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College & Career Awareness Begins Early

It is never too early to introduce the subject of college and careers to our children.  Talking about possibilities ignites dreams and encourages young minds to think about their future and imagine themselves as a teacher, a scientist, or maybe even the President.  Hanover Research suggests that “students who participated in career development programs showed increased career awareness, self-esteem, clearly defined goals, a sense of direction, and motivation to persist and attain a postsecondary education and training” (isminc.com).

It has been a goal of the HFCS Counseling Team to work with every student to help them focus on college and careers. Adding stress about adulthood is an unwelcome side effect of talking about college and careers, so the team at HFCS worked on a plan to accomplish their goal through creative activities to help them understand the importance of college and career awareness without causing anxiety about the future.

The team, consisting of Lisa Bundrick, Kailee Whalen and Jennifer Berry, outlined a plan over the summer that they hoped would inspire elementary students to think about college and careers throughout the 2018-2019 school year.  This plan includes school wide activities and classroom based programs to develop a sense of self, explore areas of interest, develop a positive attitude and internal motivation and to develop a sense of career awareness and the relationship with education and personal interest. The plan set forth to allow the students to explore the following questions: Who am I? Where do I want to go? What steps do I need to take to get here?

Co-creator Bundrick says, “I always stress that even though it will be very long time before they have decisions to make about college, vocational school , the military and careers, it’s still fun to think about it now. I also stress that everything they are learning in school helps prepare them for their future, so it is important to always do their best work.”

One of the main components of the plan is a series of Career Cluster visits from individuals representing a variety of industries. The meetings are informal and seek to allow opportunity for the children to ask questions and learn no only about the guest’s current job, but the steps they took to get into that career.  

Rachel Boisvert, the Special Education Coordinator for Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union in Arlington, VT and a  Board of Education member for Hoosick Falls Central School District was a Career Cluster speaker in November.

Rachel Boisvert visits with a second grade classroom to discuss her career in Education

“Mrs. Boisvert spent an afternoon in the second grade classes talking to our students about her career in Education and Training. She shared with the students about how she communicates and teaches students who are deaf through sign language.  She even taught the students some signs,” said Bundrick, “The students were engaged and enjoyed learning from her.”

Another popular visitor was Hoosick Falls Alumni, Lexi Hoag, the current Rensselaer County Dairy Princess. She and her younger sister Baylee Hoag (Dairy Ambassador) visited the UPK classes to discuss careers in Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.   Students listened to the story “What’s Up with Milk” and enjoyed a cold glass of milk and a chocolate chip cookie.

Other visitors have been HFCS staff, Joe Stellar, Director of Transportation; Andy Morin, School Resource Officer; Meaghan Keegan, Community Information Officer; April Myers, HFCS Nurse; Andy Beaty of the Board of Education; and Tom Wysocki, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Fort William Henry Hotel who discussed careers in Hospitality and Tourism.

The speakers enjoyed sharing their career with the students almost as much as the children enjoyed having them visit.

“I love spending time with students,” said Boisvert, “(and) sharing my passion for students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.”

“At first, I was unsure if first graders would be interested in learning about communications,” said Keegan, “but they were excited to see familiar faces on the the school website and in local newspapers. We even talked about SpiderMan and Superman’s real life careers as a photographer and news reporter. It was a lot of fun.”

The activities planned for the school vary depending on the age group. For instance, the goal of discussions for the UPK students is for them to begin to learn what college is, while the sixth grader discuss the differences in colleges and the various choices they will have when deciding on post-secondary education.  The age-appropriate lessons exist to get students to gradually come to the understanding that when they graduate there is a world of opportunity awaiting them.

Some teachers have built upon the efforts of the Counseling Team by coming up with their own activities that promote college and career awareness. They have shown interest in making sure the initiative is carried out.

“I hear great feedback from the elementary teachers about this program and love how each teacher takes the plan we created and makes it their own,” said Bundrick.

Suanne McLenithan, a second grade teacher, did just that. In their discussion about future careers, McLenithan, encouraged her class to come to school dressed up as their future career. The class then participated in  discussion about their chosen careers and what type of education or training would be needed after high school. Represented in the classroom was a baker, a circus performer, police men, athletes, teachers, veterinarians, a farmer and even a future president.

Mrs. McLenithan’s class dressed as their dream career

“They enjoyed being able to talk about what they want to do for a job someday and what education they would need to pursue their goal. This has become a monthly discussion that students look forward to,” said McLenithan.

As a school the teachers and staff have embraced the promotion of colleges and careers. On specific days they wear their college apparel or colors. You can also see college posters and pennants hanging in the halls and in classrooms. Some have even shown their students photographs of themself when they were in college. They engage their students in discussions about college and talk about why they attended, challenges they faces, the importance of attending and why they chose the college they attended.

Elementary Principal Amy Netti shared why she feels this program is so valuable in the lives of the students at HFCS.

“”Our overarching goal is to provide students with the knowledge, motivation, and confidence they need to achieve their goals and realize their true potential as they progress throughout life,” said Netti, “This program provides students with the opportunity to not only explore careers, but to identify their own strengths, challenges, and interests.  Although these facets may change as students grow, the program instills a sense of responsibility and control over future college and career choices.”

Initiatives in the High School
Although this program was designed specifically for the elementary school, the jr/sr high school at Hoosick Falls also works to prepare students for life after high school.  The College and Career Center, led by Katelyn Baker and Leann Victor provide resources to assist students in preparing for their future plans. The center organizes college visits, instant admission days, and financial aid information seminars all while offering help with college applications, essays and scholarships.

The wall outside the College and Career Center

There is also a field trip emphasis in the school, specifically in the high school, to bring students to area businesses where they can learn about work going on in various industries. With the help of  Questar III  BOCES, the school offers opportunities for students to visit businesses.

Jim Church, of Questar writes, “For teachers and students, it opens a world of new arenas to explore in the classroom by bringing relevancy and real-world business thinking to student learning”.  

Recently the Advanced Placement Biology Class visited Vital Vio in Troy. According to their website, this company designs, engineers, and manufactures germ-killing LED technology for an expanding range of commercial and residential applications. Students were able to get a hands on experience working with the equipment. Additionally, Hoosick Falls students also visited Mack Molding as part of the school to work program.

Students get a hand-on look at Vital Vio
Students visit Mack Molding with teacher, Chris Marsh

In the article, “Elementary School Career Awareness: A Visit to the Hospital”, Andrew Beale,”highlights the need to have well-planned excursions for children so that they are able to maximize