Students at Anaheim’s Loara High School bank on unique job training opportunity (video)


Here’s a story that’s earning interest.

Union Bank has opened an actual working branch on the campus of Loara High School in Anaheim. By all accounts, this represents a highly unique partnership that’s dispensing both lessons on financial literacy as well as bankable job training for Loara students.

We could probably deposit a few more bank puns into this post, but we think you should just check out the video, courtesy of our top-notch Media Services team.


Is there something cool happening at your school that you’d like to see featured on the OCDE Newsroom? Drop us an email at communications@ocde.us.

OCDE’s College and Career Preparatory Academy offers a path to graduation and much more

Kirstie Suarez’s family moved several times when she was in high school, bouncing between California, North Carolina and Florida before Suarez took her final classes at Saddleback High School in Santa Ana.

Somewhere along the way, she fell two classes short of graduating.

CCPA-logo.jpgFive years later, Suarez has made up that ground, and rather quickly, thanks to the College and Career Preparatory Academy, a brand new charter school approved by the Orange County Board of Education to assist young adults in need of a diploma or a path to higher learning.

“I work fulltime, so I don’t have a lot of time to be taking extra classes,” said Suarez, 23. “I walked in that first day and they immediately gave me assignments.”

Administered by the Orange County Department of Education, the College and Career Preparatory Academy represents a first of its kind for the county. It’s designed to fill gaps in services currently available to young men and women who are 18 to 25 years old and have aged out of the school system but still need to complete their graduation requirements.

Data shows more than 100,000 match this profile in Orange County alone. Despite an 85.3 percent graduation rate, more than 4,000 local students leave high school each year without their diplomas.

The College and Career Preparatory Academy offers them a way back, providing much needed flexibility to pursue lost credits at no cost. But it isn’t just about finishing high school. The academy also prepares students for college and career success, says Director Byron Fairchild.

“This program supports re-engagement in learning and workforce preparation,” Fairchild says. “It’s about expanding options within our county and strengthening the bridge connecting K-12 education, adult education and higher education to prepare students for productive workforce and career opportunities.”

The College and Career Preparatory Academy began operations in the fall, welcoming its first students on Sept. 9 from a single storefront building in Santa Ana. Word of mouth has since swelled enrollment to about 100 with two additional sites — one in Anaheim and a second Santa Ana location — but school leaders have much bigger ambitions. Additional locations are planned for the west, central and south regions of the county, and Fairchild says the school is capable of serving up to 1,200 students.

Dinah Ismail
College and Career Preparatory Academy teacher Dinah Ismail helps customize instruction to meet the needs of each student.

Teacher Dinah Ismail has been with the academy from the beginning. She says what’s most unique about the program is that it’s highly customizable to fit the busy lives of its students.

“These are often full-time parents, students who work full time, students who work graveyard shifts, so the flexibility of this program is something they’re very grateful for,” she said.

Most who enroll study at home with the help of an online learning tool called GradPoint, a product offered by Pearson Education. They then visit the academy for an hour or more a week for additional support and tutelage. Those who don’t have a computer can work from textbooks, and some have the option of checking out a laptop. Ismail said mobile hotspots will soon be added to the menu of available technologies for students without reliable Internet connections.

Suarez, who works full time for a local public agency, said she was able to complete two courses in about a month.

“The flexibility, that was my main concern,” she said. “I was able to take classes online after work and during lunch. I was very focused.”

Ismail says it’s all about customizing instruction to meet the needs of each student. If that means talking over the phone or exchanging text messages to explain specific lessons, so be it.

“It’s amazing. I’ve been in education in one way or another for 20 years, teaching for 13, but this is my favorite assignment because my students are at such a pivotal and awesome age in their lives,” Ismail said. “They’re coming back and figuring out what they want to do with their careers and their lives and their educational paths. I feel very lucky to be a part of that process and to help navigate that path with them.”

Data would indicate students who go back to get their diplomas are making a very wise decision. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average high school dropout earns $20,241 dollars annually, or $10,386 less than a high school graduate. (That’s about $36,424 less than a college graduate per year.) Fairchild and his team are acutely aware of these numbers.

“This charter is unique to our county in specifically targeting this out-of-school youth population in an attempt to reduce the number of young adults without a high school diploma,” Fairchild said. “The pairing of education, job readiness and workforce preparation is the key combination to motivate and guide students through the process of earning a high school diploma and pursuing a college and career pathway.”

The doors are open. Now it’s just about getting the word out.

“A lot of the students are telling their friends, neighbors and family because they know other people who are in similar situations,” Ismail said. “There are probably a lot of other students in the county who could benefit from this but don’t know about it.”


For more information about the College and Career Preparatory Academy, including enrollment options, call Sandra Quintanilla at 714-245-6417.

