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STEPS Grant Program provides work readiness training and employment

When asked in a mock interview to name one of his strengths, Porterville College student Juan said, “I’m pretty good at working with my hands.” This summer, Juan got the opportunity to demonstrate his hands-on abilities through a job placement with the Porterville Adult School. The SEE Youth Program was able to help Juan and more than 20 other young people in the Porterville area gain work experience beginning in June.

STEPS Grant Program

Through a grant from the Workforce Investment Board of Tulare County (WIB), participants were given work readiness training and placed with various public and private organizations in the Porterville area. The grant, entitled STEPS (Summer Training and Employment Program for Students), was awarded to the SEE Workforce Development Program to help young adults with special needs, ages 16-21, gain work experience.

STEPS Grant Program

Porterville Adult School director Staci Phipps has been very impressed with Juan and his teammate David. “They have this amazing ‘what can we do next’ attitude,” she smiled. The young men were given the task of stripping and polishing the school’s vinyl tile – a job district maintenance personnel thought would take about a week. Utilizing a floor buffer, the young men had the floors gleaming in two days.

STEPS Grant Program Training through the STEPS grant was conducted in small cohorts. For several days prior to their job placements, participants met in the SEE youth room at the Porterville Employment Connection on Henderson Avenue. Looking a bit like an urban coffee lounge, the room featured a high central table for work and conversation. The table also doubled as a place where a panel could assemble to conduct mock interviews with participants.

During the work readiness workshops, SEE’s Linda Patino and Benny Rivera led participants in exploring careers, building résumés and interview skills, learning about appropriate work behavior and attire, and filling out timesheets. Because money earned by participants through the grant is deposited into their bank accounts, the program also included financial management lessons. In total, participants received 40 hours of work readiness training and up to 175 hours of work experience. Participants also visited local agencies as part of their career exploration component.

Across town, Charley and Estefani were working shifts at the Porterville Public Library. While Porterville College student Charley made quick work of re-shelving books, Estefani worked the front desk, checking books in and out. “I enjoy helping people, especially if they need to find certain books,” she smiled.

STEPS Grant Program

For more information about SEE’s training programs for youth and adults, call Linda Patino at (559) 730-2737.

Photos above:
~ Estefani found summer work at the Porterville Public Library through the STEPS grant offered by the SEE Workforce Development Program.
~ David participates in a mock interview with other program participants at the Porterville Employment Connection. Mock interviews were part of the work readiness trainings STEPS participants received.
~ Charley also enjoys work at the Porterville Public Library.
~ Juan is a student in the welding program at Porterville College. He was placed at the Porterville Adult School where he excelled in maintaining the building.

Newsies leaps into second week of performances

TCOE's Theatre Company Summer Production, Newsies

The Theatre Company’s summer production of Disney’s Newsies is delighting audiences with its blend of high energy dance numbers and soaring anthems built around an inspiring historical event involving young men and women taking action to bring about positive social change. Newsies was a 2012 smash Broadway musical based on the story of the 1899 Newsboys Strike in New York City.

The Theatre Company’s summer production of Newsies continues this week with its four final performances July 25, 26 and 27. The production, which stars nearly 40 Tulare County students, features a timeless message, perfect for the whole family.

TCOE's Theatre Company Summer Production, Newsies

L.J. Williams Theater, 1001 W. Main St., Visalia
Evening Shows (7:30 p.m.): July 19, 20, 25, 26, and 27
Matinee Shows (2:00 p.m.): July 20 and 27

Show Ticket Information
$15 general admission / $25 VIP tickets
now available at Visalia TCOE locations:
6200 S. Mooney Blvd. and 7000 Doe Ave.
Monday through Friday during normal business hours.
Cash or check only.
Tickets can also be purchased at the door or by phone by calling (559) 651-1482, ext. 3329.

Photos above:
Newsies features numerous high energy dance numbers, including several that incorporate tap dancing.
Newsies stars (l-r) Andrew Haagensen as Davey, Job Whetstone as Jack Kelly, and Parker Chalabian as Race.

