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A Better Path

by Minden Press-Herald

J.E. Harper holds open house to showcase high school, technical college partnership

J.E. Harper Pathways to Excellence held an open house Thursday night to allow members of the community to see the facility. Students in the culinary arts program prepared horderves for guests. Students from other programs at the building also attended.

The facility serves students from all Webster Parish High Schools and prepares them for a career pathway that they can finish at Northwest Louisiana Technical College.

“I think we are off to a great start. I think it’s a great beginning phase that we’re in now,” superintendent Johnny Rowland said.

J.E. Harper now houses the Jump Start program in the form of three “pathways” of coursework made possible by a partnership with Northwest Louisiana Technical College (NWLTC).

Students can work toward certification in industrial instrumentation, microenterprise with a concentration in culinary arts, or to become a Certified Nursing Assistant.

“There was never a question of success. We weren’t sure how we were going to get there on some days. We weren’t sure how we were going to pay for it on some days, but we knew we were going to get there,” NWLTC director Earl Meador said.

Both Rowland and Meador thanked the school board for believing in the vision of the of the facility and the Webster Parish Schools’ maintenance workers who worked to prepare the facility for the 2018-2019 school year.

“Rural parishes really struggle for a way to make it happen because it’s expensive. By creating this partnership we’ve created a way to make a win for both organizations. Most of all, it’s a win for the people of Webster Parish,” Meador said.

There are about 60 students currently enrolled in the Pathways to Excellence program. Both Rowland and Meador expect growth in future school years.

“We know that those students are talking to their friends about it and in years ahead it’s going to grow. Those students are going to spend a little bit of time at Northwest Louisiana Technical college and they’re going to go to work. They’re going to be coming back taking care of their families, so word’s going to get out that there’s a whole new way to go,” Meador said.

Students from the high schools are either bussed to the facility in the morning or afternoon for classes. Their in-school schedule is built to allow them to eat lunch at school before or after attending the J.E. Harper facility.
“I want to tell the students how proud of them I am,” Jumpstart Coordinator Beverly Smith said.

Students have labs for hands on training as well as classwork. The CNA program can be completed while students are enrolled in the program while the culinary and instrumentation programs require additional hours at NWLTC to receive certification.

“Those technical skills will stay with them their entire life. They will never lose that,” Meador said of students in the program.

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