The Cuyahoga Valley Career Center in Brecksville is part of the latest in a trend in vocational and career education that has evolved over centuries, says CVSS Superintendent David Mangas.

"Historically, big things in society have kind of driven career training," Mangas told around 15 people attending the Nordonia Hills Chamber of Commerce’s monthly meeting at Compadres Mexican Grill in Northfield Village on Thursday.

Mangas, along with Nordonia Hills School Superintendent Dr. Joe Clark, were giving state-of-the-school presentations at the meeting.

Clark also gave his presentation, which the News Leader previously reported on, in October.

The Nordonia Hills and Twinsburg school districts are among eight districts that CVCC works with, which also includes Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Cuyahoga Heights, Garfield Heights, Independence, North Royalton and Revere.

Mangas said CVCC offers four competitive advantages to students, including:

• College credit.

"We align directly with two-year colleges," said Mangas. "So Cuyahoga Community College is our direct partner. And if [students] complete our curriculum, directly they’re earning college credit at the same time."

He said this means that high school students can get a head start on their post-secondary education.

"So they’re really getting a jump in that training so that they’re ready right upon graduation," he said.

• Offers certificates and licenses.

"We want these students job ready when they graduate," said Mangas.

• Work-based learning.

"Any student that comes to us, we promote that part of their training with us is actually in a business," said Mangas, adding that "In their second year of training, we want them on the job getting some of the training and experience directly from the employers."

• Students can join career and technical school students organizations, giving the opportunity to run for offices within those organizations that help them hone skills in leadership and speaking that can in turn help them in competing with others for jobs.

"We want to make sure they have some of those competitive skills so they can shine during that competitive process," said Mangas.

Mangas also outlined three values that CVCC brings to the community, including:

• Kindergarten through 10th grade career exploration and 23 "career immersion" programs for 11th and 12th grades.

• Adult education programs now totaling 16.

• Offering quality education, such as auto mechanics, dental assistance and cosmetology for students who often end of working in the area and offering those services to residents.

"If you have a car and you need the brakes fixed on that car, we provide the skilled technicians in our community that other community members know that when they go and have their brakes done, they know it’s done at a very high level," said Mangas. "

Mangas said the Industrial Revolution created a need for mass vocational and career education beyond what the former master/apprentice system could provide and other events, such as the Great Depression, the end of the world wars, and the space race, also presented challenges.

Mangas said the latest is the "College for All" movement to make higher education more available. He said vocational education needs to be a part of that.

"We prepare them to have the skills to enter the workforce correctly," said Mangas. "We feel that’s why we’re there. We make sure they have the knowledge and the pathway to college, but our focus is to fill those entry level jobs that are open right now."

In answer to a question about what CVCC does for students who may want to start a business, Mangas said, "In every curriculum that we offer, there are standards at the beginning that talk business sense, financial and entrepreneurship."

April Hanus, owner of Panda Promotions, and Rhonda Solomon, owner of Help Me Rhonda Cleaning Services, both said they did well after attending vocational schools, Hanus in Medina County and Solomon in Cincinnati.

"I was told, ‘you’ll never go to college. Never,’" said Solomon. "I graduated with my associates degree and I own my own business."

Hanus said, "Through going to vocational school, I got all kinds of scholarships, went to Tri-C for two years, got my bachelors of science degree in printing management for four years after that and now I own my own successful company. So you can take whatever path you want and make it whatever you want it to be."

Mental health issues a major focus

Among the topics Clark touched on is what the district is doing in helping students with mental health issues.

This includes classroom lessons in proper behavior for kindergarten through grade six students, as well as using some money generated by a levy voters approved last May to increase the number of full-time clinical counselors from one to the equivalent of three districtwide and adding another school counselor.

It also includes increasing behavioral support services through specialists, continuing the district’s longtime drug, alcohol, tobacco and violence prevention program and piloting a Coordinated Assistance Support Team at Lee Eaton Elementary School to bring counselors, families, psychologists, social workers, students and teachers together to support the needs of students.

Chamber CEO Laura Sparano commended the district for, "taking some of the money you now have to take care of the kids’ mental health."

"These kids, they don’t feel comfortable going to their parents," she said.

Clark said the district is trying to be proactive. He said most people who suffer from mental health issues are not violent, but with those who potentially are, the earlier they are identified, the better the chance intervention will come in time for their good and for society’s.

And he said whether violent or not, he believes schools can help students dealing with problems.

"Some of the stories that I see, some of the stories that we see daily with some of our students and the background they’re coming from would just break your heart, would break your heart," he said. "We don’t talk about that, nor can we talk about it. I don’t mean to get spiritual or religious on you, but I like to say more of God’s work is being done in public schools than anywhere else on the face of the Earth with the kinds of things we’re dealing with."

In answer to a question about what the district is doing to educate students in civics and community involvement, Clark said high school students are required to take a government class, they register to vote when they turn 18 and are required to perform a minimum of 25 hours of community service by graduation.

"A vast majority of our kids do far, far more than that," he said. "Last year’s graduating class, they did more than 70,000 hours of community service and that’s a huge focus of what we do."

Many school clubs do community service projects outside the requirement, he said. As an example, said Clark, the Knights Program, which is heavily supported by the Nordonia Hills Lions Club, now provides 90 bags of food weekly for students in need to take home so that they have enough to eat on the weekends.

"It’s absolutely amazing the work that our kids are doing," said Clark.

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, or @JeffSaunders_RP.