Dual Enrollment Programs Beneficial Partnerships to Support Local High Schools and Students

For the ambitious and career oriented high school student ECPI is proving to be a beneficial partner in school systems across Virginia. In Richmond, partnerships are booming with ECPI and MCI creating dual enrollment programs with Hermitage Technical Center, Highland Springs Technical Center, Chesterfield Technical Center and a forthcoming partnership with Richmond Technical Center. Each of these centers attracts career-minded students interested in pursuing classes in a particular job related field. “These programs are a result of good working relationships between the college and the school system,” said Mac Beaton, Director of Career and Technical Education for Henrico County Public Schools. “For those kids who may think college isn’t for them, this is an easy transition simultaneously providing a ‘leg up’ upon graduation.” The program fulfills high school curriculum standards and students also receive college credits.

The technical centers attract students from area high schools in each district. In Hermitage and Highland Springs the partnerships provide medical terminology, medical administration systems and pharmacy technician courses. Each course the high school student completes provides three college credits. The program began in the 2009/2010 school year registering forty students with another forty enrolling in the programs for the 2010/2011 school year. “This is a great opportunity for the students,” says Stephanie White, Director of Education with MCI’s Emerywood location, “they are essentially earning college credits at no out of pocket cost.”

The Chesterfield Technical Center partnership provides instruction in criminal justice. ECPI instructor Rick Mormando is a retired School Resource Officer with Chesterfield County Police Department and teaches criminal justice to the one-hundred students enrolled in the program annually. The program launched and resulted in six students enrolled in the ECPI program after high school graduation. Luba Gasparovic is a senior at Godwin High School and through the Hermitage Technical Center has been enrolled in the criminal justice program since her junior year. After high school graduation Luba will begin her studies with ECPI in August to obtain her bachelor’s with twelve credits earned through the dual enrollment program. Comparing the high school and college class experience Luba says she prefers the college instruction as it “allows more freedom where it is up to the student to stay on task.” This change hasn’t been a problem for Luba who aspires to work in forensics upon graduation.

In the fall of 2010 ECPI in Newport News launched a program with Poquoson High School which had been unsuccessful in its search for faculty to teach two career and technical classes. ECPI was able to fill that void by providing instructors in A-plus computer hardware and programming, and electronic systems I.

“The reason behind this was so we can provide a really strong academic program for our students,” said Linda Reviea, the school district’s deputy superintendent of instruction and support services. The coursework is a combination of online and classroom instruction, with a few trips to ECPI’s Newport News facility for students to participate in hands-on labs. Students can earn seven college credits for completing each of the year-long classes.

Tenacious Thuku: How One ECPI Student Worked to Overcome the Odds

Charles Thuku wanted more for his life. He wanted to overcome the poverty of his native country of Kenya. After years of pursuit and an ambitious spirit, Charles is fulfilling his dream of higher education at ECPI in Richmond, Virginia where he is a Computer Information Systems student.

The school system in Kenya is different than in the United States. Rather than the continual assessment in the states, students go to school all year and take only one test at the end to determine if he will be able to continue his education. This is the process for the first seven years of schooling. If students make it to high school they are there for four years in which they take just one exam at the end of those years to determine their opportunity to continue in higher education. If a student does not pass that one exam there are no further opportunities. Education is no longer an option. Couple those testing challenges with a poor family and the opportunity for higher education seems impossible.

These challenges and economic hardships changed Charles’ life. After being laid off for not having the skills required to maintain employment he took an introspective look and made the decision to acquire the skills that would keep him from being in that situation. With a great deal of tenacity and the assistance of a few good people who believed in his determination, Charles was able to enroll and obtain a higher Diploma in Business Management for Kenya Institute of Management. Charles believes “it doesn’t matter where you are; it is the effort that you put in.”

