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By Patrick Donachie

Members of the Jamaica NOW Leadership Council visited Thomas Edison High School Monday for a tour of some of the school’s 12 career pathway tracts.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) accompanied the members of the council on the tour. The event highlighted the importance of the school in the Jamaica NOW Action Plan, which asks the council to ensure that students have increased “access to work-based learning” in the community.

“The school gave me the skills to move up to where I am today,” said Moses Ojeda, the principal and an alumnus of the school. “When the community comes together, we can have a big impact on these youngsters.”

The 12 career and technical education programs offers a three-year automotive repair sequence, electrical installation and medical assisting, the latter the first CTE of its kind in the state.

Ojeda said the school was thriving, but it needed assistance in reaching out to area businesses to alert them that students were ready to work at internship or job opportunities during summers or after graduation. He noted that all students in the medical assistance program were properly certified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The tour included stops in some of the CTE classrooms as well as a visit to the school’s Model United Nations class, where students spoke about their “Shop in a Box” project that would include materials and resources that could be sent to non-profits and organizations throughout the world.

According to the students, the boxes would include medical supplies and electronics, including a portable DVD player that could play videos created by the students instructing viewers on how to use the supplies. The teacher said a box could even include parts for a tiny robot that could be assembled on site to search rubble for survivors after a disaster.

The Jamaica NOW Action Plan is a listing of 21 different proposals to strengthen the neighborhood’s economic potential. One of the proposed actions is to improve the ties between the high school and local businesses to promote better job opportunities for students. According to the plan, the leadership council has up to three years to achieve success with this goal. Deepmalya Ghosh, an associate executive director at the Child Center of NY and a member of the council, said that the tour was a necessary first step to building relationships between the school and the community.

“It really speaks to starting here, feeling a collective sort of interest and building from there,” he said. “The first year of Jamaica NOW was really finding our way, and sort of looking at the relationships that are here that we can leverage.”

One of the members of the council on the tour was Montgomery J. Wilkinson, an alumnus of the class of 2006. He said working in the architectural design program at Thomas Edison High School helped him create a robust design portfolio. He said such an opportunity may not have been available at a regular school.

“If you didn’t have a trade, you may not have had a portfolio,” he said. “Being able to come out of school with a skill and a certification is what we need more of today.”

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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