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Chester County Press

Kennett School District showcases degree programs for state education secretary

01/10/2023 01:18AM ● By Steven Hoffman
Kennett Consolidated School District administrators and others touted their newly minted student degree programs by hosting Pennsylvania Education Secretary Eric Hagarty at a roundtable event in the high school on Monday morning.
The Secretary sat absorbed in presentations by Superintendent Dusty Blakey, members of Blakey’s staff and board, participating students and several institutional leaders who contribute to the programs. The master of ceremonies was Kennett Consolidated School District communications specialist Nikki Laws.
Beginning this academic year, the high school piloted degree programs which aim to enhance student preparations for future vocations. According to a press release from the district, the school offers courses and activities which include college coursework, job shadowing, internships and work experience. 
There is also a partnership at Kennett with West Chester University called the “PRIZE” pipeline program, which enables students who are interested in a teaching career to begin preparations while they are in high school. In this program, they take courses and activities in high school that contribute to that goal. 
West Chester University, in turn, enrolls students who have already received some training and classes, puts them on a road to student teaching at Kennett, and eventually the students can work toward a career in Kennett Consolidated School District.
Blakey began the event by talking about the degree programs and the goal that he and the school board members had to make the high school experience more meaningful to students who are looking toward the future.
He offered a question he asked himself: “What does high school prepare you to do?”
He explained, “I flipped burgers at McDonalds. ...The things that tests don’t test are what matter most.”
He said that by offering these dual enrollment programs, students who choose them often receive what they would otherwise get in college. In that way, he added, they get to experience earlier in life what their potential careers hold. 
“It’s the university model in high school,” he said.
This year 150 students are engaged in the high school’s named degree programs that include Agricultural Science, Business Administration, Coding, Engineering, Finance, Fine Arts, Media Communications and Real Estate and Tourism.  
Three more courses are planned for the future, Assistant Superintendent Michael Barber said.
Student Murphy Carney said the agriculture program suits him well. “This is something I’m going to use,” he said. 
When he was asked if he had a particular career goal in mind, he said he was not certain, but, “I know I want to be outside.”
DJ Augustine, who runs the Real Estate and Tourism program, said the body of information in his classes is not only interesting for the students, but it also lends itself to new avenues of creativity on the part of the teacher.
Blakey said that those students who take part in the programs might also receive financial support by enhanced qualifications for summer employment to offset college costs.
Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Cheryl Kuhn said she is in favor of local businesses offering shadowing or internship opportunities and other support because the program strengthens the area.  
“The enthusiasm gives us energy to go on,” she said.
Hagarty said he is in favor of the programs and is hoping to allocate between $20 million and $30 million to support the models statewide.
Hagarty later followed the organizers of the event to a class of students in Scott Bosch’s Media Communications program, where he witnessed the members at work and spoke with them about their activities.