Jamaal, tell us a little bit about what you are doing at Helensview.
JAMAAL: I am working toward my credits to graduate. You need 22 credits to graduate and we use units. So a day is worth 11.5 units and 130 units is one credit. I am trying to get my high school diploma and get a job…move on toward the next step of my life. Helensview was good opportunity for me to do that.
How has Claudia helped you work toward your goals?
JAMAAL: Claudia always helps me whenever I ask her. She’ll look up a job for me. She helps me with my career plans. She is always nice to me.
Claudia, what made you want to do a story on Jamaal?
CLAUDIA: I think he’s a good example of our Futures classroom where we really try to combine preparing for work and preparing for college and independent living. That’s our focus in class. Everything we do kind of wraps around those goals. He’s done a really great job. He transferred in and needed a lot of credits. If I remember right, he was a little lost on where he was. He had some family things that kind of set him back. He started out a little slow but has gained steam.
Every term he has built his confidence. He has worked really hard. We looked at a lot of different jobs. It’s tough out there. He found one…it wasn’t his first choice (in a restaurant) but he took it. And all along he’s worked in his dad’s company. He is working more and more the last month. He’s really focusing on what that next step is.
We are always looking at that career ladder and all the things they might do to give them exposure so they can be making decisions about what they want. He’s done a really good job of balancing. He often comes to school late, but he calls to tell us “I just got off of work with my dad and I’m on my way. Is that ok?” Some days he doesn’t get here it until three, but we say come on in. That’s challenging. It’s hard to balance work and school.
How many hours are you putting into work?
JAMAAL: About five or six a day. We get up early. My dad, he went to the Navy, so he gets up early. He works all day. We start at 7 a.m.
CLAUDIA: He puts in a pretty good day before he even gets here. Sometimes he’s in his work clothes but asks “can I come in?” But we say come in.
What have you learned through Claudia’s class? What has helped you the most?
JAMAAL: I learned a lot because I had dropped out before I came here. When I came here I saw a whole lot of different kind of kids and a whole lot of different type of personalities. At first I didn’t like it. I wanted to drop out again. But then I thought, no. I started interacting with people and talking with people. It really helped me out a lot. It became a family with everybody here. It made me want to come to school more and learn more and take field trips…. and get my life right.
Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?
JAMAAL: Trying to become a business owner. I like landscaping, I like music. I would want own a music studio. I want to help people.
How would you describe Jamaal in your class?
CLAUDIA: I used this word a couple of weeks ago: I said he is witty and we had a discussion about what witty meant. He gets my jokes sometimes when other kids don’t get them. So he knows a lot about language and word play. So I can say things and no one else gets it and he’ll be laughing.
What is the focus of the Futures class?
CLAUDIA: We really try to focus on their strengths and looking at what they want to do and how they are going to get there. Also they have a transition plan that we work with very specifically and that is tailored to every single student. So his plan looks different than the kid who is next to him. If you are going to go to PCC or to Mt. Hood, then we take the placement test, we get you registered, we help you get your classes signed up.
If you are not going to do that, what are you going to do? Are you going to find another job, go to another program? We work with other agencies around town and use the Dexter Fuller scholarship fund to help them get a class to figure out what to take. They look at all the options. Where are they going to live, what about health care…so we know that his transition is really solid. The final piece is the credits. Make sure they have been accumulated in the right categories. My biggest concern is that he have a plan that will work for him, that is realistic and that he is going to leave here and move forward to the next step and be comfortable with that. That’s a big piece here and why we are different. Our class is different from the other classes.
The last step for Jamaal is that our students need to complete a job portfolio. This really helps them. It has all their college applications, their essays their college related stuff. That depends upon the student’s goals. Also it has their job piece which involves sample interview questions, a master application, a resume, sample cover letter and a thank you letter. They can really go out and respond when they see a job that says: send a cover letter with a resume. They have it ready to go.
What are some of the key things here that have enabled you to be successful where you weren’t successful at your old school?
JAMAAL: More help, way more help. More teachers in the classroom. I just feel like this is a really good school. So if thereis anybody that you know that needs to go to school and get the their life right, they should come to this school.