28 Teens Graduate With 2nd Chance, New Skills

Serena Cho PhotoTwenty-eight students graduated from Career Pathways Technology Collaborative at Eli Whitney Technical High school after having mastered skills like carpentry, plumbing, culinary arts and manufacturing.

Career Pathways Technology Collaborative is an after-school program for students attending traditional and alternative education high schools in New Haven. For the fourth year in a row, it has been providing New Haven youth with training opportunities that help them make connections between academics and the real world. It grew out of the Harp Administration’s YouthStat program aimed at kids in trouble stay out of jail and stay in school.

At Wednesday’s graduation, Mayor Toni Harp and U.S. Attorney John Durham congratulated the graduates and shared words of advice, while students presented the culmination of their year’s work, including drawers, nails and pipe they built themselves.

“You should understand that this is a day for celebration but also that there are many people who care abut you,” Durham told the graduates. “You should know that without them, you could not have gotten to where you are today. You guys aren’t just normal high school students, because you have people who cared enough about you to provide with you this education and the skills you need in the real world. You are leaving this program with an ability to get a job. In that way, you are truly accomplished and lucky.”

Harp praised the graduates for their commitment to self-development, emphasizing that “coming to a program after a full day of school” must have been “so difficult.” Inviting the audience to sing the song This Little Light of Mine,” Harp encouraged all students to “nurture a little light inside” them and let it shine.

“How many of you know this song? I know some of you old people know it,” Harp joked. “Everyone here has a little light of theirs. By nurturing this light and letting it shine, you are making our communities better and better and better.”

While presenting their carpentry, manufacturing, culinary and plumbing projects, students talked about the important role Career Pathways Technology Collaborative program played in their professional development.

“Since I graduated high school I’ve been trying to figure out what I wanted to do,” said Najah Edmundson, who learned plumbing in the program. “When I came here, I wanted to finish learning something. It made me open my eyes to different things. I hope this program is still here when I come back, since it has been so important to me.”

The Career Pathways Technology Collaborative began with a planning grant from Office of United States Attorney in 2011. Since then, a total of 169 students have graduated from the program with a certificate in culinary arts, plumbing, manufacturing or carpentry. Many of these students had juvenile justice involvement or have been diverted from the justice system, according to Sherry Haller, the executive director of the Justice Education Center, which runs the program.

In 2014 and 2016, the Justice Education Center received a Project Safe Neighborhoods awards from the Department of Justice.

According to Edmunson, the program “is more than a place that teaches you random skills” because it directs many youth in a “positive direction.”

“A lot of the kids don’t have anywhere to go after school,” Edmunson said. “They either go home or on the streets. More programs like this give people opportunities to develop themselves and learn more even after school.

Carpentry Instructor Taylor Murphy said that students involved in the program find a way to make a living “without having to go to college.” Instead of having to “pay thousands of dollars as student loans,” students can live a “middle and upper class life while working in the trades because there is always a demand for these jobs,” Murphy said.

Murphy added that the city can better support the program by providing more funding for the program and avoiding pressuring all students to go to college instead of learning skills and getting a job.

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posted by: 1644 on June 8, 2018  10:50am

Why are these students attending as an after school program?  Why are they not just enrolled at Eli Whitney full time?  Vocational education is sorely lacking in most of Connecticut schools, which seem solely focused on college preparatory education.  Perhaps, we need more shop back at the middle school level, and let students actually apply their math, physics and chemistry to building and repairing things.