Thursday, October 22, 2009

Teens Graduate Ready for Life

Explore, Discover, Become was the theme of FHA-HERO during the 2008-09 school year. Every year, students who are enrolled in Consumer & Family Studies, a program offered by Home Economics Careers and Technology, have the opportunity to explore possibilities, discover what interests them and become successful in life by learning skills that will help them to excel.  If they also become involved in FHA-HERO, the career technical student organization affiliated with Home Economics Careers and Technology, they will have an immediate opportunity to put their newly-learned skills into practice. Photo by Carl Dameron

These young ladies are ready to attend a school formal. This one was put on at the California State Leadership Meeting for their organization,  FHA-HERO,which teaches leadership, communication, organization and other skills they'll need to succeed in the adult world. FHA-HERO is a co-curricular student organization for Home Economics Careers and Technology. Through one of HECT's programs, Consumer & Family Studies, thousands of California students are learning these skills in an academic environment. Many of them have an immediate opportunity to put them into practice through their involvement in FHA-HERO. Photo by Carl Dameron

(SACRAMENTO Calif.) – It has been said that life brings about the most change between the ages of 16 and 26.

Between those ages, students typically graduate from high school, move from their parents’ home to a dorm or apartment, begin a career, and often, marry and have children. That’s a lot happening in the space of a few short years and, tragically, many young adults pass through this decade of life ill-prepared.

A program taught at many California high schools makes sure they are ready. It provides these students with training in personal and family management skills such as parenting, communication and budgeting, and with career preparation skills such as writing resumes, interviewing for jobs and gaining entry-level experience in career fields related to one’s “dream job.”

The program, officially known as Consumer and Family Studies, is taught through Home Economics Careers and Technology, a part of the California Department of Education. The courses within this program are known by different names, such as “Parenting,” “Life Management” and “Economics for Living.”

“I want them to be responsible citizens,” said Tracy Taylor, department chair overseeing the Home Economics Careers and Technology courses at Rowland High School in Rowland Heights. “And I want them to be prepared to have a great home, a great family AND a great career.”

At Rowland High School, as with all of the others offering Consumer and Family Studies programs, the courses serve two purposes. One is to create young adults who are well equipped to handle life’s challenges. The other is to expose them to high-demand, well-paying careers in areas such as education, culinary arts, hospitality & tourism, fashion and interior design and consumer marketing.

At many schools, students who have any interest in taking any courses offered through their Home Economics Careers and Technology department begin with a course often titled “Life Management.” 

The introductory course will give students exposure to more advanced Home Economics Careers and Technology courses the school offers, which is important because a growing number of high schools ask their ninth- or tenth-grade students to select a “pathway,” so that elective study will be focused on a specific career path.

Students in this course typically will learn about nutrition and food preparation skills, selecting and furnishing a residence, selecting apparel, and child development. With that overview, students not only have information they can use in their personal lives, but they’re also equipped to decide if careers along those pathways interest them.

Many Home Economics Careers and Technology programs offer three pathways, one focusing on culinary arts, one focusing on fashion and a third focusing on child development. A few schools also add pathways focusing on hospitality and tourism, interior design, consumer studies, food science and other related career fields.

Many schools offer more intense project-based Consumer & Family Studies courses to juniors and seniors only. The course name and focus vary somewhat, but are designed to help students make the transition from teenager to productive, independent adult.

 At Rowland High School, the course is called “Parenting,” It is a required course in the pathway focusing on child development and education, but open to all students in grades 11 and 12.

And what does “Parenting” entail? The development, care and guidance of children is certainly part of the course, but sometimes, it’s only a small part.

These parenting topics are addressed for two weeks at the end of the first semester. Before then, students will study self-awareness, dating and relationships, marriage preparation, deciding when or if to have kids, and what to expect during pregnancy and childbirth. 

In the second semester, Rowland High’s parenting course focuses on what it’s like to raise a family in the real world. Students will have to develop that real-life scenario in another project, by “finding” jobs and places to live, and putting together budgets for their make-believe households.

“My parenting class is highly popular,” Taylor said. “My students rave over what life lessons I have taught them, some even tell me they share these with their own parents who never knew certain things.  These are life skills used in making daily choices as young adults and one day, as parents and spouses.”

At Fountain Valley High School in Fountain Valley, a similar course is offered. This course, after a beginning unit on self awareness, starts off by having students consider something they might, as seniors, be doing anyhow – selecting a new city to live in and what college to attend.

They will then learn about finding an apartment and a roommate to share the household expenses. Lessons in interior decoration, budgeting and cooking round out the first semester.

“Our students really like this course,” said Armida Gordon, one of two teachers at Fountain Valley High School who teaches the course. “It teaches them how to move out and live on their own.”

In the second semester, they will learn more about budgeting, goal setting, communication and career planning. A unit on relationships, which touches on marriage and family life, is part of the second-semester curriculum.

Research-based projects accompany each unit, Gordon said. At the end of the year, students have a notebook that can serve as a handy reference manual when they actually move away from their parents’ home and must make personal and household management decisions on their own.

“We have a student teacher this semester in our English department who took the course years ago,” Gordon said. “He says that course and Foods and Nutrition, were two of the most valuable courses he took in high school, because he couldn’t live without them.”

There are more than 750 schools offering the Home Economics Careers and Technology program in California, serving more than 300,000 students. Many of these also offer the co-curricular student leadership and career development program FHA-HERO. For more information, call State Consultant Janice DeBenedetti at (916) 323-5025.