QIII Aviation grad earns CFI

Bernie Watt, a former Aviation student at Questar III’s Columbia-Greene Educational Center (CGEC) recently passed his practical test to become a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI).

Bernie Watt photoWatts’ interest in aviation began in his early teens. At 14, he took a discovery flight with Questar III Aviation teacher, John Mahony and fell in love with flying. Two years later, as a junior at Ichabod Crane High School, he enrolled in the two-year Aviation program at CGEC.

“It is a lot of responsibility to fly a plane,” said Watt. “Students who enroll in the Aviation program at QIII need to be dedicated and put in the time after school and on weekends.”

After graduation from high school, Watt went on to Schenectady Community College where he double majored and received his Associate of Science degrees in Aviation Science and Math & Science.

“The process to become a Certified Flight Instructor is lengthy,” said Watt.

Before applying to take his CFI practical test, Watt secured his private pilot license, became instrument rated and then secured his commercial pilot license which required 250 hours of flight time and an additional medical exam.

The CFI practical test is administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and consists of taking two written exams, six to eight hours of oral questioning and approximately two hours of flight time. “It was a long road and a lot of hours to get here but well worth it,” said Watt.

Watt is currently working as a Lineman at Richmor Aviation where he hopes to transition to a flight instructor position. In the future, Watt would like to continue his education by earning a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and obtain enough flight hours to become a Charter Pilot.

Students earn awards at SkillsUSA

Questar III’s career and technical education (CTE) students excelled at the 2015 SkillsUSA regional competition on March 18. The regional competition took place at Schenectady County Community College, Modern Welding and Stratton Air National Guard Base.

Students serviced automobiles, prepared dinners, styled hair and delivered speeches as part of the annual competition testing job-related and technical skills.

Congratulations to the 19 Questar III students who earned awards at the regional competition and to HVAC teacher Danny Ramirez, who was nominated for SkillsUSA Advisor of the Year.

Columbia-Greene Educational Center, Hudson

First Place:

  • Michael Pinney Jr. (Greenville) – HVAC

Second Place:

  • Wesley Knichel (Ichabod Crane) – Job Interview
  • Samuel Waite (Taconic Hills) – Internetworking

Third Place:

  • Shylee Bain (Coxsackie-Athens) – Cosmetology Junior
  • Marcus Hinds (Hudson) – Auto Veichle Maintenance
  • Zach Kerr (Hudson) – Internetworking
  • Jacob Mabb (Ichabod Crane) – Welding
  • Tee Quan Davis (Hudson) – Food Prep Assistant

Fourth Place:

  • Russell Lewis (Greenville) – HVAC

Fifth Place:

  • Morgan Knott (Ichabod Crane) – Junior Cosmetology

Rensselaer Educational Center, Troy

First Place:

  • Caleb Hendricks (Berlin) – Carpentry
  • Chris Salvati (East Greenbush) – Networking (CISCO)

Second Place:

  • Alyssa Casatelli (East Greenbush) – Cosmetology
  • Doug Haskins (Lansingburgh) – HVAC
  • Madison Paloski (East Greenbush) – Cosmetology

Fourth Place:

  • Shane Barney (East Greenbush) – Carpentry

Fifth Place:

  • Garrett Bartlett (Tamarac) – HVAC
  • Marrisa Littlejohn (East Greenbush) – Cosmetology
  • Ryan Ramundo (East Greenbush) – Automotive Mechanics Technology

SkillsUSA is a national organization for high school students enrolled in CTE programs. It provides quality educational experiences for students in leadership, teamwork, citizenship and character development.

CGEC students help build homes

Students at Questar III’s Columbia-Greene Educational Center (CGEC) in Hudson have been helping build homes with Columbia County Habitat for Humanity.

CGEC students stand in front of townhomes being built at 206 Columbia Street in Hudson.

CGEC students stand in front of townhomes being built at 206 Columbia Street in Hudson.

Construction Technologies and Building Trades students have been working on the townhomes being built at 206 Columbia Street in Hudson one day a week per month since the beginning of the school year.

The townhomes the students have been working on have been designed to incorporate energy-saving, high performance Passive House technology and building materials making these homes affordable for families and economically sustainable for the long term.CGEC-habitat-for-humanity-018

“Our students are gaining hands-on experience in residential building, including framing, insulations, door/window installation, siding, trim and interior finishes,” said Construction Technologies teacher Bill Ebel.

