All posts tagged education

Educating “Outside the Box”

By Lanny Williams, Christian Life Academy

Christian Life Academy began at Life Ministries, the former Sibley Estate in Reno, in 1979. Part of the Christian School Movement of the seventies, it was a response to prayer being removed from the public schools and the growing rejection of God in public education overall.

The heart of CLA has always been excellence in academic education, focusing on the whole Bible and God’s direction for any initiative undertaken. It still is, and of late, we’ve been going through a much-needed educational metamorphosis in response to the changing culture.

Seeing the same need which spawned the STEM movement, two of our parent-mentors engaged with the BEST Robotics Program, which has been a catalyst for change here at CLA. Now, we’re invested in BEST Robotics, photography and film media, and the leading Brain Training program in the nation. While we still do Math, Spelling, Speech and Sports competitions, we’ve engaged with the Fluid Power Challenge and “What’s So Cool about Manufacturing” video competition as well.

“Children are curious, students aren’t.” That’s the problem. The old “box” isn’t working.

We know kids are losing critical executive function and becoming too dependent on teachers, parents and technology, very often helpless to move and function on their own.

My generation grew up with much more down time and fewer amusements, so we learned to motivate and build things – and we were allowed to take risks. Hammers, saws, tape measures – just seeing materials and envisioning how to do something was standard thinking. We made our own go carts and club houses with what we could find. Do you know how much fun you can have with a big cardboard box? You can cut it, tape it, make a tunnel or a house, staple it, glue it – anything! That’s the learning loss that STEM projects are making up; kudos to businesses for stepping up.

When W. Edwards Deming went to Japan right after World War II, it was only a matter of time until Japan’s products went from being carnival-prize junk to being among the best quality products in the world. Deming had limited success here in his homeland, because American business practices were too established; in Japan he was out of the box, and he changed the world.

Thinking outside the box is about the only way you end up in Christian Education, but “out here” we can really learn if we’re open.

When Jesus went after the Pharisees for compromising truth for the sake of the “establishment” of their day, yes He was rebuking people, but He was also teaching a principle.

Anything from a church to a school system to a business—anything humans are involved in—as it develops and grows, the focus easily moves from the core vision to the formal structure. Even the hippies could recognize the “establishment”! The real trick to growing is not becoming the “establishment,” in the course of growing.

This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s February 2020 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Education Update: Students Prepare for Future Careers

How will you attract future employees?  A great place to start is by inviting today’s students to learn about your business and what skills or education they will need to work for you. Career fairs, mock interviews, and job shadows are the best way to introduce local students to careers in Venango County.

Oil City High School will hold its annual College and Career Fair on March 11, with the goal to educate 9-12 grade students on the many college and career opportunities available within a reasonable distance from the Oil City area. Last year, they had 51 tables representing a variety of careers, businesses, military branches, colleges, and trade/technical schools.

Students will have a 20 minute time allotment to meet and greet in an interview type scenario. Participants should come prepared with a table setup (tables provided) that will help engage questions and answers from teenagers who are perhaps a bit shy about how to approach someone.

There will be students available to assist with set-up/tear-down, etc. There will also be beverages and refreshments provided for all vendors. If interested, please complete the form at the link provided:

Job Shadows

Many students are seeking an opportunity to shadow a business, which may be a part of their graduation requirement, but more importantly provides them with a chance to see firsthand what a day in your business would be like.

It is a commitment to invite a student to spend several hours with you and your staff, but it is also an investment in the future of the student and our community.  If you are willing to be included in a directory of businesses offering to host a student shadow, please complete the form at

Not certain how you can provide a student with a meaningful experience? Check out the Job Shadow Guide, which also has tips for employers.

Contact the Chamber and we’d be happy to share how we engage students in learning about business and why we think your business should join us in hosting job shadows.

