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 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.”