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Ranch youth earn certifications

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  • | 4:00 a.m. May 23, 2012
  • East County
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LAKEWOOD RANCH — Eighteen-year-old Jennifer Jackson looked at ease as she led a class of preschoolers in a game of “Simon Says.”

But, when she started in Lakewood Ranch High School’s Early Childhood Education program four years ago, she was nervous just being around the children. Now, comfort has set in, and she hopes to have a career working with them, possibly as a speech pathologist or a teacher.

This month, Jackson and 10 of her classmates got a little closer to fulfilling their dreams of working with children after becoming among the first 300 high school students in the country to earn national industry certifications as child development associates.

“It’s exciting,” Jackson said. “I don’t think I would have been able to do it without the help of this program. (Our teacher) Mrs. (Elaine) Bowling really guided us.”

Senior Maddi Runge agreed.

“I never thought I’d be in (this program) for four years and be able to teach preschoolers,” she said. “I just love working with the kids. They’re so much fun.”

Bowling, who oversees the Early Childhood Education program, said the certification just became available to high school students through the Council for Professional Recognition in April 2011. To earn the certification, students must have completed 480 hours of working with children under age 5, received 120 hours of child-care training, completed oral and written exams and finished a resource collection file. Bowling also had to complete an assessment observation for each student.

“(This certification) means now they can go into child care, and they can actually teach in a classroom,” Bowling said. “They don’t have to be an assistant anymore. It’s a certification they can take with them. They can go out there and feel like what they do is more important.”

Runge, who currently works at Kids R Kids preschool part-time, plans to put her new credentials to good use, becoming a full-time teacher there while pursuing an education degree at the State College of Florida.

“I always wanted to work with (children),” Runge said. “(Working in the Early Childhood Education program) made me want to do it even more.”

Bowling said students who earned the certification have been in the program for four years, during which time they learned about child care and development, prepared lesson plans, worked as teacher aides at elementary schools and then became responsible for running the Mini Mustangs’ classroom for 3 year olds.

“I’m so proud of them,” Bowling said. “I’m just glad they are getting recognized for what they do.”

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

Elaine Bowling oversees Lakewood Ranch High School’s Early Childhood Education program. She said in the past, students have received certifications that were not recognized nationally, thereby limiting their ability to teach in a classroom upon graduation.

The State College of Florida offers a two-year program that allows students to qualify for the same certification earned by Lakewood’s students, she said.


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