This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s February 2020 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Photo credit: The Derrick & The News-Herald

Chamber Education Committee Update – November 2019

Local businesses continue to express finding employees is one of their biggest barriers. Population decline, skills deficits, and failed drug tests are often listed as reasons enough prospective employees are lacking, but you may be surprised to learn that lack of knowledge about available jobs may be the largest contributor to the shortage of qualified applicants.

There are those who are simply unaware of the number of open positions, that span from entry level to high skills trades and professional careers. Then there are those who assume that they are not a good match for the available jobs, because of a mismatch in the skills possessed and the advertised job description/requirements.

Unfortunately, it has become common to hear that many people do not have a familiarity with our local businesses, what they do, and what job opportunities they have available. There appears to be many opportunities to bridge gaps between communities.

Long gone are the days when multi generations of family members worked for the same businesses, passing along information about a business’s  products, services, and culture of the company, typically accompanied by a special kind of pride.

Most recently, 10th grade students from Oil City High School visited several local businesses including Klapec Trucking, Webco, Millcraft, Pepro, and USA Choice. Oil City High School Principal Scott Stahl remarks: “These tours were very valuable for students, but just as impactful to the teachers who had the chance to chaperone the tours.” To include all high school teachers and 12th grade students, Scott has planned for presentations throughout the school year, with business leaders addressing teacher and student groups. Chamber President Susan Williams has been assisting in making introductions between educators and businesses.

Local school districts Valley Grove, Cranberry, and Titusville invite business representatives to assist them in providing seniors with realistic mock interviews, after thorough preparation in preparing a resume, application, and cover letter. Several Chamber members and staff have or will participate as volunteers and report that the students are remarkably prepared for a job search.

Businesses who are interested in participating in career readiness programs can contact the Chamber to be identified for future presentations and volunteer opportunities.

Additionally, businesses can continue to submit their information to be included in the Job Shadow Resource Guide and to have Job Posters created for use by the schools, by visiting

This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s November 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Clarion University is Headed “True North”

TNI Task Force developed six priorities, the basis for an action plan the university will follow over the next three years:

• Student success

• Academic programming

• Affordability

• Student engagement/citizenship

• Clarion brand and promise

• Venango campus

The first item with action taken was the relaunch of the School of Education. Pehrsson made the announcement in April, appointing Dr. Gwyneth Price as dean to oversee the school’s budget and curriculum, and make scheduling and personnel decisions.

“I see us broadening our horizons in terms of keeping the kernels of solid, evidence based teacher preparation, then expanding that to embrace innovation,” Price said. “We have confidence that what we’ve been teaching historically has been the right thing, but we also have confidence that our faculty engage in research and continually update what they’re doing. We have been on the forefront of developing programming preparing graduates to be better teachers of all students.”

Clarion University is one of 17 universities in Pennsylvania with national accreditation, with 15 nationally recognized programs, and has one of six special education reading programs in the state with International Dyslexia accreditation.

Venango Campus

Venango is NWPA’s primary location for delivery of career and workforce education in healthcare, education, business, technology, and science. The personalized environment gives it potential to serve as an incubator for new programs, to partner and/or provide a collaborative training location for virtually all sectors of the economy, to provide training and professional development needs, and to facilitate and be part of regional economic growth.

The TNI directive for Venango Campus is to be a bustling academic and economic venture for the region, and Venango will establish a director whose sole purpose is to focus on the success of the campus.

The director will work with university deans to create unique academic opportunities that reflect a new model of two year or less programming: certificates, badging, licensure, and training programs which are stackable and flexible. Programming will be based on regional workforce needs and will continue to serve untapped and non traditional populations.

The School of Education has one of the first early childhood education programs in the state to implement a full year teacher residency, which begins this fall. Student teaching will be done the last year of the program, with coursework integrated into the experience. It is the only university in Pennsylvania authorized to offer Competent Learner Model courses for college credit, and Clarion led the development of and was the first school to offer the Skills for Teacher Leadership endorsement. Additionally, the innovative intervention specialist program boasts a 100% employment rate.

