County cel­e­brates first class of ca­reer pro­gram

Obama ini­tia­tive sends 44 stu­dents to higher ed­u­ca­tion ca­reers

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com

High­light­ing the ac­com­plish­ments of stu­dents who par­tic­i­pated in the Prince Ge­orge’s County Youth Ca­reerCon­nect Pro­gram at Bladens­burg High and Fair­mont Heights High schools, Prince Ge­orge’s County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion Pres­i­dent and CEO Jim Cole­man and County Ex­ec­u­tive Rush­ern L. Baker (D) joined of­fi­cials from Prince Ge­orge’s County Pub- lic Schools to honor the pro­gram’s first grad­u­at­ing class on May 11 at Prince Ge­orge’s Com­mu­nity Col­lege’s Largo Stu­dent Cen­ter in Largo.

The Ca­reerCon­nect pro­gram is part of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, Engi­neer­ing and Math­e­mat­ics (STEM) ini­tia­tive which en­cour­ages Amer­ica’s school dis­tricts, in­sti­tu­tions of higher ed­u­ca­tion,

the work­force in­vest­ment sys­tem and their part­ners to in­te­grate rig­or­ous ed­u­ca­tional stan­dards with work ex­pe­ri­ences and skills in ways that en­hance in­struc­tion and de­liver real-world learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents. Through the pro­gram, stu­dents not only have ac­cess to in­di­vid­u­al­ized ca­reer and col­lege coun­sel­ing de­signed to im­prove the at­tain­ment of in­dus­try-rec­og­nized cre­den­tials and prepa­ra­tion for col­lege-level course work, but also have the abil­ity to re­ceive post­sec­ondary credit while still in high school and will have ac­cess to paid work ex­pe­ri­ences with em­ployer part­ners such as Lock­heed Martin. Over­all, the pro­gram will help pre­pare 2,500 grad­u­ates at Bladens­burg High and other schools across the county to suc­ceed aca­dem­i­cally and grad­u­ate ca­reer-ready in the high-de­mand fields of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy and health care, ac­cord­ing to a pro­gram fact sheet from the White House web­site.

“The Youth Ca­reerCon­nect Pro­gram is a grant [worth $7 mil­lion] that we re­ceived from the U.S. Depart­ment of La­bor [about two years ago] when Pres­i­dent Obama came to Bladens­burg High School and made a great an­nounce­ment that three of our [high] schools — Bladens­burg, Fair­mont Heights and Po­tomac — would be re­cip­i­ents,” said La­teefah Du­rant, an aca­demic of­fi­cer for Prince Ge­orge’s County Pub­lic Schools’ Col­lege and Ca­reer Readi­ness and In­no­va­tive Pro­grams Depart­ment. “The grant, the way we de­signed it, is ac­tu­ally sup­port­ing ca­reer academies in those three schools. So it sup­ports the [IT] academy at Fair­mont Heights, the health and bio­sciences pro­gram at Bladens­burg as well as our home­land se­cu­rity pro­gram, with an IT fo­cus, at Po­tomac.”

Du­rant said the goal is to make sure stu­dents are able to grad­u­ate col­lege and ca­reer ready — that means they can ei­ther earn cer­ti­fi­ca­tions in their field of study and go straight into the work­force right af­ter high school, or use that skill set to­ward their higher ed­u­ca­tion goals.

“We’ve also pro­vided the sup­port with our part­ners to help them with any other so­cioe­mo­tional needs they may have, test prepa­ra­tion, in­tern­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties, men­tor­ing and so forth. We just want to make sure that they have a very well-rounded ex­pe­ri­ence while in high school. That’s the work that we’ve been do­ing through Youth Ca­reerCon­nect and we’re so ex­cited to have our first grad­u­at­ing class,” she said.

The EDC, which man­ages the $7 mil­lion grant that the county re­ceived for the pro­gram, worked with busi­ness part­ners in­clud­ing Lock­heed Martin and Di­men­sions Health­care Sys­tems, the school sys­tem, Ash­lin Ur- ban In­sti­tute, Hill­side Work Scholarship Con­nec­tion, Latin Amer­i­can Youth Cen­ter, Prince Ge­orge’s Com­mu­nity Col­lege and The Mary­land Cen­ter at Bowie State Univer­sity, ac­cord­ing to an EDC press re­lease.

