The Power of Continuing Education at Oakland International High School
By Martha Sessums
ACE is about continuing education. It is where we started in 1968, and it’s in our name – The Association for Continuing Education, or ACE.
ACE’s technology has changed from using closed circuit television for delivering worksite-based education programs to using the Internet to deliver online curriculum to schools. ACE has recently focused on supporting our Partner School’s efforts to further their educational mission, and now we are returning to our name by championing several continuing education programs.
First report: Oakland International High School (OIHS) Family Learning Center.
ACE has partnered with OIHS’s Family Learning Center by providing the technology that makes it work. The ACE network provides the wireless and mobile Internet access required for the computers, mobile devices, along with Rosetta Stone curriculum, the USB headsets for the campus computer labs and funding for teachers and counselors.
At the Family Learning Center, students can take a “5th Year” to hone their skills to pass graduation requirements. The OIHS student population is recently arrived immigrants from around the world, and some have a special challenge: they need to improve their English language skills to pass the California High School Exit Exam, or CAHSEE. I understand this challenge. I have been taking French lessons for 10 years, and I still couldn’t pass a French lycée exit exam, or Baccalauréate as it is called. OIHS offers Adult Beginner ESL and CAHSEE Prep to ensure that students are literate and ready to pass the state exam.
One of the tools used to learn English is web-based Rosetta Stone language learning software. It can be used on any computer or mobile device at home or school, allowing parents and students complete access to lessons anytime, anywhere.
Some results: OIHS has 38 students enrolled in two sections of Cahsee Prep. These students speak 16 different languages, including English. So far, two 5th Year students have passed the state exam and earned their high school diplomas. In the adult ESL class, 30 students are enrolled. Four days a week, they attend two-hour classes. Perhaps if I spent that much time on my French lessons . . .
OIHS provides classes for parents of students who have never used computers. Called Adult Basic Technology, it teaches the basics of computer use, along with tips and tricks. It’s the “OIHS Genius Bar,” without having to make a reservation.
Sixteen adults are enrolled in the technology class. The Alameda County Office of Social Services certified the class combo of ESL and technology as “work preparation” classes that satisfy Welfare to Work requirements for families receiving CalWORKs. Now, that is powerful.
There is also an Internship class, which helps students explore career options, along with job search skills such as writing appealing resumes and interviewing. They also review American-style professionalism and conflict resolution in the workplace. But OIHS isn’t done. Students are provided support to find paying and non-paying after school internships, and are mentored for success. There are 35 student interns this year at sites like the Oakland SPCA, KDOL (Oakland Unified’s educational TV station) and The Spot Youth Center.
Now for some food fun. The Gardening and Cooking class provides garden space on campus for adults to grow healthy foods to share and take home. Come harvest time twice a month, the gardeners provide a multi-cultural feast where adults and students share cultural lessons about food. One person’s cachapa corn cake is another’s chorreadas, and yet another’s tortilla.
The Adult Learning Center ESL and technology classes support parents from ten countries: Colombia, Somalia, Burma, Nepal, Morocco, Yemen, Mexico, El Salvador, China and Cambodia. According to Sailaja Suresh, Academy Director at OIHS, parents are asking for more opportunities for families to learn together and build relationships across cultures.
“The opportunities available at OIHS are unlike any other in Oakland or Alameda County,” she said. “ACE has helped us make a tremendous difference in the lives of our students and their families.”
And that is the power of continuing education.