Making the Most of the Summer
Jump Start allows students to earn credits, certifications, and cash
The sounds of drills whirling, hammers banging, and metal clanking filled the air. Absent were the voices of the students who were intently focused on the tasks before them.
“Most students come in not knowing what it really is, but they come and learn,” Tevin Felix said as he watched over students lined along row after row of faux walls, installing electrical panels, wiring junction boxes, and mounting conduit.
Tevin is an assistant instructor at NOTEP (New Orleans Technical Education Provider) and a recent graduate of Warren Easton High School. While still in high school, through NOTEP, he earned three industry-recognized certifications in the Skilled Trade career pathway. Now he’s headed to college in the fall to study Business Administration and hopes to one day open his own business. He thinks the skills he’s gained at NOTEP are going to help him along the way.
“I really enjoyed the program. Adam explained to me options to go into the workforce and college. And he offered me the opportunity help in the summer,” Tevin explained while keeping an eye on his pupils. “I like working with the students. They can relate to me.”
The students are there as part of the Louisiana Department of Education’s Jump Start Summers initiative, which allows them to master essential workplace skills, engage with industry experts, earn a summer wage, and attain industry-valued credentials.
Adam Bourne, the director of NOTEP, said that Jump Start Summers has given his organization the opportunity to offer Carpentry Level II training for the first time this summer. Now, students who completed in Level I training during spring can matriculate to Level II without missing a beat. Adam explained that Level II training gives students the commercial and interior construction skills that are desirable to employers.
“When they finish this summer, they’ll earn three things: a credential, a stipend, and academic credit,” said Adam. “One more thing they earn is their instructor’s recommendation, and it’s proven invaluable. Because when we’ve recommend students, they’ve been able to get jobs.”
“I really want to do construction work,” said Alton Halloway, Jr. as he was installing a ceiling fan. Alton, a soon-to-be junior at Sophie B. Wright Charter School, started with NOTEP this summer through Jump Start. He’s already planned out the rest of his year with NOTEP.
“It’s a really good program,” he said. “They help you get an in-depth knowledge. They show you how to do it yourself, and I passed all my tests.”
After high school, Alton plans to go to college to study Business Administration, and later, he wants to start his own carpentry business. This summer, he’s one of the 30 students working toward an industry-based credential at NOTEP.
Across town in the CBD, a similar scene played out at Operation Spark where students were lined along row after row of computers. It was a big day. It was test day.
“I’m nervous,” said Jada Williams, a recent graduate of Dr. King Charter School who will be starting Loyola University in the fall. She’s already earned a Level I industry-based certification, and she’s testing today as part of her Level II certification.
“I like creating things the most,” she said about coding. “No matter how hard or how frustrating it is, at the end, you have a finished product.”
John Cooper can relate. He’s already passed the Level II Advanced Coding program, and he’s back at Operation Spark this summer as a paid intern. He will be entering his senior year at McMain High School and wants to go on to college to study Computer Science. His big plans are to become a software engineer, work at a leading tech company like Apple or Google, and ultimately, start his own company that “will grow to be as big as Apple.”
Operation Spark is also hosting a number of first time students this summer, too. Tyrone Boissiere, an incoming junior at New Orleans Military & Maritime Academy, is learning the fundamentals of software development.
“I love being here,” he said. “The teachers and interns are really helpful. They are caring people who want us to succeed.”
In total, 80 students from Orleans public high schools plus many from other parts of the state are learning coding at Operation Spark this summer through Jump Start Summers.
“When they finish this summer, they leave with course credit, an industry-based certification, and a stipend — as well as a portfolio of projects, which is something they can show an employer and college,” said Aaron Schwindt, the Operation Spark’s Director of High School Programs.
Also in the Digital Media/IT pathway, students are gaining real-world experience at NOVAC for the first time this summer through Jump Start Summers.
“They made a music video, created a movie poster, and visited the set of the movie “Queen Sugar,”said Darcy McKinnon, the Executive Director of NOVAC.
Darcy is working to grow NOVAC’s programs and is partnering with YouthForce NOLA to create an industry-based certification that includes work experience and the development of a portfolio, which she says is essential to landing a good job in the digital media industry.
YouthForce NOLA is providing NOVAC, as well as Operation Spark and NOTEP, technical assistance and financial resources to help them grow their industry-based certification programs.
“Our partnership with YouthForce NOLA is going to allow us to bring on additional instructors to build out our high school program. We currently have students coming from over 80% of Orleans Parish schools, and our goal for this coming year is to get students from 100%, said Schwindt. “The YouthForce NOLA partnership is huge in helping us take it to the next level. It is also going to allow us to offer an ESL class as well as a video game development class.”