Julie Hill was in the audience when Christopher Zavala-Guardiola graduated from Pink Hill Elementary School, when he graduated from Woodington Middle School and when he graduated from South Lenoir High School.
It’s no surprise then that Hill, who was Christopher’s kindergarten teacher, was a proud onlooker when her former student graduated last month from the two-year GOALS program of the Transitional & Career Studies center at Lenoir Community College.
“I have followed him the entire time and kept up with him,” said Hill, assistant director of the Exceptional Children’s Department for Lenoir County Public Schools.
More than following, she helped guide Christopher, who battled developmental and health challenges throughout school, into GOALS and the workforce preparation it provides.
“With the help of one of the compliance specialists, I was the one who talked to his momma about getting him in this program,” Hill said. “And he got into it. I don’t think he would be going further into the program and trying to get another certificate if we hadn’t pushed him along.”
GOALS – Gaining Occupational and Life Skills – helps older EC students who are ready to leave LCPS high schools move into educational opportunities at LCC ultimately design to prepare them for the workforce.
Its Class of 2018 that graduated Aug. 8 included eight from LCPS, the largest cohort in the three years that LCPS has been active with LCC in the program. The school district currently has about nine students enrolled in the program, including five who were students at LCPS traditional high schools – Kinston, North Lenoir and South Lenoir – last school year.
After completing the two-year program, students graduate and are given a transcript certified by Vocational Rehabilitation that shows the competencies they’ve earned in GOALS. They also get additional help finding employment from Vocational Rehabilitation and will soon have the option of moving into additional training at LCC.
“Some of the students will be enrolling a Horticulture certificate program that begins next week,” Dustin Walston, GOALS director, said. “Others are working with Vocational Rehabilitation for employment support services and job coaching.”
Along with career development, the students are the benefactors of what might be called confidence development. “These children feel like they’re in college now and they’re part of the college experience,” Hill said. “I’ve seen them blossom. They just open up and blossom. They come out.”
GOALS graduates for 2018 were Donya Alston, Michael Bryant, Anton Graham, Walker Howard, Alissa Lovick, Joshua Maye, Essie Peyton, Sara Smith, Shenika Sutton and Christopher Zavala-Guardiola.