On Thursday, Oct. 12, and Friday, Oct.13, the Career Advancement Academy (CAA) and Career Ladders Project (CLP) presented to over 60 California educators at the 2017 Strengthening Student Success Conference (SSSC).

The conference gathers California Community College professionals and educators from across the state to engage in discussion and highlight strategies for building institutional effectiveness, supporting student learning, and increasing equitable outcomes. The Skyline College team, Dr. Jennifer Taylor Mendoza, Interim Vice President of Instruction, Lorraine DeMello, Counselor, Alina Varona, Faculty Coordinator for the Career Advancement Academy, Program Services Coordinator for the Career Advancement Academy Jeremy Evangelista, along with Career Ladders Project’s Amanda Amal Issa and Luis Chavez, led sessions which highlighted best practices that influence successful student transitions from alternative high school to community college.

In California, “alternative school” refers to seven types of schools and programs that provide different educational settings for students who are behind in school. In California approximately 500 public alternative high schools serve more than 15% of high school students but account for more than 50% of high school drop-outs. Evaluation of the most successful alternative high schools finds that programs maintaining strong partnerships with local community colleges are more successful in ensuring students complete high school and start postsecondary education.

By creating a “bridge to the bridge,” the Career Advancement Academy aims to scale their most promising and effective practices and increase alignment and collaboration with education feeder partners—especially adult education, continuation high schools, and alternative high schools.

The “Exploring and Expanding Alternative High School and Community College Partnership” session was featured under the conference’s Creating Coherent Pathways strand, which showcases practices and programs aimed at rethinking and restructuring how students enroll in, progress through, and successfully complete their goals.

Friday’s post conference workshop “An Inclusive Front Door: Strategies for Ensuring Smooth Transitions and Early Success in Community College for All Californians” was an interactive half-day intensive workshop that presented strategies used by colleges across the state to improve transitions and success for alternative high school students. Attendees learned from high school and community college practitioners about existing models, exchanged ideas, created action plans for their sites, and discussed how to best structure supports for alternative education students.

A special thanks to the entire Alternative Education presenting team, including: Dr. Elisha Arrillaga, Amanda Amal Issa, and Luis Chavez from CLP, Dr. Jennifer Taylor Mendoza who shared her expertise as a panelist and provided a critical lens as an administrator supporting good work in alternative education, Lorraine DeMello, lead counselor and faculty for our Skyline College’s alternative education pilot bridge programs, and Jeremy Evangelista, who provides critical student, family, and programmatic support for all of our alternative education students.

The California Alternative Education community of practice will continue to engage in idea and resource exchange via an online community of learning for folks deeply involved in the important work of connecting alternative high school students to college and career. You can read our forthcoming blog about the May 12th 2017 Community of Practice that convened over 50 practitioners to discuss successful alternative high school-community college partnerships at: http://www.equalmeasure.org/ideas/impact-blog/, and please keep an eye out for the Skyline College Career Advancement Academy, Equal Measure, and Career Ladders Project pending publication on best practices for alternative high school and community college partnerships due out this winter!

Article by Alina Varona | Photos by Alina Varona

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