John Wyseman left a lucrative career as a geologist to work in an inner-city high school in New Orleans and help students learn skills to be successful in life. “I made a lot more money, but I was a very unhappy individual because I wasn’t helping anyone except myself,” said Wyseman, founder and director of the Fortier Career Development and Training Center. He has developed this program, along with the On-Site Tech Program and Campus Employment Center at Alcee Fortier High School in response to seeing students struggle in their efforts to better themselves in the workplace.
A Special Education Teacher at Alcee Fortier High School, Wyseman realizes that special education students faced tremendous difficulties finding jobs after they earned their certificate of High School completion. To motivate his students, Wyseman started the Special Education Honor Roll, a program that provides banquets, awards, and field trips for special education students. In addition, he started the Special Students Vocational Training Program for students with disabilities to provide them with work experiences to prepare them for lifelong careers. The goal of the Fortier Special Vocational Training Program is to help those disabled students build marketable skills to obtain meaningful employment after graduation.
The vocational training program was transformed into the Career Development and Training program, a unique program that only exists at Alcee Fortier Senior High School. The Career Training Program also involves at-risk teenagers in a wealth of personal growth experiences. It has been nationally recognized on television stations in every major city in the country. The program provides students with the opportunity to learn marketable skills for a smooth transition from high school to career through:
- Participation in a co-op program at Louisiana Technical College
- Internships on job sites
- Job Shadowing experience
A Campus Employment Center, also developed by Wyseman, operates after school hours and teaches skills such as filling out applications, interviewing, and work ethics. The students are given assistance in finding part-time employment and personal counseling to assist them in overcoming personal problems and dealing with crisis situations.
Fortier Senior High School’s Tech Program was also the brainchild of Wyseman. It started ten years ago for special education students but has now expanded to include any student at the high school. At Fortier, an inner city school of 1,200 students, some of whom have criminal records, tech program students spend mornings at a local trade school and afternoons in the classroom. Individuals and businesses sponsor each student in order to purchase tools, textbooks, and supplies. In the ten year of the program’s existence, 200 students have participated and 85% of these are still in the job of their choosing. Teenage pregnancy, criminal activity, and expulsion among this group of students is nonexistent.
Wyseman’s programs are breaking the cycle of students at Fortier H.S. who perform poorly with little expectation of significant achievement in the workplace and society.