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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Advocates help students prepare for careers

  • Dozens of McPherson High School seniors already have utilized the district’s latest tool to aid post-graduation readiness.
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  • Dozens of McPherson High School seniors already have utilized the district’s latest tool to aid post-graduation readiness.
    USD 418’s three College and Career Ready Advocates have met with many students and their families to address where they are now and how they can achieve their goals upon leaving the school.
    Middle school advocate Elise Matz will meet with the approximately 370 students in her building twice per year, and already has begun with the eighth-graders. High school advocates Megan Olsen and Stephanie Hamilton will meet twice with about 350 students each and have started with the seniors.
    The advocates use test data, such as ACT, PLAN and EXPLORE scores, which determine course preparedness, WorkKeys tests which measure occupation readiness, and ENGAGE scores which measure personal and behavioral attributes. They also utilize Navigation 101, an online tool that collects student portfolios and offers narrowing information about colleges, careers and other information.
    Middle school
    Matz will use an exploratory mindset with her seventh- and eighth-grade students.
    “Some have an exact idea of what they want to do, others don’t know at all,” she said. “But typically when they leave they’re excited. I think there’s a lot of things we can be doing to help prepare them for their futures, and by starting at a younger age, it gives us way more time.”
    This perspective is a reality for the Bahr family. They have a senior son and a freshman daughter. The advocate meeting was useful for senior Alex, but also will give freshman Anna an advantage.
    “We feel like this will give us a jump start on her and make sure she’s taking the right courses,” father Steve said. “With everybody's schedules today, there’s just so much out there that if you're not aware of it, you’re in trouble. We’ll know now what to expect.”
    High school
    Olsen and Hamilton focus on details and deadlines with their ninth- through 12th-grade students.
    The approach will vary by grade but will encourage students to take challenging and relevant courses, visit colleges and apply for scholarships the older they get. Most seniors, they have found, have an idea of where they want to go but don't have a definitive plan to get there.
    Kim Houghton, mother of senior Marcus, said their advocate meeting was a good reminder to have one.
    “It just kind of reminded us that even when they’re busy, this is the time, you never get this time back and you need to take full advantage of it,” she said.
    She said the process will help Marcus be more sure of where he’s headed.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We’re helping to put students in a mindset where they’re thinking realistically about all their future options,” Olsen said.
    This includes ACT tests.
    “A test they saw as something they just had to take before now has new meaning because they realize this could be their ticket to a full-ride scholarship or college admission,” she said. “It becomes relevant to their lives now and their future lives.”
    This relevance was true for one student Hamilton met with, who came in thinking he was going into the military, but when he realized how well his test scores were, began to consider a four-year college.
    “That’s the reason I was interested in this position when I heard about it — to make a difference with students,” she said.
    The advocates strive to help students prepare for whatever goals they have, but one end they’d like to see is more graduates who are prepared to fill the occupational holes that require some post-secondary education.
    “We want to make sure we’re sending graduates out into the world who are ready to complete post-secondary education,” Olsen said. “That will mean the economy will flourish. Programs like this are just essential to prepare students to plan.”

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