BY KATIE MATTESON
“What do you want to be you grow up?” Children, teenagers and even adults have been asked this question for generations. For middle school students in Racine, the answer may come more easily thanks to an 11-year-old program coordinated by the Racine Founders Rotary Club called Career Discovery Solutions or CDS for short.
Rotarian Dave Easley and his dedicated team of volunteers operate the program in five middle schools in the Racine Unified School District and at the YMCA Young Leaders Academy. They also partner with the Kiwanis Club of West Racine, which organizes the program at Walden III Middle School.
Other RUSD middle schools in the program include Gilmore, Mitchell, Starbuck and, new for 2019-20, The R.E.A.L. School.
According to the CDS website, cdsracine.com, the program provides the following benefits to the students in the program:
Furnishes students with a venue for career exploration,
Provides valuable linkage between students and local businesses and government agencies
Allows students to integrate core academics with real life problem solving
Brings together Business and Education for the betterment of students and the local community.
Easley explained that the program got started in the 2008-09 school year following an inquiry by local Rotarians as to how they could be of help in the educational process by providing insights to students about their potential career choices.
He credited Jack Parker, the RUSD superintendent at the time for his support of the program development and connecting the Rotarians to RUSD administrators and staff members at McKinley Middle School to work out the details. Gradually the program grew to include more schools and the Young Leaders Academy.
The CDS program provides middle school students with the opportunity to engage in a team-based problem-solving experience dealing with real-life situations in fields where the students have expressed a career interest.
Areas of career interest are determined through student surveys and are categorized according to the 16 career clusters identified by the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium.
Rotary, Kiwanis and YMCA volunteers who serve as the steering committee at each individual site, recruit local businesses, nonprofits and governmental agencies to serve as host organizations to the students.
Each CDS project has three components:
A representative of the host organization comes to the school, presents information about the organization and opportunities in the related career cluster, and gives a preview of the problem the student team will be assigned to solve. Teachers determine which students are assigned to the team (usually 8-10) based on indicated interest in the focus area.
The student team goes to the site of the host organization and gathers information needed in order to solve the assigned problem. The student team then meets at the school to compile the information it has gathered and develops a solution to the problem.
The student team presents its solution to the assigned problem in the classroom. The representative of the host organization is invited to attend. This usually occurs about two weeks after the onsite visit.
During the 2018-19 school year, 23 projects were carried out at four RUSD middle schools and the YMCA. Host organizations included Razor Sharp Fitness, Racine Theatre Guild, Racine Optical, Racine Fire Department, City of Racine, Festival Hall, Community State Bank, Sturino Funeral Home, Racine Zoo, Ascension All Saints, Sugar Shack Ice Cream, Gateway Technical College Automotive Department, DeRose Dental, Racine Unified School District and Educators Credit Union, A&E Tools, Andis Co., Goodwill Industries and 128th Air Refueling Wing.
Easley said the CDS coordinating committee and the steering committees at each site are currently working on organizing projects for the 2019-2020 school year and are recruiting new volunteers to get involved in the program as host organizations and/or join a school steering committee. Membership in the Rotary or Kiwanis clubs is not required.
For more information, contact Easley at (262) 639-6946.