Local partners enhance ERS student events

Student Event Partnerships

Each year, organizations throughout Tulare County support Educational Resource Services’ (ERS) student events – donating money, volunteer hours, services, and products – to ensure the competitions are successful. Last year, ERS student events received over $31,000 in cash donations, plus an additional $13,000 in donated products and services. The Tulare County Office of Education Foundation alone provided $12,500 for trophies and awards presented at several competitions.

Members of the Tulare County Bar Association provided volunteer judges and scorers for Mock Trial, while the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department waived the facility fees and provided staffing at the Tulare County Courthouse for that event. Longtime donor, Jostens Printing, donated the 76-page Tulare County College Night Planning Guide.

During the 2018-2019 school year, more than 13,000 students participated in ERS student events. These events were supported by over 400 TCOE staff members and community volunteers who devoted their personal and professional skills as judges, room monitors, and time keepers to help hard-working Tulare County students compete in one of the largest and most diverse student event programs in the state. “We are delighted to see the community’s support for our student events continue to grow each year,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Tim Hire. “The value of these competitions is that students often get the real-world experience of collaborating with their teammates and presenting their work before a live audience.”

ERS event donors for 2018-2019 included:

Student Event Partnerships

Milan Institute; Porterville College; San Joaquin Valley College; Visalia Arts Consortium; The Trophy Shoppe; Dumont Printing; EECU; The Porterville Fair; National University; Soroptimist International Visalia; Starr Warson Attorney at Law; UC Merced; Pepsi Beverages Company; Clever Thoughts, Inc.; Columbia College; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers #100; Peltzer & Richardson; Scott Karl Economic & Insurance Services; SOAR College Planning; United Way of Tulare County; West Hills College, Lemoore; Williams, Brodersen, Pritchett, Burke LLP; Office Depot; Pena's Disposal Inc.; Dr. Charles Boniske; Smart & Final; Idea Printing & Graphics Inc.; Bite Me Mini Donuts; Starbucks; Dias Law Firm, Inc.; Taquizas Gonzalez; Jamba Juice/Whirl Partners; The Kettle Stop; Costco; Snackology & More.

If you are interested in becoming a supporter of TCOE student events by providing financial or in-kind support, email or call Juliana Davidian at (559) 651-3003. To volunteer to assist with ERS’s numerous events, email or visit

Photo above:
~ Community organizations help provide awards and trophies for various student events, including the annual Academic Decathlon.

Instructional Services welcomes new staff members

TCOE new staff

This month, the Instructional Services Division welcomed a number of new staff members. College and Career added three staff members who will support the Tulare Kings College and Career Collaborative and the implementation of the new K12 Strong Workforce Project (K12 SWP) and Career Technical Education Incentive Grant (CTEIG). Lori Narahara joins the program from Madera South High School. As the College and Career engagement specialist, she will assist districts and post-secondary organizations with counselor support, early college credit programs, and student transitions. Diane Baeza is the K14 technical assistance provider, in partnership with the California Community College Chancellor’s Office. She will provide regional support of the Pathways Improvement Initiatives for CTEIG and intersegmental partnerships in the K12 SWP. She joins the program from Kern Community College District. Maura Sanchez joins College and Career as a support assistant.

Educational Resource Services welcomes several curriculum specialists to support student learning and instructional excellence in Tulare County school districts. Lenore Medina from Porterville Unified School District and Tammy Milligan from Lindsay Unified School District have joined the program as language and literacy specialists. In the mathematics department, Cassie Sisemore from Visalia Unified School District and Arcy Alafa from Exeter Unified School District joined the staff. Justin Paredes from Poway Unified School District was selected as the new History/Social Science specialist.

Coming Up!

  • Newsies tickets on sale
    Tickets are available at TCOE offices on Mooney Blvd. and Doe Ave. for Theatre Company's summer musical, continuing July 25-27.

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Editor: Robert Herman, Public Information Officer
Contributors: Marlene Moreno, Jennifer Fisher, Lorena White, Juliana Davidian, Linda Patino, Benny Rivera, Joy Soares, and Jen Francone.

To receive News Gallery Week, visit, or contact Jennifer Fisher at or (559) 733-6172.