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Education Station: PACE program looks to help Cleveland students find careers after graduation

CMSD 6th through 12th graders are given real-world, hands-on experience in the career field of their choice to prepare them for the workforce.

CLEVELAND — One of the most common questions we’re asked in childhood is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The Cleveland Metropolitan School District's PACE program aims to make sure every student knows that answer before they graduate.

"PACE stands for Planning and Career Exploration. We basically help all CMSD students grades 6 through 12 figure out their career path," says Anthony Battaglia, CMSD Executive Director of Career and College Pathways.

Focusing on 3 areas where future jobs will be concentrated locally - healthcare, IT and manufacturing - PACE provides unique school lessons, and career advising & hands-on, out-of-school experiences with participating local companies, to give students real world knowledge and experience in the career of their choice.

"Then, as part of that experience afterward, they would journal. They would reflect on that experience. There also are some survey-related questions. These are, ya know 'I liked this. I didn’t. This is why I was interested. This is why I wasn’t'," says Battaglia.

That information is then shared with the student’s school and local companies on board, to provide further guidance and job-shadowing experiences, which become more advanced each year, until the student graduates.

"They can walk through this process and have a better understanding of not only what they wanna do, but what those careers entail when they get there," says Battaglia.

PACE aims to help every CMSD student find a living-wage career that matches their strengths and interests, whether they go to college or not.

"It’s really taking and having a career-focused mindset for all students, so that everybody can have the same kind of milestones, but, at the same time, tailoring it to their needs as that journey evolves over time," says Battaglia.

The PACE program took 2 years of planning before it began in November, and took a consortium of non-profits, foundations, and major companies like Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and MetroHealth to make the program happen. Directors are currently adding a number of new local businesses to their roster, to expose students to even more career options.

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