Columbia County Habitat for Humanity, founded in 1993, is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International. To date, their volunteers have built safe, affordable housing for 16 families. They make home ownership possible for lower-income working families through no-interest mortgages. To encourage re-use and recycling as well as generate revenue for building projects, Habitat operates the ReStore, adjacent to their office on Route 66, just north of 9H in Hudson, NY. Learn more about Columbia County Habitat for Humanity.

Rensselaer Educational Center also continues to support Capital District Habitat for Humanity (CDHfH) locally in Troy.

Consultants meet with CTE faculty

Co-principal, Heather Lansing and Work Based Learning Coordinator, Joan Rogers welcoming business partners

Co-principal, Heather Lansing and Work Based Learning Coordinator, Joan Rogers welcoming business partners.

Last month, more than 80 area business people attended the Consultant Committee breakfast at the Columbia-Greene Education Center (CGEC) in Hudson to discuss curriculum and work-based learning opportunities for Career and Technical Education (CTE) students.

Co-principal, Heather Lansing and Work Based Learning Coordinator, Joan Rogers welcomed business partners at a breakfast provided by Questar III’s Culinary Arts students before breaking off into committee meetings.

Questar III Work Based Learning Coordinator, Joan Rogers speaks to  Welding Committee members about  work-based learning opportunities for CTE students

Questar III Work Based Learning Coordinator, Joan Rogers speaks to Welding Committee members about work-based learning opportunities for CTE students.

Rogers said successful CTE programs are the result of collaborative efforts with business partners.

“Consultant Committees keep faculty apprised of business and industry needs, provide educational opportunities for students including field trips, guest speakers, job shadows and/or internships, and assist Questar III in planning and implementing relevant CTE programs.”

These business members include local business owners, parents, directors of chambers of commerce, community college and university instructors ranging from programs in aviation to welding.

Learn more about how to become a business partner for CTE

Thank you to all the businesses who participated in the committee breakfast:

Brandon’s Auto, CDPHP, Columbia County DA, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, Columbia Memorial, Doreen’s Family Hair Care, G4S, Glenco construction, Greene County Chamber of Commerce, Greene County Sheriff’s Office, Home Helpers, Jimmy’s Auto Repair, La Conca D’oro Restaurant, Lisa Marie’s Beauty Salon, Lotus Energy, Maria College, Modern Welding School, Mohawk Valley Community College, NYS Dept. of Transportation, Ravena Welding Supply, Regis Corporation/Super Cuts, Richmor Aviation, Sawyer Chevrolet, Schenectady County Community College, Simmons Automotive, Sylvia Center/Katchkie Farm, and Upstage Productions.

See additional photos from Consultant Committee Breakfast

Preparing for forensics career

CGEC_cg_gabbyAs a freshman at Germantown High School, Gabrielle Cidras attended an open House at the Columbia-Greene Educational Center (CGEC) with her older sister who was interested in the Culinary Arts program. At that time, not old enough to enroll in the program, Cidras told the criminal justice teacher that she would be back in two years.

True to her word, in the fall of her junior year, she enrolled in the two-year Criminal Justice program.

Cidras said she fell in love with law enforcement at five years old. “My relatives who work in law enforcement sparked my interest in it.”

Cidras was an honor roll student and member of SkillsUSA. She and fellow criminal justice teammates from CGEC won the state competition for Crime Scene Investigation in Syracuse and went on to represent New York State at the national competition in Kansas City, Missouri in June 2014.

Cidras graduated from the criminal justice program in June 2014 and is now a freshman at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, majoring in criminal justice.

“I highly recommend the criminal justice program to other students and loved the hands on exercises,” said Cidras. “I started my freshman year of college with nine course credits.”

Cidras has been accepted for an internship at the New York State Forensics Lab in Queens, and is currently receiving training in forensics for this internship.

Looking ahead after graduation, Cidras hopes to be working in a forensics lab in New York or Massachusetts.

QIII celebrates CTE month

During the month of February we celebrate Black History Month and the nation’s Presidents but we also call attention to the power of a long-standing education program that prepares millions of students for success beyond high school.

