For the past several years, teachers at the Orleans Career and Technical Education Center and their guest speakers have been partnering with the Liberty Partnerships Program to make a difference in some students' lives. The students come from Batavia, Brockport, LeRoy and Medina Central School Districts.
The Liberty Partnerships Program is a career and job readiness, drop-out prevention program for students grades five through twelve in public and non-public schools. The program look for partnerships that will remove the barriers which prevent many young people from graduating high school and encourage them to pursue higher education or vocational training.
At the Orleans/Niagara BOCES center this summer, three programs were offered to the students over the course of a week: Cosmetology, Electricity/Electronics and Security and Law Enforcement. Teachers Steve Browning (Security and Law Enforcement), Anne Carnahan (Cosmetology) and Bill Leggett (Electricity/Electronics) taught the students various skills and brought in guest speakers to talk about their careers, answer questions and give the students words of advice. "I love the fact that you can see their interest spark," says Mrs. Carnahan. "We have a lot of talks on safety and sanitation and we do demonstrations and then they tell me they went home and braided their mom’s hair because they learned that in class and they love it. It's giving them self-confidence and another reason to come back and do it again and find out some new things. At the end of the day they all come and give me a hug and say thank you because they learned something. I feel like they are getting a lot out of this."
Electricity and Electronics teacher, Mr. Leggett says he already has students that say that when they are in 11th grade, they are coming to these classes. "It is a chance to get away from home and put some tools in their hands, which almost none of them have done. It shows them that they can fix things and build things instead of just sitting on their cellphones. My big thing in my class is that they get something they can take home and that they can show their parents. They say, ""Look what I built" and they are so proud of it. We are also giving them a little bit of science and some math as well. They are going to leave my class with soldering skills. Maybe it's a chance for them to come to BOCES and make a life for themselves. I have a few of them that could come into my program and do great."
In the Security and Law Enforcement class, Customs and Border Protection Officers, Kenny Allore and Dave Ambroisa, came with their detector K9 Kay to give a demonstration on how they search for humans and drugs at the Canadian border. The students loved interacting with the K9 and getting an up close look at a potential career choice. "It is really good for the kids to see what professions are out there," says Mr. Browning. "Some of them have considered careers in cosmetology, electricity and security and law and some have not. If you don’t know what a profession is about, how do you make an opinion about it? It is good for the students to come in and try new things and see new things and get their wheels upstairs turning. I think it is good to give them a goal to shoot for. I am hoping for some of them, seeing say a K9 handler might make that lightbulb go off and say, "I would like to do that"."
During his visit to the class, Officer Allore also spoke very candidly with the students of growing up as an at-risk youth himself. "I was raised by a single mother and I had friends who were not really on a good path and were engaging in some bad behavior. I could have easily followed them down that path and had a completely different life." He credits coming to BOCES for helping him make better decisions. "I was originally thinking of taking the Electricity program and the Security and Law Enforcement teacher at the time, Mr. Ed Grabowski, approached me and said that he saw something in me that he thought his class would be a good fit for me." He said that Mr. Grabowski really acted as a mentor and made himself available to him in and outside of class. "Taking the program really helped me overcome the challenges I had, to get to where I am at in life. I really hope I demonstrated to the students that who and where you are today doesn't define you or where they will be tomorrow or the next day. It is possible to break a negative cycle."