Many high schools wrestle with ways to personalize learning, engage students, encourage high school completion, and prepare students for advanced education. Thanks to an innovative new approach, students in Northern Lights School Division No. 69 are able to participate in unique programs which provide natural pathways to future education and employment opportunities.
Our division was granted three years of funding through Alberta Education to develop the Pathways to Possibilities program. After much discussion, articulation agreements were signed with Portage College to offer an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR)/Health Foundation course and Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC).
The size of our high schools and the distances between the schools made it a challenge to offer the variety of quality courses required to a small number of students. Common timetables and bell times throughout all division high schools enable students from different schools to participate as one group in each strand of the pathways program. The students participate in classes through a combination of video conferencing, hands-on training, and job shadowing. Our division has had to resolve problems with insufficient bandwidth for the video conferencing. When the third year of funding was cut, creativity and hard work enabled us to maintain the programs.
These programs are providing incentives and opportunities for success for a variety of students, including those in outreach programs and from cultural minorities. One student commented that participating in the pathways program has not only accelerated her career, but it has also provided cost-savings in tuition. Another student who participated in the program discovered his chosen career definitely wasn't for him, and was able to change career pathways without incurring the costs associated with post-secondary education.
In 2009-2010, when the pathways program was launched, 59 students enrolled in an EMR/Health Foundations course and 30 students in ELCC. In 2010-2011 the EMR and Health Foundations pathways were separated. Fifty-four students enrolled in the EMR program, 57 students took Health Foundations, and 40 students the ELCC program.
Thirteen EMR/Health Foundations students completed the Portage College program after the first year and seven received credentials by writing the Alberta College of Paramedics Exam.
With these credentials, students have obtained employment opportunities locally in oilfield, ambulance, and ski hill jobs.
This year seventeen of our EMR students have registered with Portage College. The ELCC pathways program has resulted in sixteen students completing the certification program. Two students have applied to Portage College for their second year of this program and seven students enrolled in the new Education pathway.
In 2011-2012, a business pathway will also be offered and plans are underway to develop future pathways in the areas of entrepreneurship, hospitality & retail, sports performance, leadership, and health care aide. The pathways to possibilities program truly is a win-win situation where students discover and learn about things they are interested in, and our communities gain skilled employees.
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