Peoria Pathways program looks to expand to Puerto Rico

Local News

The American Federation of Teachers Puerto Rico Delegation visited Peoria Thursday morning to talk future plans.

It was a day designed for industry partners to learn more about Peoria’s Pathways program. 

A 15-person delegation of Puerto Rican mayors, labor unions and industry leaders met to discuss a plan to help high school students hurt by Hurricane Maria secure internships to boost the island’s workforce and revitalize its economy, using Peoria as a model.

The coalition hopes to deploy Peoria’s successful Pathways to Prosperity program as a template to create several hundred internships at leading Puerto Rico businesses by 2022. Mayors from four Puerto Rico provinces hit hard by the hurricane learned about the impact of student internships and how to better connect the education system with industry.

Since 2015, it has focused on bringing industry and education closer together to benefit Peoria Public Schools students. Now, Puerto Rican delegates are looking into modeling Peoria’s program for an internship pipeline in their territory.

“One of the reasons you bring people for site visits is because it educates the people you’re bringing, but it also refreshes and sends a message to the community you’re visting,” said Randi Weingarten, President of American Federation of Teachers. “Peoria is doing amazing work when it comes to educating our kids. At the end of the day, […] Kids need their shot and Peoria has proven that kids can get their shot. That’s what we are trying to bring to Puerto Rico.”

Delegates spent the day touring ICC’s Peoria campus, Woodruff Career and Technical Center, Unity Point Health site, and Caterpillar.

Peoria’s Pathways program was part of the original five programs that started in the United States. Other cities included Pittsburgh, Miami, San Francisco, and Miami.

Since 2015, three affiliated unions—the AFT, the IFT and the PFT—have invested close to $300,000 in the program, which, among other things, has enabled 230 Peoria students to work in paid internships at more than 50 local employers. The initiative has been lauded by the Peoria community and achieved official recognition from the state of Illinois.

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