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CMSD's new PACE curriculum connects students' interests with future careers in NE Ohio

CMSD CEO Eric Gordon wants CMSD students to graduate with the tools and confidence to achieve their career goals. [Jenny Hamel / Ideastream Public Media]
CMSD CEO Eric Gordon speaking at a podium

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District and the Cleveland Foundation are launching a new school curriculum to better help guide CMSD’s students on a career path after graduation. 

It’s called the Planning and Career Exploration — or PACE — curriculum.

The goal, said CMSD CEO Eric Gordon at a kickoff event Monday, is to give students “next steps” toward their career.

“Depending on the career, that could include college, micro-credentials, apprenticeships or even straight into the workforce,” Gordon told the crowd at Garrett Morgan School of Engineering and Innovation. “We also want students to graduate with the confidence, tools and agency to achieve those goals.”

The PACE curriculum will start with sixth graders and carry through to their senior year in high school.  

The idea behind PACE is to expose students to all types of jobs and “living-wage careers” that match their skills and interests, and to ultimately help them create a roadmap to their goal. 

In sixth grade, students may get an on-campus visit from a representative of a company to hear about what the company does and what kind of jobs they have, or that student may go on-site to a company to see what they do firsthand.

As students get older, the curriculum will “narrow and deepen,” depending on the student’s interests and abilities, according to Anthony Battaglia, CMSD's executive director of career and college pathways. Students will be involved in internships and job shadowing.

It’s about supporting every student’s future, whether they want to go to college or not, according to Battaglia.

“Really moving to an in-depth experience, where every student will have three and four job shadows prior to graduation. Reflecting on those, so that they can build on what they want their career to look like after they leave us,” Battaglia said. 

Students will lead the process, and will be asked to do things like journal and answer questionnaires about PACE-related experiences they’ve had. They’ll be asked to share whether they were interested or not in a specific job or field, why they liked it and if it matches skills they think they have or enjoy using.

CMSD has six anchor organization partners in the PACE initiative, including Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.), College Now Greater Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Partnership, Neighborhood Leadership Institute (True2U), Junior Achievement of Greater Cleveland and the Fund for Our Economic Future

Giving an example of how CMSD’s partners will be involved, Craig Dorn, CEO of Y.O.U., said younger teens at CMSD will have the chance to get a “basic summer job.”

“You need to be successful in the workplace, be on time, work hard,” Dorn explained. “Youth who are further along in their journey are going to have opportunities for either individual internships or group based summer academies, where they can take a deeper dive into understanding a very specific career occupation, anything ranging from health care to construction and anything else you can imagine.”

The Cleveland Foundation is giving CMSD and its partners a $950,000 grant to help implement PACE.

Speaking to the students at the kick-off event, Shana Marbury with Greater Cleveland Partnership which functions as the area's chamber of commerce, said those involved in PACE want to develop young talent as “our region’s emerging skilled, talent pipeline. 

“Right now, there are thousands of high-skilled and good jobs available in the marketplace,” Marbury said. “People like me are getting old. So, we need you to fill these positions and to continue to make our community grow and thrive.”

Jenny Hamel is the host of the “Sound of Ideas.”