Schools and colleges prepare St. John the Baptist Parish students for high-tech and in-demand careers
In the new global marketplace, a region’s economy is only as strong as its workforce. The talent pool within St. John the Baptist Parish runs deep, thanks to the career preparation and skills training offered in the region’s schools and colleges.
St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools (SJBP Public Schools) begins preparing students for college and careers as early as middle school. Middle school students can earn high school credits in subjects such as engineering, math, web design and more, allowing them to free up time in high school to take college courses for credit and ultimately allowing them to save money on tuition.
“We are creating a culture where students know they are expected to go on and do great things. College visits start in middle school,â€ says Jennifer Boquet, communications specialist, St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools. “We participate in Louisiana College Application Month, where every one of our seniors submits an application to a university, technical school, the military or to begin their careers. We also host Academic Signing Days, where students announce their college plans in front of their peers and sign their scholarship offers.”
At the high school level, SJBP Public Schools offers a variety of advanced placement and dual enrollment courses, which allow students to simultaneously earn high school and college credit.
“We also offer career pathways in fields such as health sciences, digital media, welding, business and hospitality, tourism and culinary arts. High school students can earn more than 20 professional certifications and can leave high school as a certified nursing aide, emergency medical responder, pharmacy tech, drafter apprentice and more,â€ Boquet says.
A new PTECH building on the campus of East St. John High in Reserve gives students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience and earn college credit, and Boquet says the certifications allow graduates to immediately enter the workforce.
“Our local industries are our partners. They adopt our schools and often volunteer inside them, exposing our students to local workforce opportunities,â€ she says
The district offers families two magnet school options – John L. Ory Communication Arts Magnet School, which focuses on education through the communication skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking, and Garyville-Mt. Airy Math and Science (GMMS) Magnet School, which features a STEM-based curriculum. Students at GMMS, for example, must participate in hands-on labs and take advanced math courses, and science is integrated into every subject at this school.
“We understand that strong public schools play a vital role in the community and we take our responsibility very seriously. We have made it our goal to become a top 10 school district and every day we are climbing closer to that goal,â€ Boquet says. “By 2018, our students will be learning in two brand-new schools. We are also the lead agency for the St. John Early Childhood Community Network, overseeing curriculum, teacher observations and providing other resources not only for our own prekindergarten classrooms but for childcare centers throughout the parish. This ensures that children in our parish are receiving a quality early childhood education and learning the skills they need to enter kindergarten.”
The school system partners with South Central Louisiana Technical College for its dual enrollment program. The college’s Reserve campus offers an impressive menu of programs, including practical nursing, welding and business office administration. Two of the college’s largest programs are the process operator and industrial instrumentation programs, which have grown to reflect the demand from local businesses.
“Our [industry] advisory council works with the department heads and some of the lead faculty members to tell us what it is they need specifically, so that we can better train their future employees,â€ says Penelope Shumaker, campus administrator for South Central Louisiana Technical College. “Our curriculum is based on what actual industry needs are.”
Shumaker says the campus’ relationship with the business community is symbiotic.
“We have a wonderful support system built around our campus. Our industry partners give us scholarships; they give us internships; we have some apprenticeships. They donate equipment, and often they will loan us employees to teach certain classes,â€ she says. “Our students know what they’re doing by the time they leave here; it’s not just book and theory.”