Questar III is joining others across the country during the month of February to celebrate national Career and Technical Education (CTE) month.

Locally, high school students learn technical skills in 25 different hands-on programs offered at Questar III’s Columbia-Greene Educational Center in Hudson, Rensselaer Educational Center in Troy and other locations.

These programs – known as CTE, Career Studies or New Visions – are among the more than 275 shared services Questar III offers to schools. Questar III students prepare for college and careers ranging from aviation to welding in half-day programs that integrate classroom learning with hands-on training.

Questar III Assistant Superintendent Andrew DeFeo said career exploration and skills development is more important and timely than ever.

“Our CTE programs are aligned with our regional labor market, provide students with valuable career exploration and result in credentials and experiences that help them get jobs and go to college and post-secondary education,” DeFeo explained.

In recent years, Questar III has added a number of new programs including aviation maintenance technology, green and renewable energy, media communications and 3-D printing and prototyping.

DeFeo said Questar III uses feedback from school and business leaders to be responsive to school, economic and workforce needs. “These leaders advise us on curriculum, trends and technologies in their fields,” DeFeo said.

Questar III students participate in work-based learning (WBL), or structured work-related learning experiences. This includes job shadowing and internships with professionals in the field.

CTE students can also earn industry certificates and licenses — as well as college credit at local institutions, providing graduating students with a head start on the future. Additionally, Questar III students earn thousands of dollars in scholarships at regional, statewide and national skills competitions each year.

DeFeo said Questar III also continues to work with superintendents, principals and counselors to raise the bar for CTE programs. This includes greater participation in decision-making through its superintendent academic committee, annual CTE summit held each November, academic teachers from local high schools reviewing integrated credit during the program approval/re-approval process, and an intake process that helps schools match students to the right programs.

In the end, DeFeo said CTE is an investment in the future of local students and their communities.

“Our programs provide for additional choices in public education that help districts to meet students’ learning styles, abilities and interests. Through Questar III, districts can offer a rich variety of learning experiences for students that may be cost prohibitive for them to try to offer on their own,” DeFeo said.

CTE is increasingly viewed as a way to prepare students for college and careers. In fact, last October, the state Board of Regents unanimously approved a plan to provide multiple pathways to increase graduation rates and college/career readiness. This includes a new CTE option for students.

Some facts about Questar III’s CTE programs:

  • Last year, 91 percent of students graduated with Regents and Advanced Regents diplomas. Additionally, 81 percent of students received a Technical Endorsement on their diplomas. To achieve this, students must earn 22 credits, pass 5 required Regents exams and pass a culminating exam that tests skills in their chosen area of study. This 3-part technical assessment – held each May – includes written, demonstration and project components.
  • 85.6 percent of students attended college or pursued degrees related to the field they studied at Questar III. 80 percent of students went onto work in a related work, according to the 2013 Perkins Report Card.
  • Programs are taught by professionals with hands-on experience and knowledge in their content or technical area – and in consultation with consultant committees of business, industry and higher education.
  • Questar III has partnerships with more than 200 business, college and industry professionals through its CTE consultant committees.
  • CTE programs currently have 29 articulation agreements with post-secondary institutions. This allows students to earn college credit or advanced placement for work they complete at Questar III.

Recent student profiles:

How the power grid works

Questar III’s Green Technologies & Renewable Energy and Tech Valley High School students toured the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) headquarters in North Greenbush. The tour was the culmination of projects where students had built and worked with similar, solar, wind power and model grid kits.

NYISO TourNYISO oversees the high-voltage grid and makes sure New York State has electrical power 24/7. The two-hour tour concluded with students viewing the elaborate control room, where engineers monitor a giant board day and night that maps the states transmission lines and the power plants that connect them.

The tour was part of the nearly $200,000 “Improving Bridges for Clean Energy Training from High School to College and Career” grant awarded to Questar III, in collaboration with MESO, Inc, Morrisville State College, SUNY ESF and KidWind Project, from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

NYISO Tour2“Students turn on a light switch without thinking of multiple decisions made by others to keep the power flowing through the electrical grid,” said Glenn Van Knowe, vice president and senior research scientist of MESO, Inc.

