Assemblyman Devon Mathis visited J.J. Cairns Continuation High School in Porterville Friday morning, and learned about the internship program learners invest in while they are attending school.
Principal Dennis Doane described some of the opportunities open to the learners, and how they are learning skills and taking advantage of real job opportunities before graduation, so that they have these internships open to them after graduation. Doane described to Mathis that before the internship program started there was a 37% attendance rate at school. Now with the schools internship program there is a 98% attendance rate.
“It’s come a long way since I’ve been here,” said Doane, who has been at J.J. Cairns for 14 years.
Doane was telling Mathis that a lot of the learners have adult experiences, and they’ve learned how to support the learners emotionally in the high school setting.
It’s nice for the kids not to be just in an academic situation, and they’ve learned how to personalize and customize the learning plan and internship program for each student.
“We are trying to bring back learning into the learners’ academics, building relevance for their situations in classroom advisory sessions,” said Doane.
Mathis, Doane, Erik Gonzales, LUSD Student Advocate and Internship Coordinator, Grant Schimelpfening, LUSD Chief Business Officer, Rachael Ray, Mathis Field Representative, and Kelley Layton, LUSD Assistant to the Director of Advancement, visited three advisory classrooms where teachers Noe Lopez, Candy Forrester, and Bernadette Shelton were working with students on different projects.
The students in Shelton’s class were writing down their successes and their struggles when Mathis spoke with some of them.
After being introduced to the classroom as their State Assembly representative, Mathis said that even though he was now in politics and representing them in Sacramento, originally he is a “redneck type from Porterville,” and congratulated the learners “on what you do, day in and day out.”
“I congratulate you on winning the award for the model Continuation High School in the state of California,” said Mathis.
Shelton asked the learners in her class what they are proud of.
She said, “We are going to start a hydroponic garden. And we are also doing a reading class where we’re reading the book written by Malala Yousafzai.”
Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize and the Philadelphia Liberty Medal.
Mathis said he was battling with the Governor over water “because we need water for the farmers in the valley.”
Doane and Gonzales showed Mathis and the other dignitaries the “dress for success” business clothes that are donated to the school for the learners to wear for job interviews. Doane said they also would like to start a food pantry on campus.
“It’s our job to build these kids back up. My wife got this started [with] the clothes lending library, with business clothes to make the kids presentable,” said Doane.
One of the students told Doane that people treat her differently when she’s dressed up. Layton said that people do treat you differently when you present yourself in a different way.
Mathis quoted Galileo Galilei, a 16th century astronomer, physicist, engineer, and philosopher, and said, “We cannot teach anyone. But we can lead them to discover themselves.”
Mathis praised the school for pushing the limits of their learners.
“John J.Cairns and the internship program is one of the best models I have seen in the state,” said Mathis. “This school is putting students first and giving them the tools and individualized pathways for success. They are not just learning, but building lifelong careers and relationships.”
“The word is getting out about our internships,” said Doane, “and we have people knocking at the doors. These businesses want to invest in these kids.”
“But we expect them to treat them like an employer when they are in an internship,” said Gonzales. “They need to learn technical and business skills. They need to learn the mind set and work ethic.”
“I’m so excited for them,” said Ray, speaking about the recognition J.J. Cairns received from the state.
Doane was pleased to have the district’s Assembly representative visit the campus.
“It was an honor to have Devon Mathis on our campus.” said Doane. “It was really good for all the learners to be recognized and meet the person who represents them in Sacramento. It was a very good visit.”