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Getting careers in gear at Parkland College: Parkland College continues to move ahead with an innovative and diversified curriculum while laying valuable groundwork for future success in the neighboring high school classrooms by providing the option of dual credit programs.

In 1963, the boards of education for both the cities of Champaign and Urbana, Illinois, began discussing the development of a technical institute. Educators and community leaders came together to form the East Central Illinois Steering Committee that worked diligently with local residents, businesses and industry to bring their dream to fruition. By 1966, the area voters approved the "junior college District 505," and, according to the "History of Parkland College" found on the college's Web site (, Parkland College opened its doors in September 1967 with a total enrollment of 1,338 students. The tuition at the time was $4.50 per credit hour.

Today, enrollment at Parkland College far exceeds that original number with well over 11,000 credit and noncredit students. The cost per credit hour has also changed, but there is something that remains constant at Parkland--providing the best in career and technical education to meet the needs of students, business and industry.

Zooming In On Dual Credit Programs

There is a wide range of career programs offered at Parkland College. From accounting to teaching English as a foreign language, there is a field of study for just about everyone. Most importantly, Parkland has a dual credit commitment throughout the college. It offers dual credit curriculum to meet the needs of high school students in all areas, in both technical and academia. But, some of Parkland's most popular programs are found in the Engineering Science and Technologies Department.

"In the Engineering Science and Technologies (EST) Department we offer, Automotive Technology, Collision Repair, Ford ASSET, Diesel Power, Construction Design and Management, Industrial Technology, Electronic Control Systems, CAD and Engineering," says Department Chair Evert Levitt.

Prior to his current position, Levitt taught industrial technology at the high school level and has a deep appreciation for being able to offer high school students the hands-on technical experience. With such a variety of EST programs at Parkland, it would seem the most difficult decision for students is deciding on what area they would like to focus their studies.

"The high schools in our district are rapidly losing their technical programs, and the hands-on programs for students as an option are just not available," notes Laura DeOrnellas, program manager of the EST department. "Parkland College EST has stepped up and offered dual credit classes for the hands-on technical high school population."

Parkland EST is always looking for ways to foster relationships between Parkland and the local high schools. Providing high schools with information through open houses held in the spring and fall and school visits spark interest in setting career and technical education goals for students at this level.

"We have two tracks for our dual credit students," explains DeOrnellas. "As a high school junior or senior, students have the option of taking the AYES [Automotive Youth Education Systems] or the EST technical track. I talk about these programs in my high school presentations. The mailings I make to the student households are a huge factor in recruitment, as the parents get the opportunity to review the information."

Parkland understands the need to market its programs to both student and parent.

"When the student is really focused on automotive, we have the AYES [program]," says Automotive Instructor Jon Ross. "This is typically offered at the high school level, but Parkland has been approved to participate in this program."

"The EST technical track changes on a semester basis," adds DeOrnellas. "We will offer classes in every EST program that can then be plugged into an AAS program when they reach the college level."

The AYES track is a "dynamic partnership among participating automotive manufacturers, participating local dealers, and selected local high schools and tech prep schools." The goal of AYES, as found on its Web site (, is to encourage bright students with good mechanical aptitude to pursue careers in the ever-changing fields of automotive service technology or collision repair/refinish, and to prepare them for entry-level positions or challenging academic options.

Ross coordinates the program at Parkland with support from Education for Employment (EFE) and its director, Shawn McLaughlin. EFE plays an important partnership role in both the AYES and the dual credit program. The combined efforts of Parkland's EST Department, EFE and AYES are providing new opportunities to motivate and prepare technically oriented students for a wide range of careers in the automotive field.

The EST technical track is another viable option for students. Collision repair, automotive and welding programs have been offered in the past, but this is the first year that the construction path has been offered as dual credit.

"The technical track gives them exploration of electrical, welding, construction, collision and automotive," says DeOrnellas. "This gives the student a taste of what the EST programs offer and a jump start on their associate's degree."

No matter which track interested students choose, Parkland's Engineering Science and Technologies Department is ready to instruct, guide and prepare them for immediate employment or transfer to four-year colleges or universities.

Levitt says that by offering dual credit programs, Parkland has increased interest in its curriculum and enrollment. There is an average of 16 students in each of the classes that offer dual credits.

"The dual credit classes have been a stepping stone for the students," notes Levitt. "They are actually working toward the associate's degree when they are juniors in high school."

Parkland and the EST staff take great care in preparing students who want to get an early start on the road to success.

The Learning Curve, Teacher's Pet, Late Assignment

Parkland College's Automotive Technology Program draws a wide range of students. Whether they are looking to prepare themselves for entry-level employment in the automotive field, upgrade their present skills or increase their knowledge for employability or advancement, Parkland's program can provide the curriculum, hands-on experience and qualified instructors to produce the finest automotive technicians needed to fill the ongoing demand for skilled workers.

