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A student learns welding at a vocational high school in Massachusetts. (Photo: Emily Hanford)

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Vocational education was once a staple of American schooling, preparing some kids for blue-collar futures while others were put on a path to college. Today the new mantra is "college for all." But not everyone wants to go to college, and more than half of jobs don't require a bachelor's degree. Many experts say it's time to bring back career and technical education. This American RadioWorks documentary explores how vocational education is being reimagined.

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in collaboration with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Invest in summer education programs

File under: education, social networks, ministry, literacy, math, science, summer camp

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From: Robyn H., Birmingham, AL

The Children's Fresh Air Farm in Birmingham, Alabama, is a ministry of the Independent Presbyterian Church. It focuses on long-term relationships with children from low-wealth communities who are struggling to meet reading goals in the first and second grade. Through the church's STAIR literacy program, church members tutor students during the school year. Then, during the summertime, children are invited to the farm, a sprawling summer camp where students receive intensive remedial education, as well as breakfast and lunch, outdoor recreation, and enrichment activities.

The camp is free, which allows more families to participate and helps keep students from falling behind academically over summer break. Children get a traditional summer camp experience in addition to academic enrichment. They also get the chance to visit sites around Birmingham, like the McWane Science Center, the Birmingham Art Museum, the Civil Rights Institute, and Jones Valley Urban Farm.

I wrote a story about this camp on our blog, and received a tremendous response from the local community in praise of this project. I think it's a great example of a church congregation building relationships with those they serve and making a real impact in their community.

Students take a nationally normalized test to assess reading and math before and after camp, and they get education and enrichment from licensed, professional teachers. The investment IPC has made in this program is really paying off; I think these children will see the benefits for years to come.


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American RadioWorks |
A student learns welding at a vocational high school in Massachusetts. (Photo: Emily Hanford)

Ready to Work

Vocational education was once a staple of American schooling, preparing some kids for blue-collar futures while others were put on a path to college. Today the new mantra is "college for all." But not everyone wants to go to college, and more than half of jobs don't require a bachelor's degree. Many experts say it's time to bring back career and technical education. This American RadioWorks documentary explores how vocational education is being reimagined.

Recent Posts

  • 05.05.16

    Should Colleges Teach Men How to Be Men?

    Should colleges have men's studies majors or men's resource centers? Our guest this week tells us that male college students would get better grades if they rejected stereotypes of hyper-masculinity.
  • 04.28.16

    “My Frain is Bried”: Shadowing a Student

    "Welcome to our world." Educators take an entire school day to shadow a student and walk in their shoes. We find out how it went for one teacher.
  • 04.21.16

    High School Job Prep

    Want a job? So does every student ever! Maybe career and technical education classes are the way to go. Shaun Dougherty says you could be more likely to graduate and earn more if you do.
  • 04.14.16

    How Tutoring Helps Students

    Private tutoring is no longer just for the rich kids. Our guest tells us how the individual attention improves student learning and graduation rates.