Students get early career experience

Published 12:31 am Tuesday, April 3, 2012

At the Pruden Center, early childhood education student Cornisha Bynum gets some practical experience with toddlers Naela Rhodes, left, and Grace Harris.

Early childhood education students from Suffolk and Isle of Wight County are getting practical experience working with children thanks to a hands-on program at the Pruden Center.

Five area high schools are participating in the two-year program, which gives students practical experience ahead of actual employment in the early childhood education sector, early childhood education teacher Karen Gunter said.

“Part of that experience is at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School — they get experience there with pre-kindergarten up through early elementary-age children,” Gunter said.

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The Children’s Center operates three education classes at the Pruden Center’s Pruden Boulevard campus, she said.

“At our center they get experience with infants and toddlers,” Gunter added. “By the time they finish, they get experience with infants through third grade.”

Early childhood education student Cornisha Bynum, 17, of Suffolk, said the experience confirmed for her the wisdom of her decision to pursue a career in early childhood education.

“It’s good just to interact with kids,” she said. “When my little sister was 5 months old, I decided (to work in early childhood education).”

Endia Butler, also 17, an early childhood education student at Windsor High School, said it is fun just getting to know the children.

“It will help me when I run my own daycare (center), which is what I want to do,” she said.

Playing with the children in “circle time” is Butler’s favorite part of the overall experience, she said.

Gunter said most students in the program are considering careers in early childhood education or related fields.

“A number are interested in programs like social work or nursing, where they’re going to be working with young children,” she said. “Seeing that in actual operation is invaluable for them because they can practice the skills they are learning.”

Most students — like Butler — enjoy the experience thoroughly and get a sense that they are pursuing the right career, Gunter said.

For others, the experience is valuable in that it steers them down a different path. “Some of them find out this really isn’t the career for them, or that they would like to teach another level,” Gunter said.

In both instances, she said, students are “able to better prepare for their career.”