NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A national figure in education stopped by a New Haven high school on Wednesday morning.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten toured the Career Pathways program at Wilbur Cross High School. She started out seeing students who are still in high school learning how to save lives as EMTs.

“For me, my preference is to join the health care field, so I figured this will be a bigger step to help me,” Taylor Bartholomew, a student, said.

Bartholomew is part of Wilbur Cross High School’s Pathways program. The EMT class is just weeks old, but already getting recognition.

“We, as a national union, are endeavoring to focus on real solutions for kids and communities throughout the country,” Weingarten said.

The students in the program will leave high school with both a diploma and an EMT certification, able to get a job right away.

“So often, our students are trying to figure out what they want to do,” said Keisha Redd Hannans, the district’s assistant superintendent. “Giving them this exposure early on in life will set them up for success.”

A whole range of programs can set students up for careers in fields like the culinary arts.

Plenty of students in Pathways programs do go on to college. The idea is to expose them early to possible careers both for the experience and the motivation.

“Kids have to want to come to school, and want to experience school, and want to experience their own power and agency,” Weingarten said.

Weingarten sees New Haven’s success as an example of the union’s $5 million “Real Solutions” campaign and as a model for the rest of the country, as well. It’s clearly working for students like Alina Alicea, who sees a career in healing people.

“I think so,” Alicea said. “I really found a liking to this class already.”

The district has seen more than an 8 percentage point increase in the graduation rates for students enrolled in the Pathways program.