US Secretary of Education Gets an Inside Look at Tech Academies from Omaha Students Bryan

This story was originally published in the Nebraska Examiner.

OMAHA. During his first trip to Nebraska, US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona kept a turtle named Oogway in the city’s agricultural laboratory. He rapped a little in Spanish with teenagers at a construction academy.

And he left Wednesday’s tour of Bryan’s Omaha High School, saying its career-related tech academies that prepare students for college or direct entry to work represent what the Biden administration wants to see more of across the country.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona tells teacher Andy Schatzberg what’s going on at Brian High’s construction shop. (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)

“We chose this school today, the day after Congress, because I want to elevate what we see here,” Cardona said.

High paying job

What he said he saw in Brian’s students – and in the urban farming programs; Design and construction; and Transport, Distribution, and Logistics are examples of how the country can better meet the future demand for “high-skill, high-paying” jobs expected through the CHIPS and Science Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.

There is a movement locally to pave the way for some of these jobs in Nebraska. A bill submitted to the Nebraska Legislature would authorize the state’s allocation of any federal funds that a state-based manufacturer would receive under the Chip Act, which the president signed into law in August. The law allocates $54 billion to restore an industry that has fled abroad.

Turtle Oogway is part of the city’s Brian High Agricultural Academy, which was visited by the US Secretary of Education. (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)

The students accompanied Cardona through Brian’s “Bear” territory with 1,800 students, who led him to the city’s agricultural academy’s greenhouse (that’s where he met Oogway’s turtle), a logistics warehouse, and a hall where students work on the framing of small houses and other construction projects. .

On the way to different classes, he chatted with the children in the corridors, and on several occasions the former teacher with Puerto Rican roots dropped a few Spanish phrases. Although located in Bellevue, Brian is part of the Omaha Public Schools and prides itself on being culturally diverse with students from over 30 countries speaking 33 languages ​​in its classrooms.

‘Raise the bar’

The Minister of Education emphasized the advantage of knowing more than one language. In his recently announced Raise the Bar: Lead the World initiative, he said American students should be expected to learn multiple languages. And he spoke about administrative goals for 2023, including the need to “rethink college and career paths” and challenge the notion that “four years of college or bankruptcy.”

Dual enrollment courses for community colleges, Cardona said, should begin in 11th grade and allow ambitious high school students to earn an associate’s degree or certificate “without paying a dime.”

Bryan High students Fatima Davila and Bryan Benitez lead US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on his visit to Bryan High. On the right is director Roni Ortega. (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)

He said the US Department of Education will expand opportunities for technical assistance and use of federal funding, and that if the paths recommended by the US Department of Education are developed, students will be better able to compete on the global stage.

Highlighting Cardona’s visit to Brian was a roundtable discussion with about a dozen students who told him about their academic travels and related internships – Brian pairs his students with 90 employers who offer work experience.

Making sure he heard every teenager, Cardona said he measures success in part by how young people watch programs. After listening to students, he said he was impressed with the “options” that career-related academies seemed to offer to the budding workforce.

“You gain valuable skills that can be passed on to others,” Cardona said.

Communication with the outside world

For example, Leslie Lopez studies at the Academy of Transportation and Logistics, where as part of the curriculum, students pack boxes of food for the pantry. Lopez plans to pursue medicine, but said she received academy recognition for service and “helping people” that she hopes to carry into her future as a doctor.

Also in attendance at the roundtable was Brian Benitez, a high school student who had already earned 38 college credits while in high school. He viewed his time at Advanced Academics as a “starting point” for his dream career: neurosurgery.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits Omaha Public School at Brian High School (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska examiner)

Cardona said he was impressed with Bryan’s internship partnerships with employers, stating that internships can lead to a lifetime job. “It gives us a connection to the outside world,” he said.

Senior Arian Gomez said he chose the path of transportation and logistics because it was in line with the trade in which his father works. As part of the program, he undergoes an internship at a car dealership.

When he graduates, he hopes to get an associate’s degree to work as an automotive technician and get a commercial driver’s license to drive a truck. Ultimately, he intends to get a bachelor’s degree so he can move into the management side of the business.

“You could take your father’s business to the next level,” Cardona said. “It’s exciting.”

“We see you, we see you”

Of Cardona’s visit, Gomez and Benítez said they were proud to be able to showcase their school and teachers.

Dr Roni Ortega, Principal of Bryan’s School, said that while Tech Academies have been available in Bryan in the past, this was the first year for Wall-to-Wall Academies, meaning all students must participate in one of them. . Other officials present at the Secretary’s visit included OPS Superintendent Cheryl Logan. Ortega said he appreciated the Nebraska stop, which marked the 38th Cardona state he visited.

Ortega said: “When the Minister of Education comes to Brian, he says to our children, ‘We see you, we see you.’

For Gomez, the visit of a Hispanic cabinet minister, who told students that he used to make money repairing cars, was especially meaningful because of the car connection.

“We have to express ourselves with someone recognizable in this country,” Gomez said. “It was really good.”

After Brian Cardona, he went to La Vista Educational Services #3, where he took part in another roundtable, this time with principals, superintendents, and therapists, to discuss mental health services for students.

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