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October 10, 2006 > Charlotte Grabill bids adieu

Charlotte Grabill bids adieu

A long and distinguished career with Mission Valley Regional Occupational Program (MVROP) came to an end Friday, September 29, as Public Relations Administrator Charlotte Grabill closed the door to her office on Laiolo Road for the last time. Popular with staff and students, Grabill has seen many changes and is enthusiastic about the future for MVROP as it prepares to move into a new facility near Kennedy High School next year. TCV spoke with Grabill about her career with ROP and its bright future.

TCV: How has ROP changed over the years?

Grabill: One of the major changes was evident at a recent college fair at Ohlone. Our representatives were in the same room with major universities such as Purdue, Yale and Penn State. At that time, I was not sure exactly where we fit although I knew it was important for students to realize that ROP offers local, affordable education and a chance to examine possible career choices before high school graduation and college.

I used to ask people if they knew about Mission Valley ROP. Most did not or thought of us as a continuation school or an alternative for those not going to college. Now, people are aware of our services; many have either attended our classes or know someone who has done so. We have the respect of those who know us and I now know that we do fit with other "players" at college fairs.

Parents have said how excited they were for us to be present at these fairs since students can use our classes to explore career fields before college. That is the biggest thing I have seen over the 13 years I have been with Mission Valley ROP.

TCV: Does ROP continue to work with students who are not headed for college?

Grabill: Yes. Our students are college bound and industry bound. There should be respect for all careers including hands-on work. It takes years of effort and training to enter any of these fields. The old "vocational education" dealt with wielding, contracting, construction, auto body, cosmetology and similar fields but contemporary ROP classes have expanded these horizons; our classes might include sound design, forensic science and marketing as well as auto body, auto technology and construction. All of these programs have gone through significant technological changes and are challenging for all students. Sometimes kids think these classes are an easy "A" and are surprised to find that is not the case. Classes have become much more "polished" and sophisticated.

TCV: What is the composition of students in ROP?

Grabill: According to state law, our goal is to educate high school students. We can teach adults and do that as well. At this time, it is probably a 60-40 split between high school students and adults. Although the majority of students come from FUSD, we serve two other districts including Newark Unified School District and New Haven Unified School District. There are Mission Valley ROP students from the California School for the Blind, California School for the Deaf, Moreau Catholic School and others too. We accept adult and high school students from other districts on a space available basis.

TCV: When are classes held?

Grabill: Before, during and after regular school hours. Parents are sometimes concerned because they think ROP takes their student away from their high school. High school students always belong to their home school. We have classes on all the high school campuses as well as at our site on Laiolo Road and the Kennedy Technology Center.

TCV: Will things change when the move is made to the new campus?

Grabill: There will be some different classes. We have included in the design of the building two science laboratories for biotechnology, forensic and medical classes. These are state-of-the-art. The new facility is truly magnificent and very professional. It's amazing!

TCV: How is the new campus funded?

Grabill: The property and new building at Stevenson Boulevard and Blacow Road next to Kennedy High School, is owned by the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD); ROP will lease the building. The sale of our present site on Laiolo Road is capitalizing the construction. Most funding is coming from FUSD building funds although we are putting in some money as well. ROP will be on a year-to-year lease.

TCV: How are ROP classes created?

Grabill: It is based on the job market and student interest. When the computer industry took a downturn, classes in that area of study declined while medical industry studies became popular and continues to be so.

TCV: Are MVROP classes accepted by local community colleges?

Grabill: Yes. Some classes provide dual credit with Ohlone, Chabot and other colleges. We are working on more classes that will give college credit including the University of California. ROP education runs the gamut from students who want to get out into the job market quickly to those aiming toward a 4-year college or university and adults who want to change careers. This is an affordable means to receive quality training through public education and emerge with a certificate of completion noting work quality and ethics.

TCV: What is the future for ROP?

Grabill: There is now a real understanding in Sacramento of the value of ROP. We are now included in the governor's budget and goal for students throughout the State of California.

ROP is becoming more involved with the demands of "No Child Left Behind" and other programs. For instance, while some learn math in a classroom, others may excel in a different setting. Construction of a house or office requires a high level of mathematics although it may not be called by that name. In this case, students learn by doing rather than through a textbook. I see ROP classes, not as an "either - or," rather joining with the high schools for a common goal - to provide students with a well-rounded education when they leave school.

TCV: Are academic-oriented students recognizing the value of ROP?

Grabill: I don't know if students understand different types of learning. For some really struggling in school, they may be a very good learner in a "hands-on" situation rather than listening to lectures. An architectural drafting teacher remembered participating in a parent/student orientation in which the student said he couldn't do geometry and trigonometry. The teacher replied that the student had actually been doing this type of mathematics all along, although it was not labeled as such. Sometimes fear of a subject is removed by using the skills in practical applications rather than classroom exercises. One method of learning is not necessarily better than another they just use different paths to achieve the same result.

ROP teachers are credentialed and have experience in the field that they teach. They not only understand the theory of their craft, but utilize practical applications as well.
Classes can serve as a valuable experience for students trying out a field of study to either confirm it is of interest for a life's work or understanding that it is not suitable for them. Early exposure to the practical nature of some careers may save an enormous amount of time pursuing a perception that turns out to be unrealistic.

TCV: Anything else?

Grabil: ROP teaches dependability, responsibility, communication skills and teamwork in every course. We help students know how to present themselves to prospective employers and what an employer expects at the workplace. ROP can also expose students to "community classrooms," where they put what they have learned to use in real world situations. This is the true value of ROP education.

Mission Valley Regional Occupational Program
40230 Laiolo Road, Fremont
(510) 657-1865

Other area ROP programs:

Santa Clara County (North County) ROP
575 West Fremont Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
Phone: (408) 733-0881

Eden Area Regional Occupational Program
26316 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward,
(510) 293-2900

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