WEST POINT, Neb. – High school students across northeast Nebraska are continuing their preparation for college or employment opportunities in the workforce through a program that allows them to take classes of their choosing outside the typical classroom setting in their home districts.
2020 marks the fifth year that the Pathways 2 Tomorrow (P2T) consortium has offered career and technical education (CTE) classes and the second year they have been held at the Northeast Community College extended campus in West Point. P2T, facilitated through Educational Service Unit (ESU) #2, includes seven-member schools: Bancroft-Rosalie, Emerson-Hubbard, Guardian Angels Central Catholic (West Point), Howells-Dodge, Lyons Decatur Northeast, Oakland-Craig, and West Point-Beemer.
“Northeast Community College is pleased to continue to work closely with the school districts, ESU #2 and Wayne State College (WSC) to bring this unique endeavor to high school students in east central Nebraska,” said Carla Streff, director of Northeast’s West Point extended campus and executive director of P2T. “P2T is designed to build a skilled workforce in the region through career and technical education. This has been a great partnership that brings employment preparation opportunities to students.”
Streff said the emphasis on programming is placed on training and supplementing a skilled workforce that will serve businesses and industry in the region for generations to come. She is pleased with how the consortium is continuing to provide opportunities for students in the area.
“It’s going really well. It is a privilege for the students to come and take part in P2T classes.”
Streff assumed the P2T position from Joe Peitzmeier, who is now superintendent of Scribner-Snyder Community Schools. She said serving as both executive director of P2T and director of the Northeast extended campus helps to better align processes and coursework.
“The school districts and higher education institutions have different systems and requirements for registering and record keeping. We don’t want these differences to create roadblocks for students and families. One of my priorities is to create easier processes for the students to navigate.”
“Carla is the ideal person to lead the continued evolution of our partnership with ESU #2 and our regional school districts,” said Leah Barrett Northeast president. “Offering early college and career pathway courses is a primary means to meet our mission in the 20-county service area.”
Streff works with Cheryl Kreikemeier, P2T instructor and the consortium’s curriculum and apprenticeship specialist, who teaches courses in the education pathway for Wayne State in addition to conducting curriculum work for P2T.
“Cheryl and I are essentially boots on the ground for P2T.”
In year five of P2T programming, enrollment continues to be strong. With 105 students enrolled this semester, dual credit numbers are higher compared to a year ago. High school students have the option to enroll within five career pathways: building construction, computer sciences, education, health sciences, and welding. Students may also enroll in classes to earn their Commercial Driving License (CDL). All the programs offered through P2T are aligned to ensure transferability to all Nebraska public post-secondary institutions.
West-Point-Beemer has 34 students enrolled followed by Guardian Angles Central Catholic with 23. Others are Bancroft-Rosalie (17), Howells-Dodge (12), Oakland-Craig (7), Lyons Decatur Northeast (6), and Emerson-Hubbard (4). Although no longer part of the P2T consortium, Wisner-Pilger Public Schools is paying for two of its students who participated in P2T last year when it was a member district to complete their studies this year.
Students enrolled in 16 P2T classes leave their home district for a minimum of two hours every day. The morning session runs from 10:30 a.m.-12:20 p.m., with afternoons taking place from 12:40-2:30 p.m., five days a week. P2T features 11 instructors, most of whom teach dual credit classes for Northeast, WSC or both.
Computer and health sciences classes are held in Northeast’s extended campus at 202 Anna Stalp Ave., while other classes are conducted across the street in the 16,000 square foot Donald E. Nielsen Career and Technical Education Center, 200 N. Washington St.
“Health-sciences is the most popular pathway with 57 students followed by the education pathway with 53 students enrolled,” Streff said.
Health sciences is a popular pathway due to the number of areas it covers and the job opportunities that exist. Outside the classroom, P2T staff connect students with area employers, including medical facilities, to job shadow, as well as visits with area professionals to learn more about the jobs in which students have expressed an interest.
“It’s just as important that our students find out jobs they don’t want to do, as it is that they find the type of job they want to pursue,” Streff said.
