Cumberland County Schools hold Virtual Choice Fair that shows options for all students

·3 min read

Cumberland County high school students have an opportunity to graduate with an associate’s degree, without the cost of college.

Cumberland County Schools are hosting a Virtual Choice Fair 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

The Choice Program, which is available to all Cumberland County students, is intended to provide students with a choice on possible future career paths, while earning college credits in high school.

During the Virtual Choice Fair, students and parents will have an opportunity to speak with instructors and administrators, while learning about what the 29 Choice Programs in the district have to offer.

Mellotta Hill, Cumberland County Schools' assistant superintendent for instructional programs, said the goal of the Choice Program at each school is to capitalize on the students’ strengths, talents and interests.

“We offer Choice Programs and those are like fields of study,” she said. “We realize that we don’t have a one size fits all education.

Hill, who has worked for the school district for nearly three decades, said there are nine elementary school, six middle school and 14 high school Choice Programs available. They are outlined in the CCS Choice Program Guide.

Cumberland County Schools provide students with a first-hand look into the career or field of study that they want to pursue after graduation, she said.

“Students who want to attend the early college program, they are set up on a course schedule, which at the conclusion of their 12th grade year, they will have enough college credits that will translate into an associates degree,” Hill said.

Zuleira Villegas, 38, said that when her son, Izzy, 19, graduated from Cumberland Polytechnic High School, he had an associate’s degree in automotive collision repair.

Cumberland Polytechnic High School is located on the campus of Fayetteville Technical Community College.

Villegas said college is costly, and she wanted her son to take advantage of the free college-level education.

“I do believe that the Choice Program is extremely beneficial,” she said. “It is extremely vigorous.”

Izzy, who was born and raised in Fayetteville, said the Choice Program was a challenge, but he didn’t want to waste an opportunity to accelerate his education.

Three weeks after graduation, Izzy started working at Absolute Bus Sales.

“I enjoy working on cars,” he said.

Izzy said a four-year degree wasn’t necessary for the career field he wanted to pursue after high school, which made the automotive course a perfect fit for him.

His mother said parents want what's best for their children.

“It was very hard for me because I wanted Izzy to do something bigger, … something like a doctor or a lawyer,” Villegas said. “For my husband and I, our biggest thing was listening to Izzy, and understanding that, that wasn’t what he wanted. What he wanted was something completely different, and cars were his passion.”

Choice program courses in high school range from automotive to fire safety.

“We are in the businesses of making sure that we graduate every student to be confident, competitive and ready for a career of college and life,” Hill said.

The Choice Program application period for the 2022-2023 school year ends Jan. 31.

Health and education writer Ariana-Jasmine Castrellon can be reached at acastrellon@gannett.com or 910-486-3561.

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This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Cumberland County Schools Virtual Choice Fair associate's degree

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