When it comes to informing her middle schools students of the importance of career and college planning, Rosemore Middle School Principal Rochelle Rankin knows that it may take more than inspired and committed teachers, engaged parents and a caring school staff to get the attention of her eighth-graders. Recently, she leveraged the influence of some local celebrities to help drive home the message.

“Our middle school students hear us talk daily about dreaming big. We work to motivate each and every student to be intentional about career planning, staying focused in school, and preparing themselves today for what they would like to do in the future," says Rankin. "We thought bringing in some local celebrities, to whom they relate, would help us underscore just how important it is for them to get a head start on career planning as a positive step toward making their dreams a reality.”

Rankin, Whitehall City Schools Superintendent Brian Hamler and other school staff members were all smiles when Radio One air personalities, City and Yaves, entered the cafeteria and the room came alive with the roar of over 200 eighth-graders.

City, a former science-teacher-turned-DJ, talked with the students about making smart decisions and making good use of the opportunities available to them today in health careers and to take advantage of free high school courses available to them.

Eighth-grader Riley Maxstead says the session helped her see how the medical field offers a variety of career options – some she had never considered.

"I want my work to make a difference, and I like computers, so exploring medical information technology might be an option for me. I did not know I could get all of that right here in my district."

Yaves, a graduate of Whitehall City Schools, shared his journey from Rosemore to Whitehall Yearling High School, earning his degrees from The Ohio State University and the Fisher College of Business to becoming a nationally known rap artist. He reminded the students to start planning for their careers while in middle school and to stay focused, work hard and graduate.

“This was great and it was so invigorating how they connected with us,” says eighth-grader Michael Bivens. “My takeaway was that I need to really get serious about my future plans – I need to start now.”

Whitehall City Schools offers the health information management technology pathway to its high school students. For more information about Whitehall City Schools, visit their website.

Engineering and Design Lets Westerville Seventh-Graders Take Control

Seventh-graders in Westerville are getting firsthand experience in how engineering and design go hand in hand when making things – while also learning to solve problems on their own.

The district’s engineering and design class – a semester-long program that is mandatory for all Westerville seventh-graders – is a precursor to classes students may eventually choose in high school as part of the district’s involvement in Innovation Generation.

Lee Smith, a seventh-grade engineering and design teacher at Heritage Middle School, says what his students are learning will help them if they choose to participate in the advanced manufacturing and robotics pathway in high school. But he says the thinking process that engineering and design promotes will benefit students even if they choose a pathway such as business logistics or health care.

“What’s really interesting is this is a class that frees the students' ability to create,” Smith explains. “In many other classes, kids are steered to a piece of paper and a pencil. In this class, we build things. We take ideas, and we explore them and create things.”

For example, Smith’s students currently are building bridges. The Mackinac Bridge in northern Michigan, the London Bridge and the Golden Gate are among bridges students are currently building. Students are importing drawings found online into computer programs that then allow them to use laser cutters, 3-D printers and vinyl cutters to create exact replicas.

“This class forces students to see how things fit together, so they really can’t design just one piece at a time and pray that they all fit,” Smith says. “They have to see the whole thing all at once.”

More importantly, he says, “When you give kids a problem and let them choose their own pathway, they’re forced to think, forced to understand. What’s really fun about this class is it’s less of me needing to find out whether they’ve got a specific skill, and more of me asking ‘do you understand the challenge and the time constraints to do this challenge? Do you need any help organizing it?’ That forces them to be creative and to understand the problem.”

Smith says his students not only are up to the challenge, they have embraced it enthusiastically.

“Every morning, three bells ring,” Smith explains. “The first bell tells students they can go to their lockers; the second bell tells them it’s time to go to class; and the third bell tells them school has started. Within a minute to a minute and a half, I’ve got kids coming in and pulling up the laptops and working. Because they’re in complete control of their projects.”

Making Headlines: Innovation Generation in the News

Innovation Generation continues to gain the attention of local news media. Most recently, Hilliard City Schools, Westerville City Schools and Columbus City Schools were heard on Radio One programs, “Eye on the Community” and “Any Given Sunday.” The districts showcased students who are participating in career pathway programs within each of their districts. Additionally, the latest edition of CityScene Magazine features how students are using innovative technology and the mobile fab lab to learn skills in advanced manufacturing and engineering courses being offered in the Westerville City Schools district. And, former Ohio Governor Bob Taft shared his views on career education in a recent Columbus Dispatch editorial.

Real-World Problem-Solving in the Classroom

Grandview Heights High School students are gaining work-related experiences with teamwork and problem-solving exercises through classes that are a part of Innovation Generation pathways.

“It’s one of the only classes that teaches you how to problem-solve, without a formula,” says Grandview Heights student, Jon Faris. “You have to come up with the solution yourself; it’s the most real-world application.”

In their advanced manufacturing class, Grandview Heights students work with industrial-grade technologies such as a vinyl cutter and a 3-D printer.

“It’s fun because there are endless possibilities; you can do anything that you can think of on the machine,” says student Colin Jourdan while working on a CNC router, a computer-controlled cutting machine.

Students are engaged and challenged to think outside the box, making for an overall well-rounded learning experience, notes Brad Gintert, Grandview Heights industrial technology teacher. “It gives every student a chance to shine and to work to their abilities,” Gintert says.

It’s all part of the district’s focus to reinvent education and expose students early on to careers in health care, networking and digital technology, and advanced manufacturing and robotics. Watch this video to learn more about what Grandview Heights students are doing in their Innovation Generation pathway.

Resources Just For You

School districts participating in Innovation Generation have a number of resources available to help counselors, teachers and others communicate about the initiative. All the materials can be customized to individual districts. These include:

To request any of these materials, please contact us at info@innovationgenerationohio.com.

About Innovation Generation
Innovation Generation, a collaboration of 15 central Ohio school districts, is made possible by a $14.4 million Ohio Straight A Fund grant from the Ohio Department of Education. Innovation Generation gives students options to gain credentials AND earn college credits while still in high school. Each participating district tailors courses to meet the unique needs of its community and students, while highlighting the rewarding careers available in advanced manufacturing/robotics, business logistics, health care, or IT, some of the region’s fastest-growing and most important industries.