Are Seniors Prepared for Life After High School?
The word of the year probably should have been “economy” rather than “selfie”, due to how many times the word passed the lips of people worldwide.
One of the many things the economy is blamed for is the lack of jobs, specifically jobs for young adults. LIVE! covered how prospective college grads viewed the workforce options available, but for those disillusioned twenty-somethings, one must wonder where the so-called “false hope” stemmed from.
Many blue collar advocates like Mike Rowe, of the “Work Hard AND Smart” campaign, think that the “college or bust” mentality present throughout public schools is part of the problem.
According to Rowe, as stated on his site, “We’re still lending billions of dollars we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back in order to educate them for jobs that no longer exist.”
But how does San Angelo measure up to the question of whether or not the seniors from both Central and Lake View High Schools are prepared for college, technical school, or even the workforce.
When asked, the school answered with a resounding 'yes, they are prepared', showcasing the variety of options that SAISD has for students through either baccalaureate preparations or career and technology education.
“The mission for career and tech education, [as] stated on the TEA website, [is] we help to prepare kids for post-secondary education and a job someday,” said Joy Gay, Director of Career and Technology. “Because we’re a big district, they have a lot of opportunities.”
Gay is located at the West Texas Training Center where many of the career and technology classes are available to the students of Lake View and Central.
Some of the courses help get the students industry certifications, such as cosmetology, and others provide college credit alongside high school credit.
“We have 60 to 70 options for dual credit,” she explained. “It works better for tech or community college and less for baccalaureate, though.”
Gay acknowledged the economical hardship of the upcoming youth and agreed with Rowe that many hard labor jobs have been “de-glamourized,” noting that several of the workforce training programs at Howard College speak to the demand of careers such as the ones offered in the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) field.
“Right now there’s no HVAC people,” Gay mentioned. “That is something we somehow haven’t gotten over to kids, that it’s a lucrative job, if not a pretty one.”
With 19 Better Business Bureau accredited institutions for Air Conditioning Services in San Angelo alone, it is easy to see why there might be a demand.
“Community colleges are charged with offering classes the community needs for the workforce,” Gay explained. “We give high school students a chance to find out if that is a field they want to try out.”
The way she sees it, if a student tries a class out and loves it, she did her job, but if they know that isn’t what they want to do, she also did her job, because it's all about aiding in decision making.
On the purely academic side of things, there are just as many dual credit options available, in addition to Advance Placement (AP) courses and tests that prepare students for a four-year degree onwards.
“We have so many courses that our kids have plenty of opportunities,” said Terrie Phillips, Advanced Academic Specialist for SAISD.
Phillips is in charge of academic programs, specifically dual credit and AP courses, ensuring that students who want to attend a nearby college or even Ivy League Schools have the tools they need to get where they want.
“A child who wants to go to Harvard should take the most rigorous course of study they can take,” she stated simply. “Harvard puts great emphasis on AP course; they don’t give credit for it, but demand it because they feel that that shows a specific type of student.”
According to Phillips the AP program teachers at SAISD rival many in the nation, and SAISD works closely with Howard and ASU to provide a myriad of dual credit options.
Essentially, she believes that no student should end up left behind with the plethora of choices available at San Angelo high schools.
“If we had no classes to put them in, that would be one thing, but there’s opportunities to go and learn something productive,” she explained. “Some kids have home passes, but in my mind there are so many opportunities no one should be going home early.”
However, in order to capitalize on the options the students need a plan, one that counselors begin working with them on in the eighth grade.
“We start talking in our middle schools, with pre-AP classes, to prepare for AP and dual credit,” said Phillips. “In eighth grade they start making their plans for high school and beyond.”
Some students need a little bit more than the usual guidance, and that’s where Cindy Hensley from the career center comes in.
“I work one-on-one with students to make plans and work through senior checklists,” said Hensley. “Are they looking at bachelor, vocational school, technical college--I assist them with whatever path they are looking at.”
Hensley explains that they use a program that has interest quizzes, as well as quizzes that identify career clusters like health or law. When areas of interest are identified, then counselors and career center facilitators like Hensley can find the right fit for students.
In addition to career and course advice, Hensley also assists with choosing and applying to colleges.
“For example, some kids might not realize that a private institution is more expensive than a public institution,” she explained. “I sit down with them and we will compare and contrast different schools.”
After she meets with a student she makes a file that she sends to the student and to the counselor or teacher that referred the student.
“It lets them know that they are important,” Hensley stated, “and later on when I meet with them again, we have record of what we discussed.”
Like Henley, both Gay and Phillips are there for the students, and get excited when kids figure out what they want to study or what career they like.
“If you want to do it, that means it’s great!” exclaimed Gay.
Regardless of feelings about the “Work Smart And Hard” Campaign, there is evidence that SAISD does provide options for both career- and baccalaureate-oriented individuals.
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