By America Achieves Fellow Tony Cain
I remember when “career readiness” in Louisiana consisted of a large collection of VHS tapes that contained 15-minute vignettes of various entry-level jobs that non-college bound students could enter. The tapes were boring, the students hated watching them, and no training was given to them on how to be successful in the workplace.
Over the years, career readiness in Louisiana has evolved, but still lagged behind the needs of the students of Louisiana and its economy. This is why I applied to America Achieves’ Educator Voice Fellowship and was excited to be chosen to participate in developing the new Quest for Success curriculum.
The membership of our fellowship was diverse in every measurable way, but each participant had the same singular goal of providing a better opportunity for success for the students of Louisiana. I saw a wonderful group of educators from throughout Louisiana combine their experience and passion for children to create a course that will increase the size of the “work ready” labor pool in Louisiana.
Each of us who participated got to experience first-hand the different perspectives of various regions of the state through economic and educational lenses. Our visits with the various medium and large businesses from around the state allowed us to understand the skills our students needed to enter the workplace and be productive.
By all accounts, we created a much better course and more opportunities for our students than what had previously existed. As I have traveled to various parts of the state to train teachers and administrators in Quest for Success, I consistently hear that the project-based learning approach that we implemented will be more interesting for the teachers and students, and create a higher level of student engagement.
An unintended outcome of the process is that a group of educators developed a network of friends and colleagues that have engaged regularly outside of the fellowship to collaborate on projects, ask for advice, or help each other fill staffing needs. All of which has bettered the educational opportunities of the students of Louisiana.
The America Achieves Educator Voice Fellowship worked hard and continued the upward trajectory of aligning education with workforce needs. I am proud of my opportunity to participate and collaborate with a group of exceptional educators and am thankful for the many things each of them taught me.
Tony Cain is the Executive Director of Downsville Community Charter School. He has served as a school leader for 7 years. Prior to being appointed as a school leader, he served as a social studies teacher for 8 years and a publicly elected school board member for 12 years. Outside of his work in education he has served children as a member of the board of directors for Christopher House, an organization dedicated to helping children in crisis, young adults in transition, and the homeless. Additionally, he has served on the board of directors of local girls softball league.