Coyotes Walk New Pathways to their Future
Senior Brianna Hernandez sees a future in medicine and already has a good picture of what it looks like. That’s because she already works in the field as a student sports trainer.
“We assess a lot of injured athletes, and I think that’s pretty cool. Last year I took a medical careers class, so that really helped me, and it looks good on my college application,” she said.
After 21 years of career schools, Madera High switched to career pathways—no more Humanities, Human Services and Business, Health Sciences, and Engineering and Technology. Here now are pathways to future dream careers. But the announcement and move caught Coyotes by surprise. Counsellor assignment changed according to different grade levels, and VPs aren’t necessarily located in the same building. With a new counsellor and the renovations done to the school last summer, Coyotes started over from scratch.
Career schools were created to channel students into curricula that would prepare them for their futures, but it didn’t provide them with specific training and skills for their field of work.
Career pathways prep students more, and “provide students with certificates by the time they graduate,” counselor Isabel Gil said. Career schools, she said, “didn’t really give students opportunities to receive dual-credits or certificates.”
Kristin McKenna, coordinator of career technical education for the district, sat down with The Maderan staff to discuss the new pathways. Students have the option to enter “strong three-to-four year pathways in all of the different industry sectors,” she said. Each pathway has a minimum of three classes and offers UC and CSU-approved credits. Dual-enrollment classes also exist that offer hands-on experience and certificates in their field of study.
Gil added that by the time students leave high school, “they’ll know whether or not they want to go into that [field]. By the time they get into college, they’ll have that [knowledge] as background… It’s nice for these kids to know that they have a lot of this under their belt by the time they graduate, and it’s going to help them better prepare for college.”
Senior Jada McKesson aims for another career in the healthcare field — physical therapy.
“I go to sporting events that are in season and during these, we help hydrate [the athletes] and are there in case there are any injuries. I also help in the training room after school to help any athletes that need rehab,” McKesson said.
Not only does she know the ins-and-outs of the body, McKesson also has experience to back up her knowledge. Pathway-specific classes were designed to make sure that students received hands-on training to prep them for jobs right out of high school.
“We started [this year] with 17 new classes,” McKenna said, including new engineering and nursing courses. Eventually, transportation and children’s literature courses will be added. “Madera High is getting ready to hopefully get board approval to renovate what’s currently our IT building for the medium truck, the auto, and the transportation. Once we open the heavy medium truck program… students are going to learn how to service those and fix those,” and earn certificates as mechanics.
The new transition into pathways did not come without challenges.
“Because we just started this pathway program, a lot of the classes aren’t in that development stage,” Gil said. Teachers continue to rewrite courses based on how skills are used in the real world. And they are getting advice on the skills needed in the real world.
McKenna said that advisory meetings bring industry partners in to let them look at the curriculum’s to help improve or expand it to fit real-life job skills.
Hernandez, who was on track for a career in critical care nursing, now aspires to become a plastic surgeon. But she will continue taking the ROP sports trainer class. This works for her as this class is relevant to her new career, but for others who might have changed their mind, this could mean new classes and a new pathway.
The central focus is for students to finish their career paths. The state requires a report of students who are “pathway-completers.” This means that students need to have at least two years in one particular pathway in a sequence. Students can change their pathways up to a total of two times but not a third. At this point, students then can take a second year of one of their pathways or take the general electives such as drama, art, ceramics — the courses that are available to everybody.
With dual-enrollment classes taking up two periods, some students might be alarmed by not meeting graduation requirements for college. For “the first three years, though, [kids] are doing their core classes…Once those are out of the way and your A-G core courses are done, then pretty much your senior year you have room for maybe three electives,” Gil said.
“As we change our courses around, we want to make sure our teachers are able to teach it,” McKenna said. This makes it hard to find teachers because it requires them not only to be certified, but also to have work experience. Not only that, teacher absences rose this year due to CTE training where teachers come together and talk about curriculum’s, teaching styles, and externships. Teachers are required to spend 20 hours a year with an expert in the field in which they teach.
“We want to make sure all of our career pathways can lead to employment for students after high school in a high-skill, high-wage job.” McKenna said. That is why these pathway classes prepare students with field-experience, credits, and certificates to start them off right out of school.
McKesson will be set after graduation with college credits, a certification in CPR and first aid, and lots of background knowledge. Her plans include getting her general ed through a junior college and transferring to a state university. She wants to help athletes heal their broken joints.
“If I end up attending Fresno State, I plan on entering their kinesiology program and learning more about rehabilitation and athletic training, “ McKesson said. “The coolest thing is dealing with athletes and seeing all these injuries, such as a dislocated shoulder and knee.”