Last week, together with federal and state policymakers, I had a chance to meet young people at two Linked Learning pathways — Los Angeles High School of the Arts (LAHSA) and STEM Academy. How inspiring to hear them describe both the challenges and accomplishments of their educational journeys.
We heard from Geovanny Aguilar, a LAHSA graduate who is now working construction on a 2 million dollar home in Malibu. He said that when he came to LAHSA, he was a special ed kid reading at a first-grade level. Now, in just four years, he’s reading at an eighth-grade level, and has gained skills in teamwork and communication that he uses daily on the job.
We heard from Ashley Ramirez, a first-generation college student who graduated from the STEM Academy, and is now preparing herself for a career in medicine. “I’m struggling in college because it’s hard, but I have the passion for this. Being exposed to different experiences is what keeps someone going. Keep the internships coming because they inspire our passions.”
The adults who interact with them also spoke of the powerful effect on their own lives. For example, we heard Neil Chawla, a doctor from Kaiser Permanente who mentors STEM academy students say “a lot of us went into medicine for social reasons, so we’re very happy to have the opportunity to be with the kids and encourage them to get into medicine.”
Hosted by the Alliance for Excellent Education, this was a powerful day — one that I hope inspired the policymakers to think harder about how we can craft federal policy to encourage strong integration of rigorous academics with career and technical education, engage students in challenging authentic projects, and expand opportunities for young people to interact with working adults.