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

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.

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.


OC Pathways Showcase demonstrates the sky is not the limit for Orange County students

IMG_8974Leland Melvin’s pathway to a career as a NASA astronaut took a highly unusual detour through the National Football League. But first came a high school football game with a college scholarship at stake.

With his team down late, Melvin couldn’t hold on to a potential touchdown pass in front of a homecoming crowd and a University of Richmond scout. But the story doesn’t end there. His coach responded by calling the same play again. Melvin caught the second ball, securing a victory and the Richmond scholarship.

IMG_8925“For the students in here, that is the message to you,” he told a rapt audience on Wednesday morning. “We have all failed at something. We all still fail at things. It’s not that you fail, it’s that you keep going.”

Melvin, who voyaged to the International Space Station in 2008 and 2009, was the keynote speaker at the inaugural OC Pathways Showcase, held in Hangar 244 at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine. The event, featuring innovative displays from local schools, colleges and businesses, drew about 300 educators and industry leaders to celebrate the college and career partnerships established during the first year of OC Pathways.

As we’ve previously mentioned here, OC Pathways is an initiative that brings together schools and businesses to create sequenced coursework that combines rigorous academics with career preparation. It also offers work-based learning opportunities for students and empowers educators with 21st-century learning strategies. Led by OCDE and Saddleback College, the program was established in 2014 through a grant from the California Department of Education.

In just a year, more than 8,600 local high school students have participated in OC Pathways programs across six industry sectors, which include health care, biotechnology, engineering, advanced manufacturing, information technology and digital media. At the community college level, more than 12,500 students have enrolled in OC Pathways courses, earning more than 600 certificates and 85 degrees. (You can read more achievements here.)

IMG_8889“I believe that we can attribute these initial accomplishments, and the great accomplishments ahead, to the unparalleled levels of collaboration between Orange County secondary and postsecondary partners that have been forged by OC Pathways,” Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares said at Wednesday’s Showcase.

The program has only been in existence for a year, he added, “but it has set very high goals.”

Saddleback College President Dr. Tod A. Burnett also delivered remarks, as did OC STEM Executive Director Dr. Linda Christopher and Max Gardner, president and CEO of the Orange County United Way.

And of course there was Melvin, who spoke about his own personal pathway, which led from Lynchburg, Virginia to the NFL — he had brief stints with the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys — to the Space Shuttle Atlantis, which twice transported him to the final frontier and back.

Not many can boast professional football and space travel on their resumes. But long before he did either he was simply a curious kid helping his dad convert a bread truck into a family camper — and learning important lessons about what is possible.

Melvin said it wasn’t until he and his father rewired the vehicle, installed bunk beds and painted the exterior that he could envision the truck as a serviceable motorhome.

“How many times do your students not see past what’s right in front of them?” Melvin said. “They don’t have the vision to see that next step or that next career, and so it’s important that this community ensures that we pull back the blinds and let them see that these things that they are doing right now can lead to a career in your company or your organization.”

IMG_0898The high school and college students in attendance appeared ready to launch their careers right away. Many displayed their technical achievements in STEM fields, lining the hangar with impressive exhibits, including handmade aerial drones and experiments that use data from real satellites.

Toward the end of the showcase, four students took the stage to field questions about their career paths from Dr. Mijares and Dr. Burnett, including Dana Hills High senior Stephen Tedena and Saddleback College student Leah Jamison, whose stories are documented in brief videos here and here; and Century High senior Rosa Yanes and Saddleback High senior Denise Garcia, who participated in an exclusive summer internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

We’d encourage you to check out these videos to see how OC Pathways is specifically impacting local students. And you can learn more about the initiative by visiting the OC Pathways website.


OC Pathways Showcase will highlight college and career partnerships on Dec. 2

A limited number of seats are still available for an upcoming showcase to celebrate the first year of OC Pathways, an initiative that’s paving the way to college and career success and strengthening the 21st-century workforce.

OCPathwaysShowcaseOpen to educators and industry leaders, the inaugural OC Pathways Showcase on Dec. 2 will feature innovative displays from local schools, colleges and businesses, as well as a keynote address from NASA astronaut Leland Melvin. “Equipping Students for the Global Innovation Economy” is the theme of the event, which will be held from 7:30 to 10 a.m. inside Hangar 244 at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine.

