It was a full house this morning for the Chamber Education Committee's annual Focus on Education breakfast. Education and business leaders from around the community gathered to learn how Winter Haven's school system is preparing our students for employment. Gina Williams, Principal at Winter Haven High School, chaired the Education Committee this year and emceed the event. Gina also introduced the video below entitled "Dream", created by Blue Devils TV at Winter Haven High School highlighting the importance of showing students career pathways.
Thank you to our breakfast sponsors: Polk State College, State Farm, Seminole Pride Noble Juice and Richard's Fine Coffees.
Pathways to Success
First on the agenda was John Small, Assistant Superintendent of Polk County Public Schools. John highlighted several efforts in Winter Haven and in the county that are on going to create pathways for students towards success and employment.
One such topic was introduced at the Education Breakfast last year. That is the Wall-to-Wall academies in Winter Haven. This effort is to ensure that every student has an opportunity to be in a program that shows them a pathway to success. Whether that be through specific industry experience, such as the culinary academy or cyber security academy at Winter Haven High School or through the actual national certifications such as what is gained at the IMAG Academy at Lake Region, students should be shown that there are so many skills out there that they can achieve which lead to employment. Polk County currently has 110 career academies.
He reflected on a time years ago when he was interviewing 5th grade students for an award and when asked what they wanted to be when they grew up it was a veterinarian, an orthodontist or a policeman/firefighter. Why? Because that's all they've ever been exposed to. Show them that they can be a pilot, or an engineer, or a graphic designer, and they see a whole new world open to them.
John also spoke of an effort to begin to extend academies or tracks into the middle school that would align with the programs already in place in the high schools.
He also addressed the need to serve those students that may have lost their way but want to get back on track. Speaking highly of the success at New Beginnings High School, John stated that they are working with administrator Ashlee Wright to extend the services of New Beginnings High School to across the county.
He mentioned a relationship they are developing with the Polk County Sheriff's Office to work with the youth that are in detention centers to ensure they they are shown a different pathway so that they too have a chance to make a better life for themselves with education and certifications. As he said, "Making a mistake as a child doesn't have to be a life sentence." He did cite stats that as of today placement in alternative education is down 49% and expulsions are also down 78%.
Finally he spoke about the job training and certifications that they are working with their ESE students at Ridge and Travis. We hosted a group of ESE students from Ridge last week at the Chamber who were learning about how to start and business. Some even already have businesses started. Opening these pathways
And while hearing from school officials is always important to learn strategy, there is nothing quite like hearing the impact of showing career pathways than from the students.
Tresa Warner from iMAGINATION, INC. (or iMAG) Academy at Lake Region brought 4 students to speak to the group today about running the business that is iMAG. Students at iMAG not only learn about technology, marketing and graphic design but is also a business. Students run one of 4 shops from screen printing, to vinyl signage to engraving to a print shop. There is also a graphic design team designs logos and artwork. The iMAG Academy serves internal clients at the school as well as area businesses. They actually generate on average $30K in revenue a year. And if listening to the caliber of the students who spoke today, they are definitely doing things right. Incredibly impressive. The iMAG Academy graduates more students with certifications than any other academy in the county.
Student William Barnhill also spoke to the benefits he is gaining from the Engineering Academy at Lake Region including a high-tech lab which incorporates the latest examples of technology-based equipment, computers and software. Students are immersed in fields that utilize Computer-Aided Design, 3D Modeling and robotics.
Gina Williams also presented the video below to highlight the academies at Winter Haven High School.
The Cambridge Program, WHHS
Last year that the Education Breakfast, Nikki Jordan presented a brand new program at Winter Haven High School called the Cambridge Program. Cambridge programs and qualifications are recognized and valued by universities and employers around the world. Cambridge helps schools deliver the best education possible by providing comprehensive support, including teacher training, classroom resources and membership of a global learning community. Cambridge programs and qualifications are taught in more than 10,000 schools in over 160 countries.
The quality of student in the Cambridge program was exemplified by the two students who spoke today, Madison and Philency. The passion they have for the rigorous challenge of the curriculum was apparent. Honestly, I felt like they were so thankful for the opportunity to be challenged to this level. It is such an important addition to Winter Haven High School to retain these students versus them applying to other IB programs around the county. They have over 100 students in the program now and have over 150 applications from eighth graders applying into the program.
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