In the news: Career pathway programs on the rise, a bankable opportunity in Anaheim and more

It’s that time again. Here’s a week’s worth of local education stories you might have missed.

  • California’s teacher shortage is likely to worsen, according to a new report that calls for “purposeful steps” to reverse the trend.
  • In the NewsThe integration of hands-on career technical training with standards-based academics is becoming increasingly prevalent in California’s high schools thanks to a sizable investment by the state in programs like Orange County’s own OC Pathways.
  • The Orange Unified School District has conducted a feasibility study to determine whether a bond measure to replace aging facilities can win voter approval.

Marina High students tackle ultimate woodworking project with handcrafted viking ship (video)


In October, we read an intriguing story about an ambitious project over at Marina High School, home of the Vikings.

Students at the Huntington Beach campus, led by their enterprising wood shop teacher Bob Meade, were building a full-scale Viking ship — and planning to launch it in Huntington Harbour.

Naturally we had to check the thing out for ourselves.

The video above was edited by our own Greg Lammers, who was joined on the shoot by fellow OCDE Media Services team member Richard Rodriguez. Lammers, a Marina High graduate, pitched the assignment and plans to return for the ship’s maiden voyage in May.

Will the vessel prove itself seaworthy? We’ll find out this spring.


Is your school working on a cool project that you’d like to see featured on the OCDE Newsroom? Drop us an email at communications@ocde.us.

In the news: A state spending proposal, a makeup assignment in La Habra, court news and more

You want headlines? We’ve got headlines. Here’s the latest roundup of what’s happening in the world of education:

  • Anthony Rendon, the next speaker of the California Assembly, wants to use his position to focus on early childhood education.

In the news: Culinary arts in Irvine, new immunization rules, a Tustin school to close and more

It’s Friday, Dec. 18, and we’ve got another batch of spoiler-free education stories you might have missed. Here goes:

  • The Newport-Mesa Unified School District is among those reminding parents of new immunization requirements that take effect on Jan. 1. Specifically, Senate Bill 277 says parents of students who attend public or private schools can no longer refuse to vaccinate their children based on personal belief exemptions.
  • A student from Irvine’s University High School has earned the unique honor of having a photograph she took displayed in Vice President Joe Biden’s home.
  • Estancia High School, also in Costa Mesa, held its annual Fire Day, offering sophomore students the unique opportunity to experience the demands and challenges of a firefighter’s job.

Mijares: OC Pathways initiative has much to celebrate at the end of its first year

From the Desk of Dr. Al Mijares, Orange County Superintendent of Schools


On a cool December morning, in a historic airplane hangar at the Orange County Great Park, some of the region’s top educators and business leaders gathered for a very special birthday party.

OC Pathways, an initiative that brings together schools, colleges and businesses to create new career paths in targeted industry sectors, was celebrating its first year — and what a year it’s been.

Al MijaresOver the past 12 months, more than 8,600 high school students have enrolled in OC Pathways programs, receiving career preparation in the fields of health care, biotechnology, engineering, advanced manufacturing, information technology and digital media. In our community colleges, more than 12,500 students have participated in OC Pathways coursework, earning roughly 600 certificates and 85 degrees.

Led by the Orange County Department of Education and Saddleback College, OC Pathways was launched in 2014 through a California Department of Education grant. Along with its efforts to partner schools and colleges with industry leaders, the project creates work-based learning opportunities for students — these include internships and mentorship — and empowers educators with innovative teaching strategies.

In just the first year of this initiative, more than 2,500 students participated in one or more work-based learning experiences, and we have seen a 13 percent increase in the number of articulation agreements that allow high school students to receive community college credit for taking career technical education courses.

Moreover, OC Pathways has established 53 additional businesses partnerships that will help strengthen the 21st-century workforce.

On Dec. 2, the leaders of many of these businesses were among the 300 or so who gathered in the Great Park’s Hangar 244 for a morning showcase that featured incredible displays from local schools, colleges and businesses, as well as video profiles of students who are on successful career tracks thanks to OC Pathways.

NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, who made two trips aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, was riveting as our keynote speaker at the end. I was also honored to say a few words, joining Saddleback College President Dr. Tod A. Burnett, OC STEM Executive Director Dr. Linda Christopher, Orange County United Way president and CEO Max Gardner, and four very impressive high school and college students.

Thanks to the unparalleled levels of collaboration between Orange County’s secondary and postsecondary partners, OC Pathways has already racked up more achievements than can be listed in this column, and we’re just getting started.

Just think of what can be accomplished in year two. 


You can learn more about OC Pathways’ efforts to promote college and career success by visiting the OC Pathways website. To find out how you can get involved, click here.