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 or (518) 479-6895.

QIII launches media program

This past fall Questar III launched a new Career & Technical Education (CTE) program at Catskill High School.

Questar III’s Media Communications program offers students the opportunity to earn college credit while using a state-of-the-art facility at Catskill High School. Students write, film, edit and produce news broadcasts, commercials, promotional items, and films.

Media Communications teacher Virginia LuPone said these hands-on experiences allow students to learn how to disassemble and analyze media messages – and harness the power of media.

“We immerse students in the process from concept to creation. Our students learn about media communications and its power, but perhaps more significantly is that they are able to actually create media, interact with clients, use state of the art equipment, and gain experiences that will help them to succeed in whatever pathway lies ahead,” said Lupone.

LuPone said the goal is to provide students with a range of skills to tackle the changing mix of Internet, print, television, radio and social media, and prepare them for a career or post-secondary education in communications.

Questar III is piloting the Media Communications program with Catskill students this year and will open enrollment to students from other districts next year.

The program, developed in partnership with Catskill CSD, is one of three different options for CTE that Questar III provides to students and school districts. This includes the center-based programs in Hudson and Troy, a satellite Co-Ser at Greenville for its International Baccalaureate (IB) program and two different district-based programs. In addition to the Media Communications program, Questar III also offers a green technology program based at Rensselaer High School.

Questar III Assistant Superintendent Andy DeFeo said the district-based programs demonstrate the power of collaboration.

“We have worked hard with superintendents to support an array of hands-on programs that truly prepare students for life outside of high school. This work aligns with the vision of our BOCES and the direction of the Board of Regents in adopting new graduation pathways,” DeFeo said.

Catskill CSD Superintendent Kate Farrell said the new partnership ultimately benefits students.

“We are pleased to work together to offer the BOCES use of our facilities. We look forward to opening this program to students across the region and allowing them to learn hands-on skills they can use after high school,” Farrell said.

Story about visit to the University at Albany:
Program fact sheet (including student video)


Schools attend CTE summit

On November 18, more than 85 superintendents, high school principals, school counselors, business leaders and BOCES staff attended the sixth annual Career and Technical Education (CTE) alignment meeting hosted by Questar III BOCES.

The group met at Questar III’s Conference Center in Castleton to design meaningful grade 9-12 career pathway for students in four diverse career areas including:

  1. Alternative Energy
  2. Health Occupations
  3. Media Communication
  4. Engineering

During the meeting, attendees broke into four smaller groups for facilitated discussions focusing on one career area. The conversations identified how to better prepare students to be successful, and what district counselors and teachers needed to do to develop and implement the pathway for students.

CTESummit-002Questar III Assistant Superintendent Andy DeFeo said this annual meeting has been used effectively to implement changes in CTE programs that allow the BOCES and school districts better serve student needs.

“We have worked hard and you are the driving force behind our programs. Proof that pathways work is seen in increased student attendance, retention, and technical endorsements. The challenge is providing articulated and aligned experiences for students so they are college ready,” said DeFeo.

Questar III Chief Operating Officer/Deputy Superintendent Gladys Cruz provided an update on the NYS Board of Regents plan to provide multiple pathways to increase graduation rates and college and career readiness.

The new plan provides for a “4+1″ graduation option through which students can take four Regents exams (ELA, math, science and social studies) and select a comparably rigorous exam in one of the following areas: career and technical education; science, technology; engineering and mathematics (STEM); the arts; bi-literacy or the humanities. Currently, students must take five Regents exams to graduate, including two social studies exams. Under the plan, students could replace one of these social studies exams with an SED-approved assessment.

Cruz said the plan would enhance BOCES Aid and expand access to P-TECH Schools.

Questar III Career Development Specialist Ted Hennessy also provided a statistical breakdown by school district of graduate success.

For more information please visit Each program has a fact sheet listing high school and college credit available, curriculum and materials used, courses recommended to take before enrollment, and a video.

QIII students honor veterans

Questar III’s Rensselaer Educational Center (REC) in Troy and Columbia-Greene Educational Center (CGEC) in Hudson each hosted their 11th annual Veterans Day Luncheon to celebrate and honor our local veterans for their service to our country.