P2T is seeing strong interest from the area community. Streff said she continues to hear from a number of businesses in the area who have a need for qualified candidates to fill open employment positions. Students have had opportunities to job shadow in places such as the Pender Community Hospital, St. Francis Memorial Hospital in West Point, and Red Barn Veterinary Clinic in Oakland, while others are being pursued. Students in the education pathway stay in their home districts on Fridays where they shadow and work with their own teachers.
“We go all over,” Streff said. “I had one business ask me how they can help get people trained and interested in their field through job shadows and internships. It gets the students in these businesses to see what opportunities they may have and what they may like or don’t like. Even with COVID, we’ve still have had a number of businesses say, ‘come on in, we’re happy to open our doors to do job shadows or internships’ to generate an interest.”
The pandemic has presented some new opportunities, but even without COVID-19, there have been challenges with class sizes. This is illustrated in two courses in particular – a psychology class which has 30 students and an Introduction to Education class with over 20.
Streff said, “Almost all of those students in both classes take them for dual credit; there are very few who don’t. But with a class size of 30, we don’t have a room at the West Point extended campus that holds that that number of students. We didn’t have a place to put them, so we had to rent space.”
Fortunately, the students don’t have far to go. Oversized classes are being held in the Nielsen Community Center, which is adjacent to the Northeast extended campus building and the nearby career and technical education center.
Streff looks at the situation positively.
“It is definitely something, long-term, that we may have to reevaluate if our class numbers stay that size.”
The health sciences pathway is also experiencing a similar situation. For example, in order to obtain a certified nurse aide certification, students need to train on mannequins in the lab in the extended campus building. With just three hospital beds in that space, it is difficult to fit 15 students in the room at one time.
Alternatives have included offering health sciences classes in a hybrid model. Students are divided - some split their time between working in the lab while others are presented the theory portion of the certification in the classroom next door. Once finished in their particular area, they switch places to ensure all aspects of the certification are available to each student.
“We’ve had to think outside the box on some of those things because there are more students interested than what our classroom sizes allow. It’s also a challenge to ensure social distancing is in place in light of the pandemic.”
The school districts in the consortium put a high value on P2T programming, but one in particular has gone a step further. Bancroft-Rosalie Superintendent Jon Cerny said when his students don’t have school on Fridays, they still send their students to P2T classes. In addition, if the school’s seniors are not enrolled in P2T classes, they also have an option to enroll in Northeast’s Fridays @ Northeast or Wayne State College’s Fridays @ Wayne programs, which also offer additional opportunities for students to earn college credit on the final day of the school week.
“P2T programs offer our students opportunities they can't get otherwise. Over half of our senior class is enrolled in a P2T program this year,” Cerny said. “This data shows the importance of the P2T curriculum."
ESU #2 Administrator Ted DeTurk said CTE programs offered through P2T are becoming increasingly important to high school students. He said prospects in the years to come are promising.
“Fiscally, P2T brings several schools together and shares the costs for supporting the identified pathways. The ability to partner with Northeast Community College and Wayne State College strengthens the P2T program and provides students with greater opportunities,” DeTurk said. “Given the student interest and commitment of the schools, it appears P2T has a long future ahead.”
Prior to this year, each district in the consortium contributed up to a 1-cent levy for program expenses. In 2020, the levy dropped to $.006857 after a restructuring, which allowed for a cost savings in the annual budget of approximately $200,000.
“Through P2T, students have an opportunity to get a leg up. If they decide that they want to go to college, they are given a chance to take classes for college credit,” Streff said. “If they go to college, they already have a few classes finished. If they choose not to go to college, hopefully they have a certificate behind their name and then pursue a job with a higher pay bracket because of it. My goal for P2T is that every student has the opportunity to walk out of here with college credit, a certification, or credential of some sort.”
To learn more about P2T, contact Streff by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (402) 372-2269.
Anthony Lawrence (left) and Colton Beermann, of Emerson-Hubbard Public Schools, participate in an exercise during a welding lab at the Donald E. Nielsen Career and Technical Education Center in West Point. Welding is one of five career exploration pathways offered through the Pathways 2 Tomorrow (P2T) consortium. P2T, facilitated by Educational Services Unit #2, is made up of several east-central Nebraska schools, including Bancroft-Rosalie, Emerson-Hubbard, Guardian Angels Central Catholic (West Point), Howells-Dodge, Lyons Decatur Northeast, Oakland-Craig, and West Point-Beemer.