The Parkland program is certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF), Inc.

Among the certificate programs offered are Automotive Collision Repair Technician, Automotive Technician, Automotive Service and Specialized Work Certificates (i.e., Brakes and Alignment Certificate, Engine Overhaul Certificate, Power Trains Certificate, Automotive Electricity/Electronics Certificate).

Parkland also hosts the Ford ASSET program. This program is a joint effort by Ford Motor Company, Ford, Lincoln-Mercury and Mazda dealers. Ford ASSET (Automotive Student Service Educational Training) is a two-year college program leading to an associate's degree in automotive service technology.

However, there is much more to Parkland's Automotive Technology Program. Instructor Jon Ross keeps things revved up in his department with the Motorsports Club, a student-run organization for automotive students providing activities beyond the classroom. The club sponsors an annual car show, trips to Detroit, Michigan, and drag racing the club's 1980 Malibu they have appropriately named "The Learning Curve."

"In spring 2000, a year after our first car show," says Ross, "the students were looking for an activity to spend the money on raised by the show. As the club adviser, I offered to look into a racing program that would be similar to the racing program at Southern Illinois University. I suggested that an early-1980s Malibu would make a good starting point.

"One of the students, Josh Hescher, knew where three 1980 Malibus were for $500 each. I proposed if a car could be donated for free, we would move forward. About a week later, a car was on campus, and the students were making further plans."

With the car on campus, the energy level accelerated among the automotive students. They developed marketing proposals for both businesses and the campus administration. "The students did the work to get the support, money and products needed to make the car run," says Ross. "The car was taken to the track almost one year to the date after it was donated."

The car became an ongoing project even after running for one season. The students who worked so hard on getting the 1980 Malibu up and running began to work with students in the department's new collision repair program to repair the body and paint the car. This joint effort earned the car its moniker, "The Learning Curve."

"Each step along the way," says Ross, "forced the students and me to learn something new."

"Our original goal was to have a program that would create interest with the students in our automotive training plan," explains Ross. "The car has turned into an activity that has created many partnerships with the program and very strong ties with several of the program's alumni who continue to work with current students on the car."

The dual credit programs have drawn many students into Parkland's Automotive Technology Department.

"When you get a high school student who is focused, and they KNOW they want to start a career in the automotive field as a junior in high school, Jon's program and the Motorsports Club give students the opportunity to learn and have fun," says DeOrnellas. "Not many high school juniors and seniors, let alone college students, can say that they get to work on a drag car, participate at the drag strip and just be part of such an exciting project."

Another impressive project is a John Deere 6030 tractor that a group of industrious students named "Teacher's Pet." Built from the ground up by student members of the Diesel Power Equipment Technology Club, Teacher's Pet is an amazing piece of machinery with a John Deere 619 engine, no blower, Bosch fuel system, stock pistons and liners, and stock transmission. The purpose of building this tractor was to give students in the Diesel Power program an opportunity to build, drive and be a part of a pulling team. It was also created to promote the sport of tractor pulling, relate classroom training to hands-on application and promote the Diesel program. These ambitious students also built another tractor they named "Late Assignment."

It is evident that the Diesel students are an enthusiastic bunch--all the work done in building Teacher's Pet and Late Assignment was done during students' spare time not during class time. They also funded the entire project through donations and fundraisers.

"Teacher's Pet and Late Assignment offered the students the opportunity to work together as a team," says the Diesel Program Director Mark Ziegler. "Students have the experience of gaining sponsors for the club and get to take classroom learning to a different level. Parkland is the only community college to build and compete in full-scale tractor pulling. This is a huge recruitment tool for the college."

A Look Forward

As the 2004-2005 academic year draws to a close, Parkland is already anticipating the next wave of students that will wander its halls, attend classes and labs, and begin their journeys in career and technical education. The partnerships Parkland has made with high schools, EFE, business and industry, and the skilled trades is what makes the dual credit program so successful and attracts more and more students each year.

According to Parkland College's mission statement, among its goals are to "provide learning experiences, to promote personal growth and to supply employment information and placement assistance."

They have held fast to those goals--the EST Department offers excellent job placement in all programs upon completion of graduation.

At Parkland College, students can get their careers in gear through dual credit programs, innovative and exciting classes and clubs, and a promise for the future.

To Learn More

To find out more about the many programs Parkland College offers, please visit, or contact the school at:

Parkland College

2400 W. Bradley Avenue

Champaign, IL 61821-1899

EST Program Manager Laura

DeOrnellas: 217-373-3838

For more information about Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES), a member of the ACTE Business-Education Partnership, visit

The National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) is also a member of the ACTE Business-Education Partnership. For more information. visit

For more information about Ford Automotive Student Service Educational Training (ASSET), visit
COPYRIGHT 2005 Association for Career and Technical Education
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Gibbs, Hope J.
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2005
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