In Photo: Greene County American Legion Members Tony Manno, World War II Veteran and Greene County Commander Tim Burch, Viet-Nam Veteran both of Catskill Post # 110  with Questar III Students.

In Photo: Greene County American Legion Members Tony Manno, World War II Veteran and Greene County Commander Tim Burch, Viet-Nam Veteran both of Catskill Post # 110 with Questar III Students.

Area veterans, along with a guest, were invited to the complimentary lunch, held at both the Hudson and Troy locations. Veterans were served by the Culinary Arts and Introduction to Food services students.

REC Principal Anthony Defazio thanked the veterans for their service before the meal was served. “I would like to start by saying how honored we are to serve each and every one of you. It is one of our favorite events and it brings a lot of joy to the building,” he said.

Greene County Commander Tim Burch, Viet-Nam Veteran of Catskill Post # 110 attended the luncheon at CGEC and said, “Questar III students were a breath of fresh air displaying exemplary self-confidence and hospitality to all veterans who attended this celebrated event. The highlight was talking with the students who possessed positive attitudes and reverence towards the veterans.”

CGEC Principal Heather Lansing adds, “The students and staff are all involved in this event, as our way of saying thank you and expressing our gratitude to our local veterans.”

Grad follows pathway to employment

Allan McNeil reported to his new job with CommutAir for training in September, just weeks after receiving his certification in Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) from Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC).

McNeil, a 2013 graduate of Averill Park High School, completed the two-year Aviation Maintenance program at Questar III’s Rensselaer Educational Center (REC) in Troy. A considerable amount of the course material covered in McNeil’s first semester at MVCC was a review of what he had studied in the Aviation Maintenance program at REC.

McNeil had originally registered for the Automotive Technologies program at REC, but decided to switch after attending an information session for the Aviation Maintenance program, which was new at that time.

Allan McNeil on the right.

Allan McNeil on the right.

“Learning about planes, being around them, the reason they fly, is very cool, and not many people get to see that side of aviation. I would 100 percent recommend the program at REC to other students. It gave me an idea of what I wanted to do, and kept me interested to learn,” said McNeil.

In addition to his new job, McNeil is taking classes at Hudson Valley Community College to complete his Associate’s Degree in Applied Science. He said he would like to eventually attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida to complete a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics.

According to Boeing, the commercial aviation industry will require 584,000 maintenance personnel over the next 20 years to accommodate the demand for new and replacement aircraft. Technicians work for a variety of employers, including major airlines, aerospace manufacturing, aircraft MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) companies, military and the Federal Aviation Administration.

For more information on the Aviation Maintenance program at the Rensselaer Educational Center.

QIII launches tablet pilot program

Questar III student Virgil Wellington is using an iPad to complete an assignment at Sackett Educational Center.

Questar III student Virgil Wellington is using an iPad to complete an assignment at Sackett Educational Center.

More and more you’ll see it. Doctors, mechanics, pilots and others are switching from the old pad and paper to a more sophisticated tool: the tablet computer. Not only is the tablet computer useful for software and applications specific to those professions, it is proving to be useful in an academic environment as well.

This year Questar III BOCES, along with Schodack CSD, Coxsackie-Athens CSD and Open Room, a division of Classbook, a Schodack-based company that provides advisory services nationwide to help K-12 schools in building lasting digital ecosystems, has implemented a tablet pilot program with select student populations to test this theory in a classroom setting. Teachers are already reporting increased student engagement and organization, and students are excited to come to school.

A collaborative approach

Questar III and OpenRoom collaboratively supported and launched a 1:1 iPad pilot program at Schodack CSD during the 2013-14 school year for at-risk freshmen and sophomores. During that time, teachers, students and parents reported seeing a remarkable improvement in the students’ behavior.  Students using the iPad actually received an average six points higher on their final exams than students not participating in the pilot program, according to Schodack CSD Superintendent Bob Horan.

