come with the same benefits and credits as if they were fully enrolled in college, and costs.

“We’re one of the few high schools in the state that fund dual enrollment courses,” Dr. Marvel said. “Giving students the exposure to college level courses in high school works in two ways.  Students who intend to go to college get the opportunity to gain credit and save on course costs once they enroll in college.  Also, those students who are on the fence about going to college can get their feet wet and realize they are capable of doing college level work.  Oftentimes our students get a sense of accomplishment and are then eager to pursue additional college level coursework.”

Funding in Milford will also help administrators create programs focusing on “soft skills” like resume and interviewing skills, learning about proper attire in their chosen fields, budgeting and other skills needed to become successful after high school, Dr. Marvel explained.

“My plan is to do a couple of things with that. This part of the grant was written to find a presenter for our students, specifically our seniors and special needs students about why these things are important,” she said. “We would like to, and we’re in the brainstorming phases, to do a reality day fair for freshmen or eighth graders. The purpose of this event would be to give students the experience of real-life expenditures and demands.  Students would be given a specified monthly allowance.  Each student would receive different amounts and they would be expected to go throughout the fair spending their money on life necessities.  Students will be expected to pay utility bills, gas bills, grocery bills, etc.  Then they will be able to see how much they have left over and reflect on how they can best use the money they have earned.”

Although the funding and formal work-based learning opportunities might be new this year, internships and other chances for the school to shine in the community have been around for a while. Every year, many seniors who have successfully fulfilled their student duties and classes at the high school, or are in the process of doing so, are assigned internships so they can experience a piece of life after high school. 

This year, several students have internships with the city of Milford and a partnership with Bayhealth for students enrolled in the health science pathways is budding as students in that newer pathway progress through their classes. The funding will help students succeed in those roles.

“Delaware’s Pathways programs help connect young Delawareans to skills that are demanded in today’s workforce and help put them on a path to a well-paying career,” Governor John Carney said in a press release after the grants were announced. “Investing in our workforce and quality skills training also helps strengthen our economy over the long run by making sure Delaware has skilled workers for jobs that are available. This new funding will help us continue and expand that important work.”

Dr. Marvel said the hope is that students placed in internships throughout the community can bring their experiences back to the classroom for discussions about real-life possibilities.

“It’s a statewide initiative to make sure that students get proper internships before they leave so that we can coach them through some of these experiences right down to giving two weeks notice if you’re going to college. It’s real life learning that they can come back into their class with so that they can have fruitful conversations about what’s happening in their jobs,” Dr. Marvel said. “Students only go out if they are prepared for graduation. If they are behind in their classes, we make sure the academic piece comes first. We’re really just looking for new opportunities for our students to make an impression that they can come back after college or high school and help the community.”

Dr. Marvel and other Milford High School staff members also meet with local business professionals two times a year through the Career and Technical Advisory Committee to gain insight on local workforce needs and to connect students with those local professionals. The next meeting is April 28. If you are a local business and would like to participate, contact Dr. Marvel at KMarvel@msd.k12.de.us.