Additional speakers are set to include Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares, Saddleback College President Dr. Tod A. Burnett, OC STEM Executive Director Dr. Linda Christopher, and Max Gardner, president and CEO of the Orange County United Way.

Led by OCDE and Saddleback College, OC Pathways was initiated through a 2014 grant from the California Department of Education. The project connects educators with industry partners to align coursework so that it combines rigorous academics with career preparation. OC Pathways also creates work-based learning opportunities for students and empowers educators with 21st-century learning strategies.

If you’d like to attend the showcase, click here, or on the graphic above. If you wish to learn more about OC Pathways, visit


OC Pathways, Nepris team up to virtually connect students with industry experts

For the first time, business and industry partners — from around the world or down the street — can seamlessly connect with Orange County classrooms virtually and in real-time, thanks to a unique partnership between the OC Pathways initiative and Nepris.

nepris logoWorking through, students can engage digitally with industry experts to talk about potential careers, work on classroom projects or take virtual workplace tours through interactive, cloud-based sessions. Teachers looking to set up a work-based learning experience simply enter their request into the system, specifying the industry sector, topics and learning outcomes. Nepris automatically matches each request with professionals’ qualifications and hosts the interactive sessions.

This project has been funded by OC Pathways, a countywide initiative designed to equip Orange County students for college and career success. OC Pathways and its industry partners are developing coursework that combines rigorous academics with career preparation while promoting work-based learning opportunities for students and empowering educators with 21st century learning strategies. Created through a 2014 grant from the California Department of Education, the OC Pathways partnership is led by OCDE and Saddleback College.

Thanks its sponsorship, every K-12 and community college teacher affiliated with OC Pathways will receive a Nepris license, potentially reaching more than 5,000 students. The platform has been successfully implemented since 2013 in schools throughout the country, and recently the Orange Unified School District, an OC Pathways partner, successfully piloted the use of Nepris. The countywide rollout began in October.

“Industry partners from within Orange County and beyond now will have a direct link with schools to share their expertise, experience and enthusiasm,” said Jeff Hittenberger, OCDE’s chief academic officer. “Nepris gives equitable access to every student to experience workplace learning in a real and personal way.”

At the community college level, OC Pathways’ focus runs parallel with California Community Colleges’ “Doing What Matters For Jobs and the Economy” initiative, which aligns skills development with jobs. For community colleges to become essential catalysts to California’s economic recovery and job-creation at the local, regional and state levels, students will need to see the relationship between their educational experiences and the jobs they ultimately will pursue.

“Nepris brings a richness to classroom instruction because our students will now be able to talk with people who have already taken their education and turned that into a profession,” said Tony Teng, dean of advanced technology and applied science at Saddleback College, as well as the OC Pathways grant lead for the nine Orange County community colleges.

Added Brian Donnelly, executive director of OC Pathways: “Our primary goal is to show students a pathway from what they learn in school to college, and then into a career. Historically, it has been a challenge for students to see that what they are learning in class does have a real connection to life after school. Nepris brings classroom instruction alive in a way that typical classroom instruction cannot.”

High School Inc. program leverages local businesses to promote college and career readiness

Rudy Villalobos was just a couple weeks into an internship at an Audi service department when he offered a suggestion to some veteran technicians performing an alignment.

What if, he asked, the team clicked on an alternate computer screen that displayed more information, including a detailed list of the tools needed?

The techs didn’t know such a screen existed.

“They were shocked,” says Rudy, 19. “They wanted to know where I learned that.”

It turns out he learned that and a lot more at High School Inc., a program that operates on the campus of Valley School High in Santa Ana.

High School Inc. was established through a partnership between the Santa Ana Unified School District, the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce and the High School Inc. Foundation, and it recently raised a few eyebrows when it announced that students who entered the program as sophomores had posted a near-perfect graduation rate of 98.5 percent in 2014. (To add context, Orange County’s overall graduation rate was 88.6 percent last year, and the rate for California was about 81 percent.)

