MCHS working hard to prepare its students for post secondary and life

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MCHS Principal Todd Eistetter speaks to Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce members at their May 7 luncheon. – Stephen Dafoe Photo

by Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Chamber of Commerce members had the opportunity to hear current and future plans for Morinville Community High School direct from its top administrator. MCHS Principal Todd Eistetter was the speaker at the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon May 7. Eistetter brought the news that his school was an exceptional school, a descriptor he said was backed by Alberta Education information, data that shows the school is currently experiencing results that are the highest they have been in eight years.

But Eistetter’s visit, in addition to laying out the strong foundation on which the school is rising, was also to outline activities he and school staff believe will position students on the road to post secondary education and adult life. The school began offering university courses this year in a dual credit program with Grant MacEwan University as part of the GSACRD International school of Business. Under the program, Grade 12 students can take Introduction to Canadian Business with a university professor, earning high school credits at the same time. Eistetter and the school are looking to expand the program for the 2014 – 2015 year in a new dual credit program called the MCHS University Preparation Program. The expanded program will partner with a different post-secondary partner to offer English 1011 and Psychology 1040. It is hoped to add Sociology 1000 and Political Science 1000 in the following school year.

The MCHS principal said statistics show the highest number of post-secondary students drop out in the first year of school. The addition of dual credit and expanded dual credit is seen as a way to help MCHS students in their current education as well as in their future endeavours. “If we can give our students a good experience, the opportunities for them to continue to complete their studies, hopefully [success] will be far greater,” Eistetter said, adding that completion of secondary and post-secondary education is increasingly important in the province’s job market. “With the job market the way it has been for the last 20 or 30 years, people could get into various industries without any post-secondary [education]. That’s starting to change. There are very few companies in Fort McMurray that will accept anyone with less than a Grade 12 education, and that is increasing. Fort McMurray was one of the big draws for our young people. They were dropping out of school at 16 or 17 to go there and become involved in it. They were making a very large wage, but over a period of time it wasn’t serving them because they didn’t have the education to go on in the various trades. Suncor was one of the first producers there to recognize that and they change it. Their subcontractors followed it.”

Eistetter is hoping the expanded program will have the opportunity of better preparing students for post-secondary while giving them a step up in life.

Other expand offerings

The principal is equally proud of other initiatives at the school that he believes are assisting students. One of those programs is the school’s Urban Agriculture class, a program started this school year that is currently the only program of its kind in the province. “Urban Agriculture is basically a ground to table program where students learn where food comes from, how it’s produced – everything in relation to it. “They have gone out to farms. They’ve worked with feedlots. They’ve worked at green houses. They have their own pigs and each semester they slaughter three pigs, butcher them and sell the meat to put back into the program.” Eistetter said students are also working with Sobeys to grow and sell herbs.

Another program the school is involved in with Community Futures Tawatinaw Region is a new offering called Biz Kids. Eistetter said a representative from Community Futures comes to MCHS one day a week to work with a number of students on entrepreneurship. “They learn the basics of business – setting up a business, bookkeeping and marketing, and using credit to overcome challenges,” the principal said, adding students will make a presentation at the end of the eight-week program to compete for $300 interest-free loans to start their student business. “It’s a great opportunity to do something a little different.”

Beyond setting up potential student entrepreneurs with summer businesses, the school’s Work Experience Coordinator continues to find placements for high school students in local businesses. Additionally, Eistetter said the school will soon have a job board where local businesses looking for employees can fill out an online form and have their opening posted for students to view at the school.

Eistetter sees the various initiatives and partnerships in the community as important parts to educating and preparing his students. “We need the connections in the community – through Work Experience, RAP [Registered Apprentice Program], through the sponsorship with Urban Agriculture,” Eistetter said. “It’s a win-win benefit because the students that come out of school are stronger. They have more skills. They have more interest because of the opportunities that were provided in the community.”

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