Why Students in My Schools Can Test Drive Careers

The best way to find out if something is really working is to ask whomever it’s designed to benefit. For Course Access, this means going to the experts: the teachers and students. Each student has their own individual reason for choosing this path. They are too ill to attend regular school, they are in need of credit recovery to graduate, they want to be challenged more in a certain subject or learn a subject not offered at their brick-and-mortar school. But these students do have one thing in common: they are benefitting from an EdTech advantage that previous generations never dreamed would be an option in education.

The Foundation for Excellence in Education recently interviewed several superintendents, teachers and students who are using Course Access to ask them more about their experiences, and then created a video and blog series to share their findings.

Dr. Patrice Pujol, the first female Superintendent of the Ascension Parish Public School System in Louisiana and 2015 Louisiana Superintendent of the Year, was one of the education leaders interviewed for this series. She is featured in the following video and blog describing her district’s experience with Course Access.

Dr. Patrice Pujol

In my school district in southern Louisiana, we want each student to graduate with the academic, technical and social skills needed to succeed in life beyond high school. So when we learned that in the next five years approximately 80,000 skilled employees will be needed for industrial jobs along the Mississippi corridor where Ascension Public Schools System is located, we took strategic action. We started planning how to best open these doors to well-paying jobs for our graduates.

The mission of our school system is simple. We want to provide each student the high-quality education he or she will need to succeed in an ever-changing world. Personally, I’ve had a longstanding commitment to helping kids consider the “What happens next?” question, and I felt this was an excellent opportunity to help our students begin thinking about their lives and careers after high school.

However, we also realized that we were unable to offer all the technical training our students would need to be prepared and qualified for these high-tech jobs. So we began to reach outside our walls and look at different education delivery systems to ensure students were successful after graduation. One of the most viable options we found was Course Choice, also known as Course Access.

In our district, Course Access truly offers each student a choice in determining his or her own pathway. Students are able to select and complete free skill training and certification opportunities while still attending high school. We partnered with the local chapter of Associated Builders and Construction (ABC Pelican), a national construction industry trade association, to make this possible.

Many of our students had not even considered these types of industrial jobs, mostly because they didn’t know these options existed. Through Course Access, we’ve been able to highlight these opportunities and offer our students the chance to try out new careers and discover if these options are viable for their future.

The program has been very successful, growing from 34 to 250 participants in the last few years. Young men and women in our school district are finding a variety of jobs that interest them, including welding, pipe fitting, millwrighting and electrical work.

Providing Course Access has proven to be an excellent experience for everyone involved. Parents are pleased that their children have greater opportunities, school accountability scores are on the rise and the local industry is receiving a trained workforce. Most importantly, students are able to learn about career opportunities they may not have been exposed to while attending a traditional school, with hands-on training to help them transition to the workforce successfully.

Course Access has helped Ascension Parish stay true to its mission.


Dr. Patrice Pujol is a native of Ascension Parish, and has worked for Ascension Parish School System for more than 30 years as an English teacher, assistant principal, principal, director and assistant superintendent.

For more on Course Access and ExcelinEd, check out:

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