Set in the heart of Louisville, KY, Seneca High School provides urban students a chance to learn about agricultural science through industry-driven approaches. Led by Kristan Wright and Bethany Mattingly, the Seneca High School agricultural science program offers students, many of whom have never left the Louisville city limits, the opportunity to expand their understanding of agricultural and food systems. Because Seneca’s primary demographic is urban, most of the students have never been exposed to any form of agricultural science. In Wright’s eight years with the program, she has only had one student who had an agricultural upbringing. Due to the lack of agricultural background their students have, Wright and Mattingly use a more applicable and direct approach to their agricultural science classes.
Seneca Students celebrate receiving Elanco Veterinary Medical Applications Certifications.
The Seneca agricultural science program offers three different pathways: animal science, horticulture science and environmental science. To provide a real-world application for the in-class lessons, Wright and Mattingly decided to include industry certifications as part of their course designs. Because they already used course materials from iCEV, an online platform for CTE curriculum, study materials and certification testing, Wright and Mattingly chose to incorporate the industry certifications offered on the iCEV testing platform that aligned with the courses they were already teaching. For the animal science course, Wright included the Elanco Fundamentals of Animal Science Certification as part of the class requirements. While she did not make the Elanco Veterinary Medical Applications Certification mandatory for the veterinary science class, students were offered the opportunity to earn the certification as an addition to the existing course requirements. Mattingly incorporated the Bayer Crop Science Plant Science Certification, now the BASF Plant Science Certification, in the plant science course and required the Benz School of Floral Design Principles of Floral Design Certification for the floral design class.
The iCEV testing platform acts as a host for 15 industry certifications from 11 industry-leading organizations and businesses. Industry certifications validate an individual has successfully demonstrated knowledge and skills in a specific field by assessing industry-valued and industry-recognized standards. Wright and Mattingly have seen countless students achieve success as a result of earning an industry certification, especially in terms of employment opportunities.
During her time at Seneca High School, Cheyenne Young was an active member of the agricultural science program. Having an interest in veterinary medicine, Young earned the Elanco Veterinary Medical Applications Certification. Because her knowledge and skills of veterinary medicine were verified by Elanco, a leading animal health company, Young was hired as a veterinary assistant by the Veterinary Centers of America (VCA) Fairleigh Animal Hospital. Despite the clinic’s policy stating employees must be at least 18 years old, Young was hired when she was just 17 because of the knowledge, skills and confidence she exuded at such a young age. Also, Young’s salary was higher than an average veterinary assistant’s wage because the Elanco Veterinary Medical Applications Certification confirmed Young possessed the knowledge and skills needed to be a capable employee. Young is currently studying animal science at the University of Kentucky.
Like Young, other students have found success from earning industry certifications. A local landscaping company hired five Seneca High School students because they earned the Bayer Crop Science Plant Science Certification. The company offered to pay the students $1 extra per hour for earning the certification. Many students who achieved the Benz School of Floral Design Principles of Floral Design Certification also found employment opportunities as a result of the certification. Mattingly reports some students were offered jobs for $20 an hour because they included the certification on their application and résumé. One student who earned both Elanco industry certifications worked as an intern for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
Mattingly said, “Many jobs have age restrictions, and you have to be 18 for employers to even consider you, but many times those get waived as soon as the employer realizes the students have certifications. The certifications help them get hands-on knowledge they couldn’t necessarily get otherwise.”
Not only have the certifications allowed the students to gain invaluable career experience, they have also given the students confidence in their knowledge and skills. Wright and Mattingly strategically had students take the industry certification exams immediately before the Kentucky public school end-of-course tests to provide the students with a confidence boost right before statewide testing commenced.
So far, 125 of Wright and Mattingly’s students have earned industry certifications. They plan to continue using industry certifications as an integral part of their course designs in the coming years. When the Ducks Unlimited Ecology Conservation & Management Certification is available in fall 2019, Mattingly plans to add that certification to the environmental science course requirements.
The educators at Seneca High School are dedicated to preparing students for college and career success, and Wright and Mattingly are the embodiment of this mission. By including industry certification in their courses, Wright and Mattingly have given their students a valuable opportunity to prove their knowledge and skills. Regardless of what educational or career field they choose in the future, the industry certification earners from Seneca High School have the tools to achieve personal and professional success.
Seneca students pose with their industry certifications.
All photos courtesy of Kristan Wright and Bethany Mattingly.