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Overview Alternative Education

Northtowns Academy is an alternative setting that provides students new beginnings and second chances.  Northtowns Academy focuses on the whole student: allowing every opportunity to achieve goals, ensuring a brighter future, and building productive members of society. 

Each program provides teachers, certified in a core content area, who have experience working with an at-risk population.  

  • Alternative High School (Grades 9-12)  
  • Teen Parenting
  • Out of School Suspension Program (Grades 7-12)
  • Opportunities for Career and Technical Education

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Work-Based Learning aims to give everyone a shot at success

Ricky Rivera (left), a senior at Northtowns Academy from the Cleveland Hill Union Free School District, gives Main Office secretary Colleen Gartler her purchase from the Entrepreneurship class food cart as Business and Media teacher Ryan Hansgen looks on.Gaining skills necessary to succeed is an important part of education, and Erie 1 BOCES is seizing on that mantra to ensure everyone gets a fair shot at that success by implementing the Work-Based Learning program.

This relatively new program in the Exceptional Education division incorporates more hands-on, practical learning in a student’s curriculum, according to Katelyn Gentner, Work-Based Learning teacher. While not every student may find their success in the traditional learning environment, the Work-Based Learning program aims to graduate participants with Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) credential, developed by the New York State Board of Regents in March 2016.

To graduate with CDOS credential, a student must complete at least 216 hours of work-based learning experiences. Of those hours, 54 must be hands-on. 

At Northtowns Academy, students in Business and Media teacher Ryan Hansgen’s entrepreneurship class takes pride in running the school store and selling snacks in the hallways from a cart. The young entrepreneurs are involved in the business process every step of the way, from choosing merchandise to deciding shifts.

“This helps me understand how a business operates and helps me understand my job at Mighty Taco better,” noted Ricky Rivera, a senior at Northtowns from the Cleveland Hill Union Free School District. “It’s also a great resume builder.”

“The food cart is a student-created initiative for the class,” Hansgen noted. “We have morning meetings to talk about what we need to do, and they count the money, they deposit it, they do inventory and the sales. I simply help facilitate it.”

Northtowns also held its inaugural Kid Biz Career Day, a career fair in which business representatives of various job fields visited to discuss what they do and how they got to where they are today. As part of classroom instruction, students learn important life skills such as how to ace a job interview and how to compose a star job application.

“Teaching these skills helps them immensely,” Gentner remarked. “One day while I was teaching, I asked the students, ‘What do you want to learn from me?’ One girl asked if we could talk about finances and dealing with bank accounts, which will absolutely be a lesson for them. The classes can be very flexible; it’s not just what I think they need to learn and be exposed to, but what they want to learn about, as well.”

Gentner pointed out she is excited to see the Work-Based Learning program expand in the future. Items on her brainstorming list include bake sales, job shadowing opportunities and field trips.

“More and more employers are looking for high school work experience, and what the Work-Based Learning program does is it finds a student’s particular strengths and helps them formulate a career plan,” Gentner explained. “It lets employers know that this person is ready to be a part of their team.”

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