Back to school: Suffolk program provides students with career opportunities

SUFFOLK, Va (WAVY) — The countdown to the classroom is on and there’s a change coming to Suffolk Public Schools.

One big trend in high schools now is a move toward academies. These programs promise they can save you money by offering college credits and/or help you earn money with a job right out of high school. One example is the newly named “College and Career Academy at Pruden” in Suffolk.

10 On Your Side met up with graduate Stasha Waterfield recently. She has always wanted to be a nurse and said while some of her classmates sat in study hall or left school early junior and senior years she came to the Pruden Center and got trained as a Certified Nurse’s Assistant and an EMT. “So when I applied to the nursing program I already had some workforce experience.”

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Some of her friends got licensed as cosmologists, heavy machine operators or welders. Director of the College and Career Academy at Prudent, Andre Skinner, told WAVY.com these certifications can lead to high paying jobs right out of high school.  “We’re trying to increase the pipeline to employment for all of these programs.”

Skinner told us that’s why this year the center has added new classes in the fast growing field of Cyber Security. In other words, he said, this is not your father’s Vo-Tech school. “Throw that negative perception of vocational out of the window because we need electricians, plumbers, carpenters, cyber security technicians…” The list goes on and on.

Many of the jobs Skinner stated have evolved from turning wrenches to tweaking computers which requires a high skill level. Every course has a certification that students can earn. They can take that straight to work or can use it to earn college credits and that can save you money.

“I actually helped with a car accident a few weeks ago, so if I wouldn’t have had that EMT knowledge I wouldn’t have been able to help those people in that car accident,” Waterfield told 10 On Your Side.  For her there’s no better feeling than helping people and knowing she’s got an edge on her college classmates, “It puts you one step above.”

The certifications can cost thousands of dollars to attain after you’ve graduated, but if you take them while in Suffolk public high schools they are free.

If you’re interested however, Skinner said you need to start thinking about it well before you enter high school so you can plan out your four-year schedule to include time for the classes.

The College and Career Academy at Pruden also offers adult education classes at night for a cost.