Pathways 360

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Souderton Area School District Pathway 360--USDA STEC CAP Collaborative Venture

Agriculture in general and food safety in particular are indispensable and ever-evolving areas of scientific inquiry and research. Critically important to the availability and affordability of a wholesome food supply for our Nation is the delivery of best practices at all stages of the farm to fork continuum of meat production along with the recruitment, mentoring, and training of a skilled workforce. Unfortunately, for many reasons, key among these being a lack of awareness of food-related careers, many vital positions of employment for these opportunities draw few candidates with even fewer in the pipeline at high schools, technical schools, and universities, even for those institutions with agriculture/food science programs in place. Our primary objective is to engage students in informed career exploration activities throughout their high school experience, especially by working with mentors directly in work-based experiences, with an emphasis on pursuing careers in agriculture and with a strong focus on mitigating the risk to public health related to STEC and beef. Mentorship and experiential learning is a time proven approach and a critical method to increase engagement of students. Such experiences expand students’ outlook to possible career options, along with high school courses, credentials, and college majors that may be of extreme benefit as they pursue a specific career path in agriculture. To close this skills gap, Souderton Area High School (SAHS) continues to break new ground with its Pathway 360° career exploration program. With 330 students of the class of 2015 and again almost 330 in the class of 2016 completing an optional 20-hour career mentorship, SAHS students are reaping the rewards of utilizing work-based learning to inform their academic preparation and expand their career options.


The Pathway 360° program components from 8th through 12th grades include career exploration courses, one-day job-shadow experiences, 20-hour mentorships, and senior presentations with an integrated reflection on their experiences. Moreover, our team from SAHS continues to refine our Pathway 360° philosophy and mission for fellow practitioners and policy makers. Through descriptive data, qualitative student reflections, and candid stories of implementation successes and identification and remediation of roadblocks, we are confident in our program's merits for student success as well as economic development in our region and across the country. In partnering with the USDA-NIFA STEC CAP, SAHS administrators and faculty will work to expand the Pathway 360° program through funding of three key positions (i.e., Pathway 360° Executive Director, Mentorship Coordinator, and Career Counselor) and supporting key processes (e.g., food industry field trips, teachers in the workplace opportunities, curriculum revisions, and travel expenses). These mission critical individuals and processes of the Pathway 360° program will complement existing STEC CAP internship/externships and assist in the recruitment, training, engaging, and empowering of our next generation of food safety professionals. Note, the Career Counselor positon will be funded in partnership with the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board, with a specific focus on economically disadvantaged, special education, and English language learner student populations. In addition, SAHS will work to replicate/pilot elements of its Pathway 360° program in two locations in Pennsylvania (possibly Upper Perkiomen and Norristown School Districts located in Montgomery County). Souderton will also work with two school systems outside of Pennsylvania with ties to meat production (possibly Dodge City or Garden City in Kansas and Coldwater in Michigan and associated industry partners Cargill and Clemens Food Group, respectively, in these locations). The tangible outcomes will be the replication/expansion of the Pathway 360° program beyond SAHS and, in turn, the engagement of some 2500 additional high school students to pursue careers in agriculture.

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