Sacramento City USD - Adult & Continuing Education
When Wallis Miller came to the Skills and Business Education Center in the Sacramento City Unified School District, she brought with her a patchwork history of low-skilled jobs, a stint in the military, and a transient lifestyle, which included traveling with a carnival. A few weeks into a disability leave, the result of a fall at work, she learned that her employer had closed its doors and moved out of state. With no insurance, no job, and few skills that were in demand she began to despair.
Through word-of-mouth, Wallis learned about Sacramento City Unified's Skills and Business Education Center, an adult vocational school, then located on the former grounds of the California State Fair. Although she had no idea where this would lead or what she would do, she took the first step by attending one of the weekly orientation sessions, where she learned about the Skills Training and Employment Program (STEP), a pre-vocational counseling and training program. With the help of a knowledgeable, compassionate counselor who helped her define a career path that encouraged her growth, Wallis enrolled in the STEP program. She chose the Administrative Medical Assisting program, and later secured a position at the University of California, Davis Medical Center.
Fortunately for Wallis, her STEP counselor recognized her tremendous potential and kept in close touch with her. When a position managing a small grant funded through Carl Perkins funding became available at the Skills Center her counselor lost no time in recruiting Wallis. She opened the SOLO project office with a yellow pad, a pencil, a telephone and a tenacious desire to succeed in a converted storage room. The purpose of the SOLO project was to help women get off welfare and obtain gainful employment, so Wallis went out into the community, visiting places where unemployed women congregated. She signed up 118 women, 85 of whom completed vocational programs and became employed — a very high success rate.
The programs funding eventually "dried-up" and Wallis was again forced into the job market. "About the time I was staring at my last paycheck," she says, "I got a call to sub in one of the Skills Center's medical classes." The class was Medical Billing and Coding, and Wallis took on the challenge with gusto. The class became so successful that the new principal of the Skills Center took notice of Wallis' abilities and asked her to teach the school's newly developed "Customer Service" class. Initially intended to be a contract class with a local business, Wallis became intrigued with the idea of teaching customer service. She recognized that it is essential to any business, and knew that it is rarely taught — but rather, is taken for granted.
In June of 2000, Wallis taught the first Customer Service class at the Skills and Business Education Center, but not before doing a tremendous amount of research on the subject. Her students quickly became passionate advocates for customer service, and were soon involved in school-wide events to assist and provide excellent service to staff, students, and campus visitors. This class has since become an integral component of the Medical and Business programs, and is also required of students going into the field of Heating & Air Conditioning.
Wallis was solely responsible for developing a partnership with the district's headquarters, where outstanding customer service students served a six-week Externship in the Office of the Superintendent. She also expanded the concept of customer service by serving on the first ever district-wide Customer Service team, providing training to all district staff members at the specific request of the Superintendent. In addition, she began teaching an eight-week evening program to district employees. As testimony to the popularity of the evening classes, they filled immediately and there was always a waiting list.
In the spring of 2000, Wallis submitted a proposal to provide an in-service presentation at the annual conference of a statewide professional association (CCAE). Her proposal was accepted, and her seminar was so successful, that she has been recruited by CCAE every year to provide a conference breakout session.
In the fall of 2003, Wallis was offered a position in the district's Career & Technical Preparation program teaching Computer and Business Technology to at-risk high school students. This was a new class, and quite a challenge, considering the student population; however, challenges are nothing new to Wallis Miller. She didn't know quite what to expect. She did know, however, that this is an alternative school where kids are given a second chance, and that was the appeal. In the morning she teaches at American Legion Continuation School, and in the afternoon, she is at the Community Day High School — the last chance for at-risk students before expulsion. This hard-core group of students provided Wallis with a unique opportunity to use her determination and her motivational skills to reach out and make this student population feel productive and valued.
Through her own determination, resolve, and strong "can-do" spirit, Wallis Miller has not only turned her own life around, but has made a significant difference in the lives of her students. And she fully understands and acknowledges the tremendous impact that Adult Education has made on her life — and subsequently on the futures of the many students whose lives she touches every day.