The district purchased the iPads through funding sources at Questar III and donations through ClassBook., Questar III provided support for implementation through a contract with the South Kent School in Connecticut, facilitated by ClassBook. South Kent School has been a ClassBook client for 9 years and spent the last 3 years immersed in an entirely digital environment.

“We’re seeing success across the board with increased academic performance and attendance,” said Horan. “Students are much more organized than before and those students who weren’t excited about school now are.”

Given the success in Schodack, Questar III has implemented its own pilot program at its Sackett Educational Center, a high school for students with special needs, and in two Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs: Criminal Justice and Aviation. Schodack CSD and Coxsackie-Athens CSD also participate in the program, utilizing the training offered by Questar III, and the advisors from Open Room, The two districts also purchased their tablets through Questar III. Schodack opted for the Lenovo ThinkPad this time around for comparison purposes.

“The [OpenRoom] advisors have really helped us clarify our vision for this and got us thinking about professional development and capacity,” said Coxsackie-Athens CSD Superintendent Randy Squire. “They’ve helped us look for solutions to expand our digital system and clarify our vision.”

Over the summer, Schodack CSD teachers as well as Questar III Model Schools Coordinator Carolyn Strauch provided training to teachers so that on day one of school students were ready to receive their devices and teachers knew how to incorporate them into their lessons. Questar III will continue to provide training and support throughout the program as needed.

A digital tool with benefits

Students use the tablets in a multitude of ways. They use apps like Notability to take notes and Google Drive to submit assignments to their teacher, all without a single sheet of paper. Textbooks are never forgotten at home because everything is loaded onto the tablet, and with apps like Kindle, students can highlight text and look up words with ease.

In addition, the devices allow students and teachers to communicate in real time outside of regular school hours. They can email or use chat features, even utilize video conferencing. According to Questar III Criminal Justice teacher Amy Gillettt, this has been highly beneficial.

“My kids and I communicate regularly outside of class thanks to the iPad. If they have a quick question about their homework they can reach me and I can answer them within 10 seconds. There’s no more of this ‘well, I didn’t know what to do, so I just didn’t do it.’ Just the ability to do that has been huge,” said Gillett.

The iPad also allows Questar III students to organize their materials in a coherent fashion, eliminating lost assignments and materials due to bulky binders and backpacks.

At Sackett Educational Center, teachers are reporting increased organization and engagement. Erin Madigan said the iPads have made it easier to keep students on track and their work has been spot on.

“Kids aren’t scared to try new things on the iPad because they see it as cool and fun, which may psychologically relieve some of their anxiety,” said Madigan.  “They’re having fun doing things like note annotation and they’re doing it naturally.”

Students who’ve avoided work in the past are now excited to do school work on their iPads.

“It is much easier to do work. I can keep track of things and I’m able to get all of my work done,” said student Dillon Lilley. “I like to come to school and use the iPad.”

Preparation for college and careers

The tablets are helping to prepare students for day-to-day tasks required of them in college and in careers. In the CTE classes, Questar III students are using applications specific to their field. All students get the advantage of knowing how to use the technology widely used in higher education and in the workplace.

Questar III Assistant Superintendent Andrew DeFeo knows first-hand how the devices can be used in aviation. As a licensed pilot, DeFeo uses an iPad regularly on flights, something that just two years ago was not permitted. The iPad allows pilots like him to access maps, approach charts, weather graphics, document organization, file flight plans and more. It has replaced paper charts and even portable GPSs for many pilots. Students in the Aviation program have access to flight simulator apps which help them to practice on the ground as well.

“The tablet opens up a whole new area of learning opportunities including apps and tools used by professionals and communications tools such as email and video conferencing,” said DeFeo. “They have a real tool that professionals in the field use and that gives the students a competitive advantage.”

Through the iPad, students in the Criminal Justice program have access to subscriptions such as Evidence Magazine and the latest version of New York State Criminal and Procedural Law. Gillettt said the iPad will enhance the ability to work in teams during mock trials.

These students will have an advantage when it comes to jobs in the field. Police officers use laptops in their vehicles and many correctional facilities are moving away from lock and key and toward digital security.

