Carpinteria Fina at Laney

November 30, 2011

“I feel more valued, more happy with myself because I have learned more than what I expected to learn.” says Ricardo Guzman, a student in Carpinteria Fina, a program at Laney College’s wood technology department in Oakland. The program combines fine woodworking technology with English language skills, computer skills, and digital design proficiency. The Carpinteria Fina program uses a contextualized approach by combining English language skills with real world technical skills in fine woodworking. Their instructional approach is not typical and considered to be cutting edge in the world of Career Technical Education. “I think it’s important to listen to these struggles, and how we can change things to adapt a little bit more.” says Sonja Franeta, Carpinteria Fina’s ESL Instructor, the ESL Department Chair and the Academic Senate President at Laney College.

The program is held in the department’s state of the art woodworking facility, under the instruction of master woodworkers. Students come from varied backgrounds and from all parts of the Bay Area. Many have previous woodworking or construction experience, but most have language barriers to overcome. They all come to Laney to learn marketable skills that will help them find employment and advance their careers in the field of wood technology or construction. Franeta points out that “the Latino population is growing, the community colleges need to address these education issues for Latino students.”

During the first semester, students create a toolbox and a wooden stool which they take home at the end of the semester. During the second semester, they work on a community project. In the past, community projects have included creating break-room cabinets at the English Center in Jack London Square and  building a circulation desk for the library at the Lighthouse Community Charter School. This year, the class is building a new reception desk for Laney’s cosmetology department.

“I’ve lived in the U.S. for ten years, and I regret not having taken these classes sooner” says Javier Sanchez, a second semester student at Laney. Traditionally,  students would be required to take a series of ESL courses before enrolling in a woodworking class. Embedding an ESL segment into a woodworking class not only accelerates students’ access to woodworking instruction, but it also accelerates their English skills and proficiency. “They are very empowered to be here. They are overcoming huge obstacles that the average college student never sees in their life.” says Myron Franklin, Wood Technology Department Chair.

The program is not limited to ESL students. Students of all levels are welcome to enroll in any of semester courses. In fact, some native English speaking Carpinteria Fina students have found an opportunity to practice their Spanish language skills. Carpinteria Fina student, Javier Sanchez, says, “I think everyone should take this class. Don’t waste any time, you won’t find a program like this in many places.”

Carpinteria Fina is part of the California Community College’s Career Advancement Academies a statewide demonstration project focused on contextualized instructional approaches in Career Technical Education. For more information on Carpinteria Fina visit the Wood Technology Department website or watch our video here:

Written by CLP Staff
Photos by Roy Robles