Some people watch things happen, others let things happen, but Mainland Regional High School faculty members Bernadette Daley, Jim O’Kane, Niall Bridgeman, Erin Pendergast, Terry Calvi and Deana Eckstrom are making things happen as part of the District’s Career Readiness Initiative to prepare students for post-secondary success through Structured Learning Experiences (SLE) and courses that result in industry recognized/valued credentials. These faculty members are at the forefront of our efforts to ensure multiple post-secondary options for ALL our students.

In 2017, the Mainland Regional High School District, in collaboration with members of its Board of Education, administration, staff, community and other stakeholder groups, developed and approved a Five-Year Strategic Plan. Among the ten goals delineated in the Strategic Plan, there was a clear focus on creating more ways to prepare students for life after high school, especially for those students who may not be heading off to college. This focus on post-secondary Career Readiness is evident in several of the goals of the District’s Strategic Plan. In response to this charge, Mainland Regional began exploring the possibility of providing students with opportunities to obtain industry recognized/valued credentials before leaving high school and ways for students to have more real-world experiences beyond the campus of Mainland Regional High School through a Structured Learning Experience (SLE) program.

In the Spring of 2018, Mainland Regional High School became an official Certiport Testing Center, allowing us to pilot a certification in AutoDesk’s AutoCAD program through the efforts of Erin Pendergast. Fifteen students were successful in achieving this certification during the pilot. After this success, we developed a small Engineering Academy for school year 2018-2019 which provides our students with three certification options in the AutoDesk family of products, including AutoCAD, Revit, and Inventor. As part of this program, an additional eighteen students have successfully achieved certification already this school year. We are now in the process of scheduling testing for our students to become certified in QuickBooks, through our Honors Accounting course and instructor Niall Bridgeman, and for Adobe Photoshop, through our Entertainment Technology course and instructor Bernadette Daley.

To further expand the experiences we are providing for all our students, regardless of their post-graduation plans, Mrs. Daley and Mr. O’Kane are supervising our new SLE program. Through this program, students receive credit for their work in job placements and internships in the community. We currently have fifteen students in the program placed in structured occupational learning experiences, such as the Absecon Veterinary Hospital, the Atlantic County Government, Clay’s Climate Control, Rothman Orthopedic, and AE Stone, as well as many others. SLE course enrollment projections for the 2019-2020 school year indicate thirty students plan to participate in this program. Thanks to the generosity of our community partners, our students can now have real-world occupational experiences that will not only develop important skills, but also provide insight into their post-graduation plans.

Mainland Regional’s Structured Work-Based and 18-21 Year-Old Programs develop workplace readiness skills and transitional plans for special education students for life after high school. For the last ten years, Deana Eckstrom has spearheaded our efforts in these areas through pursuing and being awarded grant funds from the Atlantic County Workforce Development Board, as well as partnering with Jewish Family Services and the Arc of New Jersey. This has allowed us to hold events at the High School for parents of special education students regarding “Planning for Adult Life.” In addition, many of these students run our newly renovated school store under the supervision of the Support Staff Member of the Year, Terry Calvi.

Going forward, Mainland Regional High School plans to continue to expand these kinds of offerings within our Program of Studies, with the addition of a course for certification as a Microsoft Office Specialist or CompTIA A+ certified computer technicians, as well as more partnerships with businesses in our community. As Mainland continues to evolve, we will remain steadfast in our focus on the specific needs of ALL our students and further developing partnerships with our community and local businesses, because we remain, One Family, One School and One Community. We are Mainland.

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