PTECH Addresses Unique Challenges for Rural Communities
We are about to finish our first year as a beta school with PTECH with one student about to graduate from high school this June, entering summer school in aerospace before she receives her diploma. Several community members who confuse PTE (professional-technical education) with PTECH have asked me how this new program benefits students at Clark Fork High School, so I thought I’d add my thoughts here.
Rural schools and communities have far too many barriers to list but the ones PTECH embraces best are the desire for a skilled workforce and college savings. In rural communities, the absence of a college bound culture is palpable - the liberal arts, bachelor’s degrees and college savings plans are almost a foreign language, but hands-on careers in healthcare, aerospace, or IT are pathways all generations can understand. In that respect, PTECH draws the parent in almost before the student decides they want to enroll. These are the same students who can’t easily envision attending a four-year university, but can see themselves obtaining a two-year degree without going into debt.
Rural communities also have very different challenges especially regarding internet services. Even with the PTECH laptop provided, one still has to have access to internet after school and on weekends, otherwise it takes careful planning. Many of the students come from a low socio-economic background so they benefit immeasurably from the extra support from Hayley, the InsideTrack coach along with the PTECH facilitator. Hayley is the most positive, upbeat person who helps students create individual goals. She guides them in breaking apart seemingly huge challenges into tiny bite size pieces that students no longer see as insurmountable. This is very empowering for the students because these are the very skills they need to take with them in college and in life.
The most important change I’ve seen in our school is the increased desire to enter the program. Students see successful PTECH students navigating their way through dual credit classes and then they see that they too can do it. It’s no longer the top 4.0 GPA student that’s taking these classes; it’s the student with a 2.5 GPA who is being equally successful. Students are actually taking their futures seriously and making a real effort towards avoiding student loan debt by taking college courses in high school.
I think another one of their greatest fears is graduating from college and not finding a job, but PTECH allays that fear by providing a direct link from college to career. If a student can make that jump and envision themselves performing the day to day tasks within that job, they are more likely to focus on the long term goal rather than the short term moment. It’s worth the struggle.
Dawn Schatz is the GEAR-UP Coordinator, PTECH Facilitator and Librarian at Clark Fork High School. Read the recent press release about InsideTrack coaching and its benefits to students here.