Online School Announces First-of-its-Kind Career & Technical Education Program

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Eligible students can now become certified medical assistants while attending Oregon Connections Academy

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Online school announces Career & Technical Education Program

This new CTE program is another example of how Oregon Connections Academy can personalize learning to fit each student’s learning needs and career interests.

The state’s leading tuition-free virtual public school, Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA), is launching a new Career and Technical Education (CTE) program for the 2018-19 school year called ASCEND, the Academy of Specialized Career Exploration Navigation and Direction.

Ascend is a great way Oregon Connections Academy can bring school to life for students, offering hands-on opportunities to explore careers in the community and interactive virtual classes to learn about various occupations from top experts across the state.

“This new CTE program is another example of how Oregon Connections Academy can personalize learning to fit each student’s learning needs and career interests,” said Oregon Connections Academy High School Success Administrator John Meyer. “The online education environment is perfect for career and technical programs like this because students have so much flexibility to schedule on-the-job experiences, like a job shadow, into a typical school day.”

In addition to the core graduation requirements, high school freshman through juniors enrolling in Ascend will complete a career-focused program to prepare them for the workforce in three of the highest-growth job fields in Oregon: Health Science, Business/Marketing and Computer Science.

With the start of the Ascend Health Science pathway ORCA becomes the first statewide full-time virtual public school to offer students the opportunity to become a certified medical assistant upon graduation from high school. For students who meet eligibility requirements, the medical assistant study materials will be paid for by the school and credentialed by the National Healthcareers Association.

"Bringing a certified medical assistant program to Oregon's education system in a virtual environment is a wonderful opportunity for Oregon's future health care professionals!" said Shelly Kinnunen, State Advisor for Oregon HOSA-Future Health Professionals. Oregon Connections Academy will also form a HOSA chapter, offering students in the Ascend Health Science pathway additional support and professional growth.

According to the Oregon Employment Department, medical assistant positions will increase nearly 29% over the next ten years. Business sector jobs are also expected to grow by 28%, and technical/computer systems employment opportunities will increase by 29%.

Students taking Ascend’s Business/Marketing pathway will learn major elements such as accounting and starting their own business. ORCA will also create a school chapter of DECA, a business-oriented non-profit organization, to support students.

“The student model that ORCA has arranged, with flexibility and independence, empowers students to be self-functioning. Align this with a program like DECA, and you’re developing well-rounded individuals ready for the real world,” said Ed Trang, State Director for Oregon DECA. “The skillsets gained through DECA prepare emerging leaders for careers in marketing, entrepreneurship, finance, hospitality, and management. We’re excited to have Oregon Connections Academy offering CTE pathways through an online medium.”

“The Computer Science pathway in Ascend fits right into what we’re all about as an online public school,” noted Meyer. “Many of our students are naturally drawn to our tech courses such as Java Programming and Game Design, so I won’t be surprised to see a large number of students express an interest in this pathway.”

In each Ascend pathway students will have opportunities for real-world learning through internships, externships, or other work-site partnerships during their senior year. Industry certifications or free college credits may also be a goal for students depending on the Ascend courses.

“A large percent of high school students have plans for higher education, a significant number want to get started on their career, others want both,” added Meyer. “This new program has a strong focus on career-readiness, yet still provides a strong academic foundation so a student can leave their options open for college at the same time.”

“Career and Technical Education will help me get a better understanding of the medical field while also allowing me to get a job after high school to pay for my college education,” explained 16-year old Mikayla Wood from Scio, a junior with both parents working in local hospitals. “I would love to acquire the medical assistant certification offered by ORCA as a starting point for hands-on experience and an actual job as I jump into future career choices. My parents have definitely influenced me to work hard for what I want, however my main motivation for working towards a career in the medical field is to work with kids and help make a difference like so many did for me when I was younger.”

ORCA’s Career and Technical Education program was funded in part by Measure 98, the High School Graduation and College and Career Readiness Act, which was adopted by voters two years ago. Graduation rates for students in CTE programs are shown to be 15% higher than the state average, according to the State Department of Education.
Enrollment for the 2018-19 school year continues at Oregon Connections Academy. For more information on upcoming events or how to enroll, please visit: or call (800) 382–6010.

About Oregon Connections Academy
Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA) is a tuition-free, high-quality, highly accountable statewide online charter school that serves students in grades K–12. The school is authorized by the Santiam Canyon School District. All Oregon Connections Academy students participate in the award-winning national Connections Academy program that combines high-quality resources from leading publishers with cutting-edge yet easy-to-use technology and hands-on materials. Oregon Connections Academy provides students with the flexibility to learn from anywhere there is an Internet connection and with an innovative online school curriculum that meets rigorous state education standards. The combination of Oregon-certified teachers, a proven curriculum, unique electives, technology tools, and community experiences creates a supportive and successful online learning opportunity for families and children who want an individualized approach to education. Oregon Connections Academy is accredited by the Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC), an accrediting division of AdvancED. For more information, call 800-382-6010, or visit

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Dawn Phillips
Oregon Connections Academy
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