It’s the first week of school for many Midstate students. Teachers are going into the year with a heightened focus of preparing students for the real world. The PA Department of Education is gearing Midstate high schools towards a focus on career and college readiness.
Those involved in the program tell us the goal is to help students avoid graduating from college with a Biology degree…only to find out they hate biology. Educators want students to figure out what subjects they thrive in during high school and start getting real-world experience.
Keaton Zang graduated from Cumberland Valley High School in June 2019. He loves technology so his senior year when his high school started offering IT college classes he could take at little to no cost, he knew it was the right move.
“They offer not only the info that I love to learn about,” said Zang “But the fact that they had the certifications, it trumped the priority list in my life.” Zang was among the first to take the Career and College Ready classes at CV. He graduated with 6 certificates and college credits.
“As soon as you finished you have 2 options. You can put [the classes] towards college or take those 6 credits and go straight into the workforce. While we have a student debt crisis, the second option is becoming more popular.”
Zang is choosing to continue his education. He’s headed into his freshman year at Penn State University. Right now CV offers IT and Heavy Equipment certificates. This year they’re adding medical classes. Many Midstate high schools are also adding similar courses.
“What we’ve been trying to do is connect our students to the workforce,” said College and Career Pathways Supervisor, David Gilbert. “Because gone are the days where you can walk out of high school and get a job immediately.”
“We’re changing policies, educational delivery, partnering with Cumberland County Commissioners,” said Cumberland Valley School District Superintendent, Dr. Fred Withum. “This is all in an effort to identify areas of the workforce with good-paying jobs readily available for graduates.”
Educators said parents can help their kids by talking to them and helping them pinpoint the subjects they’re interested in. “By the time they’re in 8th or 9th grade we want them to be able to say ‘I’m a science guy, not an art guy'” said Dr.Withum. He continued “Or ‘My love is foreign language and humanities, I’m not an avid math student’.”
Zang is headed to college this week. He’s going to miss his dog and playing chess with dad, but he’s happy knowing his future in technology is bright. “I want to leave an impact on the world,” Zang continued “The way I want to do that is to get into artificial intelligence. I’m going to take a 4-year Bachelors degree from Penn State University and my ultimate goal is to get a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence.”
Zang is on a mission and that’s exactly what the PA Department of Education is striving for in every student. Educators say the bottom line for parents this year is to pay attention to what subjects spark your child’s curiosity.