‘BOLD’ innovation: Grant aids Mount Angel’s hands-on school programs

January 2018 Posted in Community, School

By Mary Owen

Mt. Angel School District joined 203 Oregon middle and high schools in securing a part of $10.3 million in grant funds to expand career readiness programs.

The Career and Technical Education (CTE) Revitalization Grant funds serve Oregon communities with hands-on learning programs focused on advanced manufacturing, agricultural science, aviation, robotics, forestry, home construction/renovation, engineering, and biomedical/health sciences. In total, 32 grants will leverage additional funds and resources from 582 local business and community partners, according to the Oregon Department of Education.

Mt. Angel School District was recently awarded a two-year $283,993 CTE grant for its Building Opportunities by Local Design program. BOLD is a sustainable project aligned with the district’s strategic plan to ensure all students graduate with 12 college credits and six career/technical education credits.

The BOLD program provides an innovative CTE program that incorporates real world work experience through semester-long Cooperative Work Experiences with local community partners. Activities begin in middle school with visits to local partners to highlight key components and job skills aligned with current learning experiences in the students’ courses. The culminating high school activity is a semester-long work experience that integrates core academic courses, CTE courses, and foundational work skills with a meaningful career-related experience, according to the district’s grant application.

“This grant will provide experiences for high school students in the workplaces of community and business partners,” said Troy Stoops, district superintendent. “Students will get experiences that are relevant to their interests after high school, whether they choose college,
a trade school, or a high-skill, high-wage career.”

Mount Angel’s current CTE programs include agriculture science, business and finance, public service (fire, EMT training), health services, and educator training through the arts, all of which are offered through the high school. Middle school students are able to take advantage of the engineering design, computer basics and agriculture classes.

For the 2016-2017 academic year, 57 percent of high school students and 51 percent of middle school students were enrolled in the district’s CTE classes.

Stoops said the grant includes hiring a coordinator to develop a sustainable system to place, monitor and evaluate students in the workplace.

“There are also funds to assist with expanding Kennedy High School’s agriculture CTE program with needed equipment and infrastructure upgrades,” he added.

Stoops credits BOLD with helping to establish a K-12 system in Mount Angel schools that prepares every student for college and career readiness.

“To be successful, BOLD will develop dynamic partnerships with local businesses and the surrounding Mount Angel community to successfully sustain the program beyond the grant funding, which ends June 2019,” Stoops said.

“If our goals and objectives are achieved, all students in our district will benefit,” he added. “This is a great opportunity for a small rural high school, and the community of Mount Angel. The more relevant school is for our students, the more likely they are to graduate and be prepared for life beyond high school.”

Colt Gill, acting deputy superintendent of public instruction for ODE, said, “These grants will help more students prepare for college and career. I’m very pleased to see the ongoing expansion of hands-on, applied learning to more schools around the state. These programs are good for students, good for businesses, and good for local communities.”

Graduation rates for students in Oregon CTE programs are 15.5 percent higher than the statewide average, ODE reported. The grants build on earlier investments by the Oregon Legislature totaling $23 million, from 2011 – 2015.

The CTE Revitalization Advisory Committee – comprised of representatives from organized labor, trade organizations, education and Oregon’s energy and business community – reviewed 64 applications totaling $21 million in requests. The committee prioritized applications based on geographic diversity, community partnerships, and programs that lead to high-wage, high-demand occupations, especially for historically underserved students.

“Our state’s ability to attract and retain good jobs is fundamentally linked to the availability of a skilled workforce,” said Brad Avakian, labor commissioner for the Bureau of Labor and Industries. “Today’s grants mean that more students around the state will have access to hands-on learning programs. As our economy changes – especially with automation on the rise – the importance of skills training in middle school, high school and throughout a person’s career will only continue to grow.”

A diverse coalition of advocates will seek to refill and expand the grant fund during the 2019 Oregon legislative session as part of the larger effort to ensure that every middle school and high school has access to high-quality and engaging CTE programs.

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