Guest post by John Carder
“Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhood? In your neighborhood? Say, who are the people in your neighborhood? The people that you meet each day.”
We can all learn a lesson or two from Sesame Street. It reminds us about the importance of getting to know the people and community around us. Establishing relationships with community partners and businesses has become an integral component of the educational experience for students at Marion Harding High School in Marion, OH.
Over the past three years at Harding High School, the administrative team has worked to grow and foster community partnerships with local business leaders. Before 2013, the school had zero formal relationships with any business in Marion County. During the summer of 2013, our team began reaching out to local organizations and asking them to work with the school system. We provided businesses with a simple form they could fill out, indicating their desired commitment level. They chose from several options, such as being a guest speaker, allowing a student to shadow a worker in their business, or even offering students to intern at their facility.
Our message was simple: “We want you to be a partner with the school system to develop your potential employees.” In Marion, OH, about 60 percent of graduates do not go to a two or four-year college and the majority of those students stay, live, and work in Marion for the remainder of their lives. Harding High School is truly developing the workforce for the city.
Diploma Plus is a foundational pillar for the Marion City School District. The idea behind Diploma Plus is that students need more than just a high school diploma to be successful. They need something else to go with it. We’ve defined the “plus” as acceptance; acceptance to a two or four-year university, acceptance to the military, acceptance to a high-demand job, or acceptance to an apprenticeship. Our discussions with local businesses have been focused on identifying specific skills, mindsets, and traits that are necessary for successful employees and how the school system can help foster those in graduates.
To help define these traits, we created a “design team” at Harding High School. The design team members consisted of multiple business leaders; deans from Marion Technical Institute and The Ohio State University; and middle school and high school teachers and administrators. One product of the design team was the creation of a “Portrait of a Graduate.” This visual model outlined the key traits that graduates should leave the high school setting with so they are prepared for success.
Increasing Opportunities for Students
With cooperation from local city business leaders, students at Harding High School have more opportunities than they have ever had before. Programming that is offered at Harding is aligned to what our community partners have told us are high-demand career fields in this geographical area. Students are graduating with certificates in a wide variety of areas that are all focused on this area’s need. Students are getting certified as forklift drivers, state-tested nurse’s aides, and Microsoft Office specialists.
These certifications not only give our students an edge over others when it comes to employment opportunities, but also provide students with opportunities to earn a higher paying job right out of high school compared to their peers without a certification. Our community partners are excited about the students coming out of Harding and are ready to begin employing their next generation of skilled workers.
Getting to know the people in our neighborhood has certainly proved mutually beneficial. The relationships that we have forged with our community and business leaders have been central to enhancing the educational experiences for our students and creating new opportunities that prepare our graduates with the skills they need for success after high school.
What partnerships do you already have in place? How can your local area leaders help create opportunities for students in your school? What can you do for them, but more importantly, what can they do for your students? Ask and you will be surprised what you find out!
John Carder is an Assistant Principal at Grove City High School in Grove City, OH. Previously, he was an Assistant Principal at Marion Harding High School in Marion, OH, where he was named the 2016 Ohio Assistant Principal of the Year.