In 2001 he came to the United States to visit his sister. In 2003 amongst 55,000 applicants through the U.S. Department of Migration he was selected to become a permanent resident. In the states he experienced the same woes of being laid off due to lack of skills. For Charles, the answer was again, education.

A traditional school was not an option for him due to the time commitment. ECPI was the best option for him to acquire his bachelor’s in the shortest time from an institution with a technology focus. “ECPI met my expectations for education,” says Charles. “The degree, however, is just the foundation for me to build my own future.” With a great deal of work, effort and discipline Charles maintains a 3.9 GPA. In the future he hopes to work in the international technology field in particular helping developing countries like his home, Kenya.

Charles is a Computer Information Systems student at ECPI and will graduate with a bachelor’s in October 2011. After acquiring employment in his field of study he aspires to seek a Masters in IT Project Management. He is a member of the national Honor Society and he is a certified Fiber Optic Installer and Fiber Optic Technician.

Dental Education Through Community Outreach

Vicki Brett and eighteen MCI students volunteered to attend to the oral care of the area’s homeless in January. Homeless Connect is an initiative of Norfolk, Virginia’s Office to End Homelessness, in partnership with the United Way of South Hampton Roads. Its purpose is to bring volunteer health professionals from Hampton Roads together to serve the overall health needs of Norfolk’s homeless.

In some cases this was the first time students were able to interact with patients and other oral care professionals. MCI students assisted extern dentists from the regional naval dental centers and received positive feedback regarding their work. Over the course of the seven hour event the oral hygiene center saw 144 patients.

Participants were administered preventive dentistry work, tooth filings, aesthetic work and surgical procedures. In addition to the oral hygiene center, the event offered other services to those in need including updating or renewing food stamps and photo identification. They were also given the opportunity to apply or renew social security benefits and register to vote. “Students are really happy to volunteer for these outreach efforts,” says Vicki. “They tell me how rewarding the experience is to give back and how valuable of a learning experience it is.”

Vicki Brett is the Program Director and dental assisting instructor for MCI in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Making the Move to for Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids

On a hot summer day last June, Michelle Obama welcomed chefs across the country to the White House to kick off the “Let’s Move” initiative. In the crowd of 700 sat ECPI’s Culinary Institute of Virginia instructor Chef Jonathan Highfield and eight of his students. The First Lady spoke about the important role chefs play in the nations’ effort to provide all children with healthy food in schools.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (Let’s Move) is an initiative to bring healthy meals to over 31 million children who receive meals through the school lunch program, many of whom receive all of their meals at school. It is also an effort to curb childhood obesity with one out of three American children considered overweight or obese. The bill provides funding and for the first time gives the federal government the authority to regulate food sold at local schools, including the vending machine.

Linda Irby, Assistant Director of Food and Nutrition Services with Hampton City Schools contacted Chef Highfield about helping to create a program to aid the food service operations at Cary Elementary in Hampton, Virginia with about 450 children between pre-kindergarten and fifth grade.

Chef Highfield went to the school and visited with the cafeteria staff about what they were doing. The school has a three-year partnership with Dixon Consolidated Service where the company provides either a fruit or vegetable for all children as a free snack each day. Chef Highfield occasionally goes into the classrooms to deliver the snacks and in many instances uses the opportunity to teach the children about the food, its origins or other uses. He also helps provide insight to the cafeteria staff on creative ways to prepare the food.

Chef Highfield has established health and family nights and teacher programs to teach parents, students and teachers new, creative and easy ways to prepare healthy ingredients. He helped the first and third graders plant a winter garden at the school filled with broccoli, kale and chard. He will return to plant a spring garden in a few months.

The fifth graders will take a field trip to the Culinary Institute of Virginia as teachers begin to discuss potential vocations.  Given Chef Highfield’s celebrity at the elementary school, there may be a few aspiring chefs to attend the culinary school in the future.

Chef Highfield is an Executive Pastry Chef and Chef Instructor at the Culinary Institute of Virginia located in Norfolk, Virginia.


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