November 2, 2010

Some Kern Valley Leaders Are Not Waiting For Superman

Kristen A. Beall, Ed.D.

Tom Cormack, ECHO Lead Teacher

It’s not that he’s dropped them, or forgotten them or anything like that. Some things are just too heavy for even Superman to lift. In places like the Kern River Valley, where some cities report unemployment rates of nearly double California’s, good jobs are hard to come by as are skilled workers in the fields of health and human services.  To meet this challenge, leaders involved with Kern Valley High School's Exploring Careers and Health Occupations (ECHO) program are doing the heavy lifting on their own. 

Last week, I received a letter from Kelly B., a senior at Kern Valley High School, thanking the Foundation for our past support of the school’s Exploring Careers and Health Occupations (ECHO) program. (For the past two years, the Foundation has awarded grants from donor advised funds to support this program.)  Through the ECHO program, Kelly and dozens more KVHS students have been introduced to professional opportunities in the healthcare field by "bringing the workplace into the classroom and the classroom into the workplace." Starting in their sophomore year, students take health-related classes and receive hands-on experience, with hopes of graduating high school qualified to become a Certified Nursing Assistant or Emergency Medical Technician – good jobs and the start of meaningful careers for many.

I was first introduced to the ECHO program by Jeanette Rogers-Erickson, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Kern Valley Healthcare District, and a member of Kern Community Foundation’s Board of Directors. Jeanette pointed to the ECHO program as one of her community’s "bright spots". And she had nothing but great things to say about the program’s Lead Teacher, Tom Cormack, and Career Assistant, Vickie Stacy. Tom and Vickie, along with a host of community partners, make the ECHO program possible.

In her letter, Kelly wrote "Mrs. Stacy is such an inspiration . . . she’s only one person, but she does so much for us all." Davis Guggenheim’s recent film "Waiting for Superman" makes the same case . . . that results-oriented educators make the difference in student achievement and success. In my opinion, nothing looks more like "truth, justice and the American way" than the spirit behind programs like ECHO. Not a bird, not a plane . . . just local folks like Tom and Vickie who care enough about their students and their community to deliver exceptional results without waiting for Superman.

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1 Comment


ECHO is typical of what California Partnership Academies are all about--a safe and nurturing school within the larger school that not only prepares students of careers, but also prepares them for college. Students in Academies have higher test scores and greater chances of graduating. The students gain confidence by actually experiencing the work place. The big bonus is the symbiosis that occurs between business partners and the Academy. This is especially true in the Kern River Valley. The local hospital benefits greatly from ECHO students and graduates. The local CERT team relies heavily on the students for local disaster preparedness training. The county Health Department relies on the students for immunization clinics. Most people in the Valley know of the ECHO kids and are supportive of the program. I've never seen the level of support that ECHO enjoys. Thank you Kern Community Foundation for supporting the program. Partnership Academies have a long track record of succcess, and ECHO is one of the best.

January 27, 2012, 6:48pm

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