All students, no matter the program or the district, are learning transferrable skills useful for college and careers. If they haven’t worked with a specific application or software, they’ll have the basic knowledge from their experience with the tablet to be able to determine how to use it.

In addition, students are learning how to be responsible. Students understand they are privileged to have the opportunity to use the devices and the expectations set for them.

“Students have really taken in to heart and they have a sense of pride in being part of something special,” said Gillett. “They understand there are high exceptions and they are taking it very seriously.”

Moving forward

This pilot program has allowed Questar III, OpenRoom and participating districts to work collaboratively to digitize the classroom, they’ve been able to share ideas and work through challenges.

According to Horan, the long-term plan for Schodack CSD is to have all students, K-12, using a device. The next step is to replace teachers’ desktops with tablets. Once teachers are comfortable, they will implement them in other grades.

At Coxsackie-Athens CSD, the long-term plan is to provide a device to every student in grades 7 – 12 that they can take home, and to have enough devices on hand in all classrooms and grade levels.

In addition to expanding the use of tablets to other Questar III programs, leaders at Questar hope to expand support to other districts interested in creating their own programs.

“We’ve been very appreciative for the opportunity to learn from Schodack as we too share the opportunity to provide a richer learning environment,” said DeFeo. “How we go forward is based on the outcome and feedback from students, staff and administrators.”

“Although we are still just sampling, the goal of this pilot is to expand over time,” said Questar III Chief Operating Officer Gladys Cruz. “I believe the one-to-one technology in schools is the wave of the future. Students must learn to use the technology that they’ll be expected to use in college, careers and as citizens of their community.”





REC principal honored

Questar III’s Rensselaer Educational Center co-principal, Tracy Racicot was recently honored as a 2014 Woman of Distinction. Senator Kathleen Marchione hosted the awards ceremony at the Canfield Casino in Saratoga Springs on September 24.

racicot_tracyThe “Women of Distinction” event recognized the work and accomplishments of 15 women from across the Capital Region. Applicants were nominated, some by family members, and then chosen by Shelia Lobdell of West Sand Lake and Susan Reynolds of Easton.

In her career in education, Tracy is always working on and thinking of ways to improve and better the learning experience of students. One of Tracy’s hobbies includes participating in triathlons. She was nominated by a fellow runner and triathlete. She volunteers as a coach and mentor of the No Boundaries 5k Training program

Through her efforts as a coach and mentor for the program, Tracy’s willingness and commitment to helping others has helped many individually, and in turn, improve the communities in which we all live.

“I’m honored to have been in the same room as the amazing women who were recognized at this event,” said Racicot.

In addition to volunteering as a coach, Tracy volunteers for Adopt-A-Highway for Capital District Triathlons, various road running races, and has organized activities for her colleagues such as the Workforce Challenge.


Students get lesson in decorum

This week, Questar III’s Criminal Justice students at the Rensselaer Educational Center (REC) learned military police decorum from The Troy Police Cadets.

CTE_students 003Most of the cadets are former graduates of the two-year Criminal Justice Program at REC. Students learned proper hand positioning for saluting, how to stand and make turns, as well as practice marching.

Criminal Justice teacher, Amy Gillet, who serves as the only civilian advisor to the Troy Police Cadet program, said the program provides a pathway to post-secondary learning and careers in law enforcement. “Entering the program at such a young age prepares students for the demands of the academy,” said Gillet.

CTE_students 039The Cadet program is designed so that students can experience the challenges and rewards of a police officer. Advisers and guest instructors teach police-related topics using both classroom instruction and hands-on activities. After a six-month probationary period, cadets may join police advisers on ride-a-long tours where the cadets will observe actual police calls.

At the end of the class, Gillet asked how many of her students would be interested in applying for the Cadet program; the majority of the class raised their hands. “What better way for my current students to learn than from their peers,” said Gillet.

The Troy Police Cadet Program is funded by the Troy Police Department. To qualify for the program, applicants must be between the ages of 14-21 years of age, be a resident of Rensselaer County and maintain a C average.