Learning Lockheed Martin’s process for coding was a challenge for Citlalitl Guevara.

She easily picked up coding in the eighth grade thanks to her love of STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math. 

But the learning curve was understandable. Citlalitl, a senior at Fort Worth ISD’s Young Women’s Leadership Academy, was in her first internship.

Mayor Mattie Parker wants more students like Citlalitl, who found what she loves and is charting a path toward a career. As part of her Council on Education and Workforce Development, Parker announced April 20 a new goal for the 12 school districts in Fort Worth: Increase the number of graduates who are considered career ready by 10% in the next year.

The mayor called the goal attainable for all districts and crucial for Fort Worth’s workforce.

“We need career paths so that each of you can make a high living wage, have a career path into the future and raise your families right here in Fort Worth,” Parker told 166 high school seniors at the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex. “I want you to be an example moving forward.”

The seniors were from high schools from across Fort Worth. Some are about to earn their associate degree before their high school diploma. Others worked in internships for Fort Worth companies. And some had already earned industry certifications.

School districts in Fort Worth starting in a solid position include Castleberry, Everman, Northwest, Hurst-Euless-Bedford, Aledo and Burleson. They each saw at least 20% of their high school seniors graduate with an industry-based certification, according to the Texas Education Agency.

Fort Worth ISD, the largest district in the city, had almost 10% of seniors graduate with an industry-based certification in the 2020-21 school year.

‘Open up these pathways’

To boost those numbers, the mayor’s council is working with higher education institutions, including Tarrant County College, to jumpstart smaller districts’ career-readiness programs, Parker told the Fort Worth Report. 

The committee also is looking at pairing smaller districts with larger school systems so more students have an opportunity to be better prepared for college, the military or workforce.

Larger districts, such as Fort Worth ISD and Keller ISD, have the resources to offer numerous classes that build up students’ skills for future careers. However, this is not always the case for smaller districts, like Lake Worth ISD. Parker wants to help those districts get their students career-ready.

The mayor’s Council on Education and Workforce Development also is working on connecting school districts with employers. Connecting both will help education institutions better align classes into pathways that lead into a job, Parker said.

Who is on the mayor’s Council on Education and Workforce Development?

A group called the Council on Education and Workforce Development is working on boosting career readiness among students in the 12 school districts in Fort Worth. Mayor Mattie Parker formed the committee in 2022. Here are the members:

  • Council chairman Tom Harris, executive vice president at Hillwood
  • Brent Beasley, president and CEO of Fort Worth Education Partnership
  • Shannon Bryant, executive vice president at Tarrant County College
  • Jay Chapa, principal of J Chapa Strategic Solutions, 
  • Dr. Bill Coppola, president of Tarrant County College Southeast Campus 
  • Jeanelle Davis, executive director of public affairs at BNSF 
  • Eric Fox, director of government relations at Lockheed Martin 
  • Michael Gagne, executive director of employer partnerships at Greenlight Credentials 
  • Melody Johnson, former Fort Worth ISD superintendent
  • Jay McCall, program manager at Rainwater Charitable Foundation
  • Brian Newby, managing partner at Cantey Hanger 
  • Eric Reeves,  managing director at Greenlight Credentials,
  • Dr. David Saenz, Fort Worth ISD’s chief of innovation
  • Natalie Young Williams, executive director of Tarrant To & Through Partnership

To coordinate these efforts, the mayor’s council hired Terri Mossige, a longtime educator who worked for nearly 20 years in Fort Worth ISD, including eight as principal of Paschal High School. Mossige is the senior director of the Council on Education and Workforce Development.

“If we can get more kids out there in industry to see what the end game is for them, they’re going to go back and tell other kids,” Mossige told the Fort Worth Report. “We just need to open up these pathways and open up our businesses to our kids. We’ve got some very talented kids in the public system.”

Tracking the success of students after they graduate high school and land a job is difficult. Schools only know whether students are ready for a career, college or the military. Beyond that, little data is available. And what is accessible can be challenging to understand.

The mayor’s council is working with school districts so they can share their career readiness data and analyze the successes and shortcomings of their programs. Doing that allows education and business leaders to beef up much needed pathways, such as nursing, Parker said.

Internships open opportunities

All of it, though, begins when a student discovers their passion. 

Aspen Mrak, a senior at Northwest ISD’s Byron Nelson High School, found her love of medicine when she learned about her district’s Biomedical Science Academy in the eighth grade.

She wasn’t sure about the medical side, but knew she loved science. She committed to it and recently completed an internship with Texas Health Alliance Hospital. 

Learning the medical jargon that flew around the hospital was challenging for Aspen, who will be attending the University of Vermont in the fall. But it was worth it.

“It’s opened up a lot of opportunities,” she said. “I’m really thankful for it.”

Disclosure: Texas Health Resources, Hillwood, Sid W. Richardson Foundation and Rainwater Charitable Foundation have been financial supporters of the Fort Worth Report. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter.

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Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University....