The Redlands Unified School District is doing everything it can to prepare its students for life after high school.

What does it mean to truly be college-ready?

According to the district, it is much more than just being accepted to a university.

Preparing a student to be college-ready means they leave high school with “the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing college courses without the need for remedial coursework.”

It is not just college that Redlands district wants to prepare its students for. It also is doing its part to make sure kids are prepared for careers.

The district wants graduates to have “the knowledge and skills needed to qualify for and succeed in the postsecondary job training or education necessary for their chosen career.”

How is the district making sure Redlands students are set up for success no matter their future? With Career Technical Education pathways (CTE).

What is it?

CTE courses differ from general high school classes. They are specifically for students who are interested in a certain career.

According to the district, these courses are “designed to connect high school classes to college, industry certifications or a career, and pathway completion provides students with evidence of their college and career readiness as measured by the state.”

All four high schools in Redlands offer CTE programs. Citrus Valley High School, Redlands East Valley, Redlands High School and Orangewood High School offer courses that vary between schools.

Why should students look into registering for these types of courses?

According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, “36 percent of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs require postsecondary credentials that CTE students can obtain within two years of high school graduation.”

The association says that students who take part in CTE courses are significantly more likely to develop problem solving, project completion, research, communication, time management and critical thinking skills during high school.

A CTE course is no frivolous elective. In fact, because of the rigor of the class it is recommended that students wait till at least their sophomore year to enroll.

To complete a CTE Pathway, students must complete a minimum of two years of classes including the capstone course.

Classes available

Citrus Valley and Redlands High School has nine pathways available to students.

CVHS students can take courses centered around child development, engineering design, engineering technology, entrepreneurship, food services and hospitality, game design and integration, patient care, stage technology and public safety.

RHS students can take courses centered around child development, design, visual and media arts, entrepreneurship, family and human services, food services and hospitality, information support and services, patient care, product innovation and design and systems, diagnostics, service, and repair.

Redlands East Valley has eight pathways available.

Students can choose between design, visual, and media arts, education, marketing, mental and behavioral health, networking, patient care, production innovation and design and systems diagnostics, service, and repair.

Orangewood has one pathway centered around product innovation and design.

These classes are not only preparing students for college coursework and career training, but they are also a welcome change to the general history, math or english classes of a normal high school schedule.

HEART Academy

Redlands schools have distinguished Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) for students to learn hands-on skills for specific pathways and technical careers.

One of the oldest and most popular ROP programs at RHS is its HEART Academy.

The HEART Academy, incorporated 20 years ago, is for students who are interested in the health and medical fields and is a program run by RHS faculty in partnership with local colleges and businesses.

The academy is a three-year program for students starting their sophomore year. It’s “club-like,” tight-knit atmosphere differentiates it from other CTE and ROP programs.

In addition to the medical-related courses such as medical terminology and hospital occupations, students also take general courses taught by teachers within HEART.

HEART Academy has designated teachers in English, math, science and its own counselor in Sherry Walsh.

“The real success for the HEART Academy comes from the dedication of the teachers,” said Walsh. “We meet bimonthly to discuss students who are struggling and to celebrate student successes and to plan upcoming and long-term events. I feel very fortunate to work with such student-centered educators.”

Students who wish to join HEART Academy apply during their freshman year and are then interviewed before selection.

“Each year 60 students are selected to join the program. Approximately half of the students selected each year are considered at-risk. We have some attrition due to moving and other reasons so total membership is below 180,” said Walsh.

HEART’s community partners are what gives the program a more professional feel.

The program works with Loma Linda University, Redlands Community Hospital, Totally Kids Rehabilitation Clinic and Beaver Medical Group among others.

HEART’s impact on careers

Through coursework, hands-on training, field trips and internships, HEART Academy wants students to leave RHS with a leg up on college and career competition.

During the summer before their senior year, HEART students can do an internship working in a hospital or health care office.

Some of the opportunities include interning in an emergency room, neonatal unit, pathology lab, intensive care unit, physical therapy, labor and delivery and dental offices.

“As a counselor, I can tell you that this experience is life changing for many students,” said Walsh. “They return invigorated for their senior year with a strong sense of purpose.”

Emily Lott a former HEART student said that the academy opened many doors for her.

“HEART has opened my eyes to the wonders of the medical field, the diversity in job options, and the importance of good, available health care all while teaching me kindness and patience,” she said in HEART’s 2019-20 promotional flier.

RHS alumni Matthew Gutierrez, who is now a pharmacist, said he wouldn’t be where he is today without the program.

“HEART Academy was the foundation of my professional career. It allowed me to explore options of a profession at a young age and ultimately has assisted me in achieving my goals.”

Scholarship benefits

Colton, Redlands and Yucaipa school districts form a regional occupational program CRY-ROP.

CRY-ROP provides CTE and ROP courses and programs to students in the three districts. The three cities are unified in making sure their students have the best chance at success after graduation.

One of the ways CRY-ROP helps prepare kids is through its scholarship foundation.

In 2003 CRY-ROP formed a non-profit foundation to be able to give scholarships to students in the three cities. The scholarships are funded by businesses, CRY-ROP employees and through fundraising events.

Most recently, seven Redlands students have received CRY-ROP’s Bob Bruce Memorial Scholarship, Student Ambassador Scholarship and Dr. Linda Denver Scholarship.

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