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Second annual expo creates college, career pathways for U46 students

School District U46 will hold its second annual curriculum and career expo to highlight college and career pathways for students from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 1 at Elgin Community College.

The Explore 2016 Expo is presented thanks to a partnership between the district’s Citizens’ Advisory Council and Alignment Collaborative Education to showcase class offerings that create pathways to college and career readiness, as well as local employers and jobs in the region that require skills taught in U46 schools.

Kinasha Brown, coordinator for career and technical education, said the way the expo serves the needs of the community is commendable in breaking the barrier to vocational education as a students’ choice.

“What’s different and what we’re doing is combining, …” she said of expo’s dual ability to showcase college and career pathways. “We’re finding it quite different through some of the courses people can earn through college. It’s a marriage of both.”

Upon graduation in 2015, officials saw 1,639, or 65 percent, of the district’s students immediately attending college or university, school records show. The first year after high school that number rose to 70 percent.

Upon graduation in 2015, a total of 879, or 35 percent, of the district’s students were not immediately enrolled in college, district data shows. That number drops to 30 percent the first year after high school.

“We’re always looking for avenues for improvement,” Brown said. “We do have a need for input from the community advisory group.”

Terri Lozier, assistant superintendent for secondary schools instruction and equity, said it’s important to note that learning is a choice that doesn’t end once a student has graduated from high school.

“What we’re trying to promote is you can enter college at any point,” she said. “You can enter a career at any point.”

Brown said whenever students take courses at the high school level, the district sees it as an opportunity to create pathways and test the interest of community youth.

“What career pathway is, is it gives relevance to what’s taught,” she said. “People take classes in isolation. In the career and tech world, you’re taking math and science and showing how it works. It’s that real world connection between math and science to the application.”

The way in which the district demonstrates its ability to prepare students for college and careers is through the accreditation process. At Bartlett and South Elgin high schools, officials will take steps to renew the institution’s accreditation next year.

April Wells, coordinator of gifted education, advanced placement and world languages, said she’s noted an increased interest in AP courses over the years and that success can be attributed to district’s effort to engage students.

“It allows students to dive deeper into content,” she said. “They’re diving into ideas that interest them… The essential piece is being able to dialogue across different environments.”

Wells said across the district, the importance of AP coursework is stressed to students and they are encouraged to take advantage of those opportunities.

In addition to that, Wells explained that the college board strives to maintain equity across all lines of diversity, and that’s exemplified in the way “the district has moved forward to embrace and honor that policy here in the district.”

Brown said in essence, the expo allows the district to accomplish a number of feats all at once.

“When we have platforms such as the expo, we give people the chance to generate interest in those area,” she said.

This free event will allow U46 staff and students as well as organizations and local industry experts to engage in discussion and hands-on activities.

During the expo, a free shuttle service will be available every 30 minutes from all eight U46 middle schools to and from Elgin Community College.


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