But graduation numbers only tell part of the story. What’s perhaps most unique is this school-within-a-school’s approach to blending college and career readiness.

NewMediaTeam2At High School Inc., students enroll in one of six specialized academies that integrate career technical education with traditional classroom subjects such as English, math, social studies and science.

The academies were strategically designed to meet 21st-century workforce needs. They include Culinary Arts and Hospitality, Healthcare, Automotive Logistics and Transportation, New Media, Global Business and Engineering, and Manufacturing and Construction.

Rudy graduated from the automotive academy, taking with him four college credits. Now he’s enrolled at Santa Ana College — and employed at the Audi dealership.

“Ever since I was small, I always liked working on cars,” he says. “Having the courses in school made me like it even more. I was hands-on every day.”

Donnie Crevier, the CEO of High School Inc., is also a car guy. Until 2011, he ran Crevier BMW, the family business. He says the concept of High School Inc. was brainstormed almost a decade ago by Chamber of Commerce leaders who were looking for strategies to strengthen the local workforce. They reached out to Mr. Crevier, who had some thoughts.

“We had a huge need for automotive technicians,” he says, “and we still do.”

But what began as a strategy for bolstering vocational training evolved into a hybrid of college and career readiness, leveraging local businesses to help prepare students for the modern workplace.

“We found that for kids who get into these career tech programs, all of a sudden the critical thinking aspect of their education comes alive,” Crevier says. “They start thinking about education long-term and broad-term. It opens their eyes to working toward a goal.”

“Some of them will go on to college and pursue other things,” he says, “and some will stay on their chosen career paths.”

High School Inc. officially launched at Valley in 2007, and the program has continued to grow. Last year, about half of Valley’s 2,200 students participated in one of the six academies, which were open to sophomores, juniors and seniors. This year, freshmen can also enroll.  

“High School Inc. academies provide Valley students with small learning communities where students connect in a cohort of like-minded students and a smaller number of teachers that provide the core and (career tech) curriculum,” says Valley Principal David Richey.

“It’s my belief that students who commit to a High School Inc. academy are very well positioned when they graduate high school to have multiple opportunities, and they are certainly college and career ready,” Richey says. “I’m not sure you can find that type of preparation in most high schools.”

Mark McLoughlin, president of the High School Inc. Foundation board, says teachers from each of the academies work closely with business advisors to help students pursue their interests, discover their talents and develop post-graduation plans.

Students get to hear from guest speakers and take field trips to colleges, universities and businesses. Training luncheons, networking, competitions and awards ceremonies also help bring the curriculum to life.

Toms Truck Field Trip2Academies can reach capacity, so enrollees are asked to select their first, second and third choices during registration. Meanwhile, there are also opportunities for interaction among the academies, McLoughlin says.

For example, automotive students might team up with their engineering counterparts on a project that asks them to design a fuel-efficient car capable of racing long distances. Culinary students might be asked to prepare meals for classmates on a field trip.

“We believe we have hit the momentum that we wanted to be on with this project,” McLoughlin says. “Now we’re trying to fine tune some of our processes and procedures and scale this up.”

Indeed, the partners behind High School Inc. would like to see the model take root at other schools and perhaps other districts. And it’s worth noting that its objectives align nicely with a new county initiative called OC Pathways.

Led by the Orange County Department of Education and Saddleback College, OC Pathways was created last year to expand career pathways for students across all academic levels. The project is backed by a $15 million grant from the California Department of Education and now boasts the involvement of more than a dozen school districts, nine community colleges, two major universities, four regional occupational programs, three workforce investment boards, numerous community partners and 100-plus businesses.

Speaking of businesses, Mark Bartholio is the coordinator of High School Inc.’s Global Business Academy, which holds a special state designation as a California Partnership Academy.

Bartholio says each year area business leaders guide his students through the process of setting up fictitious companies, and some invite the aspiring entrepreneurs to tour their corporate headquarters.

These kinds of real-world experiences build soft skills and give high schoolers a chance to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom, he says. They also connect the students with a world they’ll interact with soon enough.

“They look forward to the day when the business partners are going to come,” Bartholio says. “They dress for success, and they’re eager to report on the progress they’ve made for their projects.”