WSWHE BOCES is offering a new program this year designed to inspire ninth grade students to stay in school, be successful and graduate.
The Skills Training and Education Program or STEP, located at the Southern Adirondack Education Center in Hudson Falls, is a regular education program with a career exploration component.
Currently, the program is serving 23 students from the 31 school districts in the WSWHE BOCES five-county region.
Small class size, extra support and hands-on learning provide a different approach to get students back on track to graduate.
“It’s a non-traditional model that offers a half-day of academics and a half-day of a career exploratory program,” offered Principal of Special Programs, Turina Parker.
Hospitality and Human Services and Trades are the two career areas offered in the program. The Hospitality and Human Services portion of the program includes: Culinary Arts, Early Childhood Education and Health Occupations while Trades includes Construction Trades, Welding and Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning and Introduction to Machine Tool Technology.
Chef Matt Young teaches the Hospitality and Human Services career clusters.
An alumnus from WSWHE BOCES Career and Technical Education’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality program, Chef Young explained that everything he’s teaching revolves around nutrition for the health occupation portion of the program. Students will be tracking their diets and fitness in an upcoming project. For the Early Childhood Education segment, students are learning about child development from ages three to five and will be creating activities for children in that age group. The culinary part of the program will cover safety and sanitation in food preparation and teaching students how they can keep themselves healthy through nutrition.
“All activities revolve around real life,” said Chef Young.
John Coffinger, another WSWHE BOCES CTE alumnus, is teaching the Trades part of STEP.
“We’re starting out with the basics,” said Mr. Coffinger. “Safety is the number one focus in everything we do. Some of the students have never even seen the tools we’ll be using.”
A teacher for 14 years, Mr. Coffinger said, “I am the type of instructor who will push them beyond what they think they can do. I want to show them what they can do.”
To engage this group of students, STEP features a strong emphasis on technology and provides each student with a Google Chromebook laptop computer. Additionally, classrooms have SMART Boards to provide more interaction.
“Plus, we’re shaping behavior using the Boys Town model and building a community to engage students so they want to be here,” added Mrs. Parker. “We provide social skills training and work on building confidence.”
“The students are enjoying the point system through Boys Town,” said Chef Young. In the Boys Town model students earn points for using appropriate social skills.
“We’ve created a system where the earned points relate to money. Students can use their points to buy school supplies, snacks and special activities within our program. When I’m teaching about careers, I tell the students that they are no longer students, but they are my employees. We’re teaching our students how to succeed in today’s world of work.” Mrs. Fragale, Assistant Principal of the program stated that the team of teachers working with the students in the STEP program understands kids and in just the first two weeks, a sense of family and mutual respect has been established. “Our academic teachers, Mikey Dady’s and Cami Samuelson have excellent knowledge in their academic content areas, combined with a strong background of reinforcing and teaching social skills makes them a perfect fit!”
Ms. Parker said the goal is to shape the students’ behavior in ninth and tenth grade and then return them to their home school district in eleventh grade.
District Superintendent of WSWHE BOCES James Dexter said of the group of students enrolled in STEP, “We believe if we invest in them, they’ll be successful.”
Click here to read The Post-Star's article on the program.