SCRANTON, PA — With more than $490,000 in federal funding recently awarded, Johnson College of Technology in Scranton is embarking on a distance-learning program with school districts in Wayne, …
SCRANTON, PA — With more than $490,000 in federal funding recently awarded, Johnson College of Technology in Scranton is embarking on a distance-learning program with school districts in Wayne, Pike and Susquehanna counties.
Awarded through the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Telemedicine and Distance Learning Program, the college is using the money, in part, to form connections with four Wayne County high schools: Forest City Regional, Honesdale, Wallenpaupack and Western Wayne. The school will also be working with the Lakewood, Newfoundland and Pleasant Mount libraries.
Students and community members will be able to remotely enroll and work toward completing any of the 15 academic programs offered through Johnson College. School leaders are optimistic that the program will expand access to higher education for rural students who otherwise face barriers, like transportation and housing.
“Both high school and adult students will have interactive, two-way access to Johnson College faculty and will participate in remote education, discussions, testing and skill demonstrations... In addition, the three rural libraries will be equipped with laptops to give community residents access to career exploration services and information about courses at Johnson College,” according to the tech school. “The project will create a direct route to career technical education (CTE), a college degree and, ultimately, a fulfilling career with family-sustaining wages for students in rural Northeastern Pennsylvania.”
Joined by school and library officials, Johnson College president and CEO Dr. Katie Leonard presented the project to the Wayne County Commissioners at their last public meeting.
“Our students do tend to want to stay in this area, and I feel it’s our job collectively to really let them know of the good, family-sustaining wage jobs that are in this area,” Leonard said. “Nothing irks me more—it’s like nails on a chalkboard—when people say there aren’t good jobs around here.”
It was all welcome news to county chairman Brian Smith, a leader of the economic and community planning group Wayne Tomorrow which seeks, among its many goals, to see more of the county’s younger residents stay in the area after they graduate.
“We’re ecstatic as county government that this kind of collaboration and cooperation between colleges, our high schools and our libraries is taking place,” Smith said. He added that when Wayne Tomorrow was first established, he and other local leaders sat down with area high school students and asked what advice they could give to them about their leadership, “and the kids said stop telling us we have to leave [Wayne County] to make a living.”
In addition to forming these partnerships, Johnson College will put some of its grant funding toward online science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educational resources.
“The specialized STEM training made possible by this grant funding will give students the opportunity to start their college degree while still in high school and complete earlier for in-demand positions throughout the region, as well as provide an opportunity to train non-high school students for new careers due to job loss or the desire for positions with family-sustaining wages,” the school announced.
Wallenpaupack High School Principal Jim Kane echoed the appreciation for this program from himself and other school administrators.
“When kids are in high school, it’s full service. We provide transportation—we get them to school and get them home each and every day—but when they graduate from our schools they find it difficult to get transportation to colleges, universities and technical institutions where they can receive the education they need to further their careers,” he said. “This opportunity will be great for students to stay within their high schools and receive college educations.”