STOCKTON — Stockton Nonprofit San Joaquin A+ is partnering with the Lodi Unified School District, Delta College and the Lodi Winegrape Commission to design an early college high school career and technical education curriculum to prepare students for careers in the winegrowing and hospitality industries.

The team participated in a design competition hosted by the Stanford Design School and funded by the Genentech Foundation last spring, and has been identified as one of 11 that will receive a grant of $250,000 to continue planning into the upcoming school year.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to be involved in this great partnership,” San Joaquin A+ CEO Don Shalvey said in a media release Thursday. “When the Stanford Design School selected our team for this opportunity, we knew there would be great potential with the quality of organizations involved, but (we) have been blown away by the ideas that leaders from Lodi USD, Delta College, and the Lodi Winegrape Commission have brought to the table, and look forward to collaborating to make this early college-high school program a reality for our youth.”

The program has been described as an innovative solution to the skills gap, a need for greater diversity in the talent pipeline, a financially rewarding career path for many young people who stay in the area after graduation, and a much-needed economic boost for family farms.

“This design process helped bring together organizations that might not normally collaborate in service of a shared vision,” San Joaquin Delta College Dean Jessie Garza-Roderick said in the media statement. “It was a very productive initial exercise, and we look forward to continuing to work together to use this year for further planning and partnership.”

The grant will allow the three partners to continue their work, which includes community outreach, needs mapping, visits to other programs and schools, and an analysis of existing programming available to students, according to San Joaquin A+.

“This grant is just the first step, but an important one,” Lodi Unified assistiant superintendent of secondary schools Jeffrey Palmquist said in the media statement. “This funding will allow us to go beyond our design team to gather input from district families and educators, to determine if this is a program that not only sounds good on paper, but will meet the needs of our students.”

The acreage of winegrapes in the Lodi region has nearly doubled while the crop value has quadrupled over the past 29 years.

With about 10 wineries in the early 1990s, Lodi now has more than 90 and continues to grow. This growth shows the potential for a program that would not only help create a career pathway for area young people, but could also help fulfill a growing regional employment need.

“Generational farming is extremely important to our winegrowing community,” said Stephanie Bolton, Research and Education and Sustainable Winegrowing Director for the Lodi Winegrape Commission. “So it’s no surprise that we’re thrilled to connect the energy of our local youth with the wisdom of our farmers and vintners to create new opportunities for both.”

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