FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Valley school district is taking action to increase diversity among its educators while encouraging its students to pursue a career in the classroom.
The goal of this program is to encourage students of color to pursue careers in education and one day bring them back to Central Unified.
"If you ask a student in 3rd grade what they want to be, a lot of times, they're going to say police officer or firefighter -- a lot of times, they'll say teacher," explained Program Coordinator Leslie Kelly. "That often gets lost in middle school."
It's a reality that educators across the nation know all to well, but Central Unified's Teachers of Color Alliance for Educational Empowerment is working to change the game.
"We want to keep that excitement going all the way through," added Kelly.
The program partners with Central Unified students interested in a career in education - with an emphasis on students of color. The district is hoping to continue to diversify the teaching pool and combat a lack of African American educators.
"That's alarming to me," said Central Unified teacher Joanne Valenzuela. "We need to see it. We need to encourage our students of color."
Students will visit local colleges, receive assistance through the college application process, and applying for financial aid.
"We talk about FAFSA, we talk about different things that are available to the kids through college applications," added Valenzuela.
The goal is to one day bring these students back to Central Unified, but this time as a teacher.
"There's nothing like meeting with a candidate who's telling us the story of going through our schools," said Superintendent Ketti Davis. "Because they connect with our student in a special way.
Roughly a dozen students are on the education pathway. The district estimates they'll be able to hire these students in 5-7 years.
The program is funded by the k16 collaborative grant. The district is already talking to Valley colleges about partnerships that would help their students through the college process from start to finish.