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.

OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors program leads clean-up event in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

IMG_1634While many commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with parades and ceremonies, students from OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors program annually celebrate the legacy of Dr. King by hosting their own MLK Day of Service event.

IMG_1674They did so again on Saturday, Jan. 16, with more than 100 local volunteers donating 300 service hours to collect 2,000 pounds of trash from the Upper Newport Bay estuary. The latest MLK Day of Service was organized by Inside the Outdoors – led by Development Manager Dawn Curtis – in partnership with the City of Newport Beach and OC Parks.

Volunteers included Orange County students across all grade levels, as well as Inside the Outdoors Foundation board members, community members and representatives from companies such as INK Agency, State Farm, Wells Fargo and US Bank. All were needed for a clean-up that yielded plenty of discarded food wrappers, cigarette butts and even an old, busted guitar.

“Each year, Inside the Outdoors hosts an MLK Day of Service at one of our field trip sites in local parks,” says Lori Kiesser, development director for Inside the Outdoors. “After teaching students and community members about the importance of Orange County’s natural areas, the days of service represent the opportunity for all of us to honor Dr. King by applying what we have learned to real life experiences.”

Check out the Inside the Outdoors website for more info.

Partnership between OCDE, OC Waste & Recycling wins top environmental award

GEELA2A waste-reduction partnership between the Orange County Department of Education’s Inside the Outdoors program and OC Waste & Recycling has received the state’s highest environmental honor.

On the heels of netting a major accolade from the California School Boards Association, Project Zero Waste, a service-learning program that empowers students with hands-on environmental science instruction, has earned its collaborators the prestigious Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, or GEELA.

OCDE and OC Waste & Recycling were jointly recognized — along with just 11 other organizations — Tuesday night at the California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Sacramento.

In the photo above, CalEPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez, left, is joined on stage by Dr. Al Mijares, Orange County’s superintendent of schools; Isabel Rios, recycling and environmental programs manager with OC Waste & Recycling; Lori Kiesser, development director for Inside the Outdoors; and state Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach.

“This is a tremendous honor for our program,” Kiesser said. “The GEELA represents the top environmental award in the state, and it’s a testament to the collaborative efforts of Inside the Outdoors and OC Waste & Recycling, which are promoting sustainability and changing lives.”

Project Zero Waste teaches students the science of solid waste through Inside the Outdoors field trips as well as in-class lessons taught by Traveling Scientists. Program participants get to apply what they’ve learned to the design and implementation of solid waste reduction campaigns, which include campuswide recycling efforts, school gardens, community clean-up activities and other student-led activities.

The program, which in December earned the California School Boards Association’s Golden Bell Award, has offered science instruction to more than 325,000 students since it began in 2009. Follow-up assessments show these lessons increase STEM knowledge by an average of 14 percent, and schools engaging in Project Zero Waste have reduced their trash by up to 20,000 pounds annually.

Geelaseal“The lessons learned by students participating in Project Zero Waste extend beyond academics,” Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares said recently. “In applying science lessons to develop solutions to real-world problems, students gain team-building, creativity and leadership skills.”

Established in 1993, the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award is presented annually to individuals, companies and organizations that use sustainable business practices to conserve energy, reduce waste or prevent pollution while contributing to their local economy.

Finalists are selected by a panel of judges that includes the Governor’s Office and the secretaries of the California Environmental Protection Agency; the Natural Resources Agency; the Department of Food and Agriculture; the State Transportation Agency; the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency; the Labor and Workforce Development Agency; and the Health and Human Services Agency.

Each year, the panel evaluates and announces winners in the following categories: Environmental Education; Ecosystem and Land Use Stewardship; Climate Change; Zero Emission Vehicle Dealers; Sustainable Practices, Communities or Facilities; and Waste Reduction.

For more information on the GEELA program and this year’s recipients, click here. To learn more about Project Zero Waste, check out the video below, and be sure to visit the Inside the Outdoors website to get involved. 

OC Pathways partners with OpTerra Energy Services, which will sponsor 10 paid STEM internships

We’ve received word this week that OC Pathways, the countywide initiative that’s working to expand career pathways for students from kindergarten through college, has a new partner.

Opterra1OpTerra Energy Services, a national leader in alternative energy solutions, is joining the effort by sponsoring 10 paid summer STEM internships for high school students in the Santa Ana Unified School District. It’s part of the company’s continued focus on building educational opportunities and workforce development strategies.

Expect to hear more details on this partnership in the weeks and months ahead. Meanwhile, if this is the first you’re hearing of OC Pathways, here’s a little background. 

Last year, the state Department of Education awarded the Orange County Department of Education and Saddleback College a $15 million grant to establish clear educational pathways capable of guiding OC students to rewarding careers, regardless of their academic and socio-economic levels. That led to the launch of the collaborative initiative known as OC Pathways, which includes educators, business partners and community leaders.

The goal is for students to participate in career exploration and on-the-job training as they pursue certificates, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees and even advanced degrees in three target sectors — health care and biotechnology; engineering, advanced manufacturing and design; and information communication technology and digital media. Courses will be optimally sequenced and rigorous, matching those within the traditional university system, and they’ll incorporate STEM fields, as well as California’s state standards, career technical education standards and industry needs.

At last count, OC Pathways comprises 14 school districts, nine community colleges, two major universities, four ROPs, three Workforce Investment Boards, numerous community partners and more than 100 businesses.

And now you can add OpTerra Energy Solutions to the list.

OC Career Pathways Partnership will prepare students for the 21st-century workforce

OCPathwaysFINALWe already know that Orange County is a diverse and dynamic region with the human and economic potential to lead the nation in college and career readiness and success.

Well, a sizable grant from the California Career Pathways Trust is poised to advance that vision.

Last year, the California Department of Education awarded the Orange County Career Pathways Partnership a $15 million grant to create a countywide infrastructure to expand career pathways for students from kindergarten through college. Led by the Orange County Department of Education and Saddleback College, OCCPP represents the largest regional consortium in the state.

The goal of OCCPP is to make career pathway programs accessible to Orange County students from all academic and socio-economic levels. Students will participate in career exploration and on-the-job training that prepares them to earn certificates, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees and advanced degrees in three target sectors: health care/biotechnology; engineering/advanced manufacturing and design; and information communication technology/digital media.

Students will need to master subjects at the same level of rigor as those entering a traditional university system. The programs will also align career courses with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); California academic standards; and Career Technical Education Model Standards, linking the content to industry needs.

OCCPP will provide courses and learning experiences that produce high school graduates capable of securing high-skill, high-wage jobs.

Expect to hear more on this topic soon.