NEWPORT — Steady rain fell on the grass courts of the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Monday, but it didn’t dampen the spirits of the education and business leaders gathered upstairs.
Representatives from some of Rhode Island’s largest employers mingled with many of the region’s public education leaders at the inaugural Reimagining Education & New England’s Workforce (RENEW) Summit, an initiative that grew out of weekly Zoom meetings early the morning. Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green and her New England counterparts have been holding out since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Attendees, including all of the New England State Education Commissioners and representatives from companies like Bank of America, Stanley Black & Decker, CVS and Electric Boat, heard opening remarks d’Infante-Greene and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.
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Cardona, who went to technical high school in Meriden, Connecticut, before becoming the youngest school principal and the state’s first Latino commissioner of education, said he was one of three locals of New England in President Joe Biden’s cabinet, along with Gina Raimondo and Marty Walsh.
Beginning her career in education as a fourth-grade teacher, Cardona spoke of the need for “intentional collaboration” between educators, government officials and business leaders.
“There is more money in education than ever before,” he said. “Let’s use this disruption to raise the bar…Every head of state currently has US Bailout (Act) dollars to create or expand career and academic pathways and take action to transform education in their communities. The budget also includes more than $200 million for career-related learning.
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Cardona and Rogers High School Dellicia Allen rounded out a roundtable, which also included the presidents of the Community College of Rhode Island and the University of Rhode Island, the CEO of Bank of America and the Maine Commissioner of Education.
They focused on building strong academic and professional pathways and accelerating learning as school systems emerge from the COVID pandemic. America’s most powerful education official and the rising senior from the local Newport public high school each captured the attention of the room as they took turns talking about the work it takes to overcome two unprecedented years that have been difficult for students and educators.
Allen is in an accredited cosmetology program at Rogers and also did a summer internship with the local NAACP branch through his high school’s programming.
“I think the two biggest issues I see right now plaguing our education system and our economy are the lack of equity and the failure to invest in our marginalized youth,” she said. “In unprecedented times, we have the opportunity to take unprecedented action, and our education system must be revolutionized in a way that supports all learning styles and not just the needs of a particular group of students. .
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It was clear that every adult on the panel and in the audience, including Cardona, was listening carefully to Allen’s perspective as a local student on the topics discussed. Much of the discussion focused on preparing the workforce, pathways to vocational and technical education, and the needs of modern students preparing for either college or a viable career. directly after high school.
John Jordan, chief executive of Bank of America, mentioned his company’s Pathways program, which pledges to hire 10,000 people without a college degree in low- and middle-income communities and train them in a purpose-built academy. effect.
“We’re surpassing that goal in 2.5 years and we’re committed to hiring an additional 10,000 people because this program has been so successful,” he said.
There were good reasons to hold the regional event in Newport. While some may point out that Rogers High isn’t exactly a high-ranking academic powerhouse as Rhode Island’s public schools, they might be surprised to learn that Newport offers one of the vocational education programs. and technique in the state, offering accredited programs. tracks in cosmetology, cybersecurity, advertising and new media, sheet metal work, residential carpentry and several other fields.
Additionally, Newport is home to the Paul W. Crowley East Bay Met School, a longtime innovator in alternative education, as well as a bustling CCRI campus, making the seaside city a hotbed for CTE programming and pioneer education. practice.
“One of the reasons we’re here is because Newport is at the top of CTE programs,” Infante-Green told the Daily News. “There is a cybersecurity program. There is also cooking. There is work with Electric Boat. So there is an array of amazing programs in Newport…Our students here have opportunities that we would like to see nationally .