Afrika Nash said her son, 18-year-old Rahsaan, wasn’t necessarily handy. But upon completing a new Career Exploration Program in the building trades at JEVS’ Orleans Technical College, he’s now pretty confident fixing household problems for his Mom.
“He’s not really suited for a desk job, he’s more hands-on,” said Nash. “This was a great opportunity for my son. He earned Student of the Month. He seemed to like the carpentry skills the best.”
Rahsaan and classmates from Simon Gratz Mastery Charter High School in North Philadelphia recently completed a 16-week program learning a wide range of basic skills in carpentry, electrical, plumbing, building maintenance, air conditioning and heating. Twice a week they traveled afterschool 45 minutes on a bus each way to and from Orleans Tech. But the long trip was worth it, according to 17-year-old Michael, because” instead of going to the street, we came here to learn a trade.”
“Not only did the students walk away with meaningful skills and experience, they walked away with more confidence and self-assurance that they too have a place in the post-secondary world with a bright career path ahead!” said Maureen Quiles-Rosa, College Advisor at the high school. “This opportunity was the perfect match–so impactful–for our students.” Quiles-Rosa said that despite busy schedules, football games and family matters, the students were really dedicated to this program. “I noticed on the days they were scheduled to come to Orleans, attendance at our school was up!”
The students hold a special place in their hearts for the Orleans instructor they affectionately call Miss Linda (Dunphy). “She pushed us in the right direction,” said 18-year-old Rafael. “She was like a Mom who keeps on you, in a good way, because she wants to see you succeed.” Dunphy said she felt that the Career Exploration classes “gave students a tease into the trades. They wanted to learn more. They became good problem solvers,” she said.
“Learning by doing” is the cornerstone of Orleans Tech’s training approach, and the Simon Gratz seniors truly experienced that firsthand. Their other instructor, Lee Friedman, not only taught them how to frame, hang sheetrock, spackle, and paint–which they thoroughly enjoyed–but to apply math to the real world of trades. They showed Friedman they were up for the challenge of using their newfound skills on a house that was built to scale inside the classroom by the adult students in the carpentry diploma program.
At the completion ceremony on February 18, 2016, 17-year-old Andrew gave an inspiring speech, and advice, to his fellow program participants, parents, and juniors eager to try the program next year. “Be confident because completing this program has given us the confidence to believe that WE CAN achieve our ultimate goal of graduating [from high school] at the end of the year. Now we have the skills and determination to help us move forward and become successful in the future. Stay motivated to keep moving forward because with all the crime and drugs that we come from, it’s easy to get submerged by the temptations of the streets. So if you ever feel you can’t make it, remind yourself that you have already proved that you have what it takes to not become a stereotype and you don’t ever have to be one.”
For more information about working with Orleans to create a Career Exploration Program for your high school, call 215-728-4177.