Venango Campus has a strong history of campus-community partnerships, with many focused on workforce development. New programming and partnerships are already underway:

• Individuals who have completed a registered apprenticeship program can receive credit toward Clarion’s Associate of Science in Applied Technology or Bachelor of Science in Technology Leadership.

• Non-credit courses on blueprint reading and geometric dimensioning and tolerancing are in development, part of continuing work with area employers to create needed training programs.

When Dr. Dale Elizabeth Pehrsson began her presidency at Clarion University in July 2018, one of her first actions was to assess the university. She convened the “True North Initiative (TNI) Task Force,” pulling together constituents across various divisions and departments to produce actionable goals.

• An Emergency Medical Technician program is offered in partnership with Venango Technology Center and Clarion Hospital.

• In partnership with Venango County Economic Development Authority and funded through a $300,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant, an entrepreneurship academy for high school seniors will begin this fall.

• The university is administrator of a $1,100,000 grant from Appalachian Regional Commission to support apprenticeship programs with Venango Campus, Venango Technology Center, Community College of Allegheny County and Keystone Community Education Council.

• A partnership with Intermediate Unit V will help individuals prepare for the GED exam, improve basic entry-level skills, soft skills, etc., paving a pathway to education. The curriculum is being driven by business and industry needs.

A $900,000 investment in facility improvements, funded through grants and donations, is in progress at Venango Campus, including renovation of the respiratory care lab, Charles L. Suhr Library, and facility and technology upgrades. Venango Campus is focused on defining its own True North and will continue to be a vital part of Clarion University. Its increasingly important role as a community resource is evidenced through high quality programs, strength in serving returning adult and traditional/ non-traditional students, unique programs built on partnerships, and commitment to serving regional needs.

Learn more about Clarion University’s True North Initiative by visiting

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s August 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Leadership Venango Holds Sixth Session: Importance of an Educated Workforce

On Wednesday, February 13, the Venango Leadership Class met at Clarion University – Venango for the monthly class which focused on preparing a ready workforce, career and education alliances, 40 developmental assets and generational differences. The information presented was a mix of new ideas in addition themes formerly introduced during prior meetings.

Tammy Dulaney, Coordinator for Continuing Education at Clarion University, started the day with a deeper insight into the state higher education system (PASSHE) and their relationship with employers, students and career training opportunities. Notable points included the availability of state funds that will reimburse employers for their investment in training costs for their employees in addition to a list of state-approved apprenticeships that students can also utilize as credits toward a degree. Tammy is available to local businesses and students to help connect them to these resources!

Next up, Eileen Mullen, Program Coordinator for Crawford County K-12 Career Education Alliance, wowed the class with evidence of the growing partnerships between Crawford area businesses and School Districts to provide educational opportunities, career readiness experiences and much more for local students throughout each year. How can all this be accomplished with limited funds and staffing? Simply put, passion and effective communication techniques to garner support. This left the class clamoring for more and a keen interest on seeing something like this develop within Venango County.

Over lunch, Matt LaVerde, Asst. Exec. Director of IU5, focused his discussion on the importance of the 40 developmental assets that play a pivotal role in determining the overall success and general wellness of youth as they age into adulthood. There are many external factors to be mindful of as we all play a vital role in shaping the success (or not) of developing our youth. Judy Etzel, staff writer at The Derrick, and Heather Motter, Cranberry High School English Teacher, followed that conversation up by sharing their experience working together under the state-initiated Teacher in the Workforce program. This discussion reminded attendees of the importance of empathy, curiosity and shared knowledge that impact all of our lives.

Finally, Susan Hileman, Strategic Business Advisor for NWIRC NW Region, made a return visit to the class with a presentation on generational differences. This conversation focused on the preferred learning habits, general societal views and unique experiences within each generation. All of factors shape a person’s personality, attitude, work mindset and much more which needs to be considered when making decisions in the workplace.        

Leadership Venango will meet again on March 13th at Komatsu in Franklin. For more information visit

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s March 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.