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TriDistrict Career and College Readiness Adds Another Career Pathway Collaboration

The TriDistrict Career and College Readiness (CCR) program is a partnership between South St. Paul Public Schools, Inver Grove Heights Community Schools, Mendota Heights-West St. Paul-Eagan Schools, and local businesses. The program gives students the opportunity to explore different career paths and earn college credits, degrees, and job-ready experiences or certifications while in high school. Through its TriDistrict CAPS programs, the TriDistrict CCR Initiative offers pathways in healthcare and medicine, transportation technologies, and business and entrepreneurship. This year the program began partnering with Metropolitan State University to offer a pathway in the field of Urban Education for South St. Paul students. 

Why Urban Education?

Urban Education at Metro State focuses on the unique needs school systems in urban settings have. Future teachers in the program learn how to use the diversity of urban schools to set students up for success in school and in life. The framework around Urban Education is more about how we can use our education system to create equity in our society. “We’re training our future school leaders,” says SSPPS teacher and Program Lead, Tim Kennealy, “We set them up to be successful in this program, send them into the world to learn and grow as educators, and then hopefully bring them back to our schools someday.”

The program is based on two areas of work: dialogue and experience. The dialogue portion is based on open honest discussions about real topics in our schools today. The atmosphere is set up for students to feel comfortable having difficult conversations with differing opinions and no simple answer. Kennealy says, “The idea is that these students can see that everyone has room to grow. We know our staff will continue to grow and change and this is the avenue that could be seeding that change.”

The experience portion gives students a look at how their dialogue plays out in real life. In collaboration with administrators in Special School District #6, students are placed in schools around the district to observe classes from a teacher’s perspective. “It gives them the opportunity to try out a different lens,” says Kennealy, “They’re no longer looking at the class as a student, they’re now seeing it from the eyes of a teacher.” Kennealy goes on to say this experience can help them notice things they normally wouldn’t have. They can then take those observations back to the class and share what they learned.

Once the year long course is over, students will have earned six college credits. They will also have completed the first two required classes towards a State of Minnesota Teacher Certification. The first is Education 200: Introduction to Urban Education and Reflective Teaching which explores education and what questions people are asking about education. The second is Education 203: Multicultural Education, which is on the needs of students and how teachers can play a role to help them fill those needs. Kennealy says, “Alongside the college credits they are also gaining an introduction to college life and what a career in education looks like.” The goal in a non-pandemic year is to also have students on campus at Metro State a couple times over the year for dialogues with professors and admissions. The program received a two year grant and is enrolling now for the 2021-22 school year. 

More About the Tridistrict Career and College Readiness Initiative

The Tridistrict CCR Initiative helps prepare students for a future in whichever career path they choose. On top of learning more about the career they are interested in, they also learn more about the soft skills employers expect. CCR Lead Designer Ben Kusch says, “These students are learning personal skills that set them up for success. They practice showing up on time, being prepared, and being a good coworker and employee.” One thing Kusch says they have emphasized is the importance of creating a good first impression, “They’re learning how to network. How to make those lasting impressions to keep doors open in the future.”

The current pandemic has created some barriers for the program. “Our healthcare and medicine pathway has been hit hard, but we’ve found ways around it,” says Kusch. Since the pandemic hit and healthcare has been under strict guidelines, the program has begun splitting the students into two groups with only half the students at the internship at a time. Kusch says, “It was a bit of a process to get the program running, but now we are collaborating with businesses around the area and students have plenty of opportunities to gain experience in their desired field.”

Students earn high school English Language Arts credits along with other certifications in their field of study. The program is now enrolling for the Fall 2021 semester. If your student is interested in applying, more information can be found on the Tridistrict Career and College Readiness website.