Cole­man said the pro­gram ex­pe­ri­ence that stu­dents have re­ceived is a game changer in their lives as health­care and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy are top in­dus­try sec­tors the county is strate­gi­cally tar­get­ing to cre­ate the work­force of the fu­ture. Hav­ing a hand up in such high-de­mand and high-wage ca­reers is the way to keep the county mov­ing for­ward, es­pe­cially when it comes to the EDC’s goal of at­tract­ing and re­tain­ing res­i­dents, he said.

“To­day is a big day for Prince Ge­orge’s County and our res­i­dents be­cause we’ve got rock­stars, 44 of them who are grad­u­at­ing,” Cole­man said. “Thank good­ness for [Pres­i­dent Obama’s sup­port] as well as county ex­ec­u­tive Baker for go­ing af­ter this kind of grant. It’s trans­for­ma­tive and help­ing our young stu­dents to get ex­po­sure to STEM train­ing while they’re in school. … They’re go­ing to go out into the world — some are go­ing to be in computer sci­ence, some are go­ing to go into the mil­i­tary and some are go­ing to study medicine. They’re just thrilled about the fu­ture and so are we.”

Baker said Pres­i­dent Obama an­nounced the pro­gram grant right af­ter his ad­min­is­tra­tion launched the county’s Trans­form­ing Neigh­bor­hoods Ini­tia­tive in 2012, an ef­fort that fo­cuses on up­lift­ing six neigh­bor­hoods fac­ing sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic, health, pub­lic safety and ed­u­ca­tional chal­lenges. For Baker, he said the tim­ing was per­fect for both ad­min­is­tra­tions to get more in­volved in ed­u­ca­tion.

“One of the things we try to do in this ad­min­is­tra­tion is re­ally tie our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem with our ex­ec­u­tive and use all of our re­sources,” Baker said. “This is one of many steps we are tak­ing to move Prince Ge­orge’s County for­ward.”

Thanks to the pro­gram and its part­ners, all 44 stu­dents in this year’s grad­u­at­ing class have been ac­cepted to some of the top col­leges in the coun­try in­clud­ing the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia, Ge­orge­town Univer­sity, Ge­orge Washington Univer­sity and Howard Univer­sity, the EDC press re­lease noted.

For Bladens­burg High School se­nior Gabriel Aborisade, a Gates Mil­len­nium Scholarship re­cip­i­ent who will re­ceive a full ride to the Univer­sity of Mary­land Col­lege Park, he said par­tic­i­pat­ing in Ca­reerCon­nect al­lowed him to have in­tern­ships — one of them be­ing at Bowie State Univer­sity — and ex­plore all types of med­i­cal and IT fields.

“I was able to get a true ex­pe­ri­ence about col­lege. I was able to get ex­pe­ri­ence about dif­fer­ent ca­reers I could go into and was able to get ad­vice,” said Aborisade, who plans to pur­sue his Ph.D. in the med­i­cal field. “The big­gest thing that I’m go­ing to get out of the pro­gram, hon­estly, is go­ing to be the skills and friends. … I was able to suc­ceed in school and I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate YCC for that.”

For 17-year-old stu­dent Tiffany Aguilar, also from Bladens­burg High, she was able to get an in­tern­ship at the Preg­nancy Aid Cen­ter in Col­lege Park where she in­ter­acted with clients and par­tic­i­pated in hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties like triag­ing and fill­ing out pa­per­work.

“This pro­gram has helped me broaden my ca­reer choices and has also pro­vided a whole bunch of op­por­tu­ni­ties for me,” she said. “It has helped me fig­ure out what ca­reer path I want to choose.”

By bring­ing to­gether key par­ties in the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors to ac­cel­er­ate eco­nomic growth in the county as well as Mary­land at-large, Cole­man said the EDC is all about cre­at­ing a work­force for ex­ist­ing and emerg­ing jobs.

“Our job at the EDC is to make sure that we have good jobs for them when they grad­u­ate from col­lege so they can come back and stay here,” Cole­man said. “Buy a home, have a fam­ily, pay taxes and help us to con­tinue to im­prove our schools and our way of life in Prince Ge­orge’s County.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

Se­niors from Bladens­burg High School smile af­ter re­ceiv­ing their cer­tifi­cates at Prince Ge­orge’s County’s first Youth Ca­reerCon­nect Pro­gram grad­u­a­tion on May 11 at Prince Ge­orge’s Com­mu­nity Col­lege’s Largo Stu­dent Cen­ter in Largo. In to­tal, 44 stu­dents from Bladens­burg and Fair­mont Heights High schools grad­u­ated from the pro­gram and have all been ac­cepted to col­lege.

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