Appreciation luncheon highlights success of PGCPS’ experiential learning program
Business partners, high school students honored for outstanding achievement
The Prince George’s County College and Career Readiness and Innovative Programs Department held its 2016 Employer-Employee Appreciation Luncheon on April 28 at Martin’s Camelot in Upper Marlboro.
The experiential learning program enhances students’ academic background while providing them with opportunities to embark on an educational adventure in real-world business settings. It is a formally structured program through an arrangement between the Prince George’s County Public Schools system and employers from private industry, local, state and federal government agencies designed to assist students in making a smooth transition from school, postsecondary to careers, according to the Prince George’s County Public Schools website.
“Our goal is to provide opportunities for our students to be prepared for college and careers when they leave our doors,” said Lateefah Durant, academic officer for the college and career readiness and innovative programs department. “It’s a part of the efforts we have, our career research and development program, and the employers who employ our students to make sure that they get those practical, real-world experiences in the workplace. It’s just exciting to have the employers here to celebrate the students and our opportunity to celebrate the students as well as our employer partners.”
As part of its mission to provide programs and services that enhance and expand academic opportunities, the department prepares all students to graduate college and career ready to meet the demands of a global society. All programs of study — which consist of multi-year sequence of coursework, career guidance and work-based learning experiences that enables students to make more informed college and career choices — have strong collaborative relationships with business, industry and post secondary education. Equally important, some programs also afford students an opportunity to earn college credit, industry certification/licenses, or pre-apprenticeship experience prior to leaving high school, the PGCPS website noted.
“This allows students to actually prepare for their future, especially since some students don’t know what they want to do in their career,” Experiential Learning Program Instructional Supervisor Nancy Magloire said. “We show them all 13 career clusters so that they receive exposure to what positions fall under each cluster. Then they decide what industry they think they should go into. They also take career inventories to find out what their personalities are best suited to go into. … We definitely want them to have enough exposure so if they say they’re unable to go to college immediately, they have that access and they have those skills.”
Choosing a career academy means students will graduate from PGCPS college and career ready. Career academies infuse 21st century skills and handson learning into a rigorous high school plan of study. PGCPS adopted this model based on projected workforce trends and future employment opportunities within the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, according to the website.
“It does take a special employer to hire students to understand the needs of stu- dents, be able to correct students and teach them. For most of them, this is their first opportunity to be in the work world,” Durant said. “For their parents, it’s great for their students to have that type of opportunity before they go off to college, before they go off to work so that they have a chance to learn some things.”
When it comes to the students, Durant said the biggest advantage of the experiential learning program is how eye opening it is in terms of what work is really like, what wages they’re able to receive and understanding the importance of going to college in order to make more money.
“We really are preparing students for life after high school and everything that that entails,” Durant said.
For aspiring business and marketing students like Natasha Coleman-Ball who never had a job until she began her first semester in the program, she learned what it’s like to be in the real world. Not knowing what she was getting herself into at first, the Largo High School senior said she is glad to have had an opportunity to get workplace experience.
“It has given me more scholarship opportunities and more work opportunities. I’m glad that I was able to get into this program,” said Ball, who plans on attending Jarvis Christian College after graduating high school. “It taught me a lot about financial [literacy] like how to manage your money. I’m grateful because I would have to use that later on in my years in high school, in college and forever more.”
For former students like Marcus L. Matthews Jr., who graduated from the program in 2007 and is now an advisor for the U.S. Department of Defense, he shared some advice about how others can not only find their purpose in life, but get their career going as well.
“No. 1, try to find what your interests are,” Matthews said. “Do what you want to do and don’t let anybody stop you. So if you’re trying to find your purpose, I ask God and I wind up working in my purpose and then I would achieve whatever I want to achieve. Don’t let anybody misconstrue you or try to make you think one way or another.”
Matthews said being in the program was beneficial for him, having gained invaluable skills that employers look for in a candidate. What students are doing right now, in terms of academics and work study, Matthews said they should use and implement those skills now which will ultimately result in greater success for their future.
“It can help you further on in life. I was able to finish up my undergrad in grad school program in about three years,” he said. “I was done by the time I was 21, 22 and then I took some of those skills and I applied them in my daily life. Now I own and operate a business [through ACN Opportunity LLC which is the world’s largest direct seller of telecommunications, energy and essential services for home and business] that is making a lot of money and I’m also in a career path where I’m able to help sol- diers.”
This year, more than 20 work-based learning students were honored with certificates for their outstanding achievement in the college career research and development program. Laurel High School senior Marc Valme was among the recipients.
“It helped me because it taught me [what] the real world is going to be like and when situations [come about where] you have to take care of yourself and [assume] responsibility,” Valme said. “I really benefitted from it. If I [had] never joined the program, I would have failed. I feel more confident knowing that I have a job at a young age of 18. Now I think that every student should join so they can feel more comfortable in case an opportunity doesn’t work out, they’ll have a back-up plan.”
The program is offered to 11th and 12th grade students wherein they apply course content to practical work experience and develop academic, technical and workplace skills. The program provides instruction on Maryland’s career development model that includes career awareness and exploration; development of career portfolio to proficien- cies in workplace readiness, personal financial management, personal growth and development, and employment experiences. All graduating seniors must submit a senior project that will provide evidence of student achievement and showcase skills for success as well as academic and technical skills.
“The program showed me how to be a better person all around,” said Christopher Calhoun, who is also a senior at Laurel High School. “Throughout high school, it showed me lessons and nuances that I never knew before.”
Thanks to the successful partnership PGCPS has with local businesses, Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Carolyn Boston said she is pleased with the experiential learning program.
“It’s one thing for us to educate them but if they get that experience and actually work in the workplace, it helps to connect that education piece that we are preparing them for,” Boston said. “When they get out of high school or they go to college or go straight into their career, it will give them that experience and actually make them more marketable for a lot of employers.”