Farmworker program gets big CTE grant

Farmworker program gets big CTE grant

(Calif.) A charter network that serves adults in several of the state’s farm working communities has been recommended to receive a $1.3 million state grant to support career technical education.

The EPIC de Cesar Chavez High School has an enrollment of close to 400 students at sites in Kern and Tulare counties, as well as the Coachella Valley, the Sacramento area and Salinas.

They are one of 13 local educational agencies to have been selected by the California Department of Education to receive a share of some $2.4 million in funding set aside this year by the Legislature for workforce development.

As part of a budget deal in 2015-16, lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown pledged to spend $900 million over three years to establish high-quality career education programs that prepare students who are likely to enter the workforce after high school, as well as those that will enroll in college.

The EPIC high school is part of the Farmworker Institute of Education and Leadership Development, or FIELD, a non-profit founded by Cesar Chavez in 1978 to provide educational services to farmworkers.

David Villarino, chief executive officer of FIELD, said in an interview that the high school was an outgrowth of training programs that had been offered by the United Farm Workers Union for many years.

“Our mission is to empower the under-served to become self-sufficient through education, training and business ownership,” he explained.

Students attend classes six hours a day following comprehensive curriculum just like any other high school student. Because many of the students are resuming their academic career, the charter administrators keep careful track of the credits they need to fulfill graduation requirements.

The CTE grant, Villarino said, will be used to establish pathway programs that will link students to higher education or to business ownership. The program has relationships now with a number of colleges including California State University Bakersfield and University of La Verne, as well as several community colleges.

Among the proposed pathways are agriculture, alternative energy, teaching and conservation.

“The CTE will be a really important link to helping us accomplish our core purpose to getting people to own their own businesses,” he said.

To date, the charter school has about 400 graduates. “But now we want to move them into the next level,” Villarino said.

The California State Board of Education will consider the grant awards at its regular November meeting this week. Other LEAs recommended for the CTE grants include:

  • Denair Unified: $125,000
  • Six River Charter: $250,000
  • Montebello Unified: $125,000
  • Summit Leadership Academy: $182,000