“The tour today allowed students to gain a better grasp of concepts learned in class and was an important step in leading students to much needed careers in energy efficiency and management,” said Questar III, Green Technologies & Renewable Energy teacher, Karl Kunker.

Learn more about Questar III’s Green Technologies & Renewable Energy Program

Pathway to career opportunity

Nick-RifenburghIn June 2014, Nick Rifenburgh completed the Academy for Information Technology (AIT) program at Questar III’s Rensselaer Educational Center (REC) in Troy. The program not only provided him with technical knowledge and skills, but it also gave him a pathway to a career opportunity with his future employer Questar III.

Rifenburgh a Hoosick Valley High School graduate enrolled in Questar III’s two-year AIT program with an interest in video game programming but it was the networking side that he really enjoyed. While a student in the AIT program, Rifenburgh completed internships with SUNY Albany and Questar III.

“Nick was at the top of his class with CISCO skills and has an excellent work ethic,” said Questar III teacher Lewis Cappelli. “You could show Nick how to do something once and it would be done right and better than expected.”

When a position became available in October in the Information Technology Department at Questar III, Rifenburgh applied and was offered the technician position. He credits the AIT program for preparing him for his career.

“We completed a lot of live work as well as focusing on customer service skills to interact with different people,” said Rifenburgh. “In my position, I enjoy helping people solve problems.”

Learn more about AIT and Career and Technical Education programs offered by Questar III.

Classroom to Career

frank_oneillGraduating from high school is an exciting time for students but can also cause anxiety about the future. This was not the case for Frank O’Neill, a 2014 graduate of Hudson High School, who secured a job at a locally-based manufacturing company before even graduating and turning 18.

O’Neill completed the Mechanical Technology program (which is being renamed 3D Printing & Prototyping for the 2015-2016 school year) at Questar III’s Columbia-Greene Educational Center (CGEC) in Hudson. The program not only provided him with the technical knowledge and skills that set him apart from his peers, but it also gave him hands-on experience at his future employer.

During his time at Questar III, O’Neill completed an internship at Saturn Industries, Inc., a leading manufacturing company in the design and fabrication of EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining) electrodes and tooling. When a position became available, O’Neill applied and was offered the job.

O’Neill initially became interested in mechanical technology through his participation in Hudson High School’s robotics team. After attending an Open House at the CGEC and seeing the computer numerical control (CNC) machine, he was hooked and enrolled in the two-year program.

“Frank was an excellent student who had a perfectionist’s attitude,” said Questar III teacher George Amann. “He tries his hardest, acts in the most professional way possible at everything he does and because of this, Frank is very successful today.”

O’Neill recently returned to Amann’s class to speak to current students about the benefits of hands-on learning and how it provided a pathway to his current position at Saturn.

Looking ahead to the future, O’Neill said he would like to continue his education to support his machinist position at Saturn.


Getting a jumpstart on future career

Not many people get a glimpse into what their future career will be, but that is exactly what happened to Amina Drine when she was a Career and Technical Education student at Questar III’s Columbia- Greene Educational Center (CGEC) in Hudson. Drine played a role as a recruiter in a video used by Questar III to share information with high school students. Fast forward 10 years and Drine is now the recruiter for Questar III’s Adult Education programs, which provides a wide array of programming to adults in three counties.

In addition to starring in the recruitment video while a student at CGEC, Drine was featured in the Questar III calendar. At this time she was a SkillsUSA hair model and voted prom queen by students and staff. Drine believes that being a student at Questar III was an invaluable experience, giving her a jumpstart on her future career. “My time at Questar III gave me who I was and what I was interested in,” said Drine.

In 2009, Drine graduated from Russell Sage College with a degree in Business/Corporate Communications. Prior to joining Questar III, Drine was the Senior Admissions Representative for Bryant & Stratton College. In fact, she was named the 2013 Rep of the Year.

Within minutes of speaking with Drine, it is readily apparent how passionate she is about what she does. Her positive approach to life and upbeat personality are contagious. “What I enjoy most about being a recruiter is assisting new people with continuing their education and being able to support Questar III in their programs.”

Recruitment is already under way for the following Adult Education programs: Adult Literacy, GED preparation and testing, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), Community Education and Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) programs and other trade programs.

For further information on Adult Education programs please contact Amina Drine at Amina.Drine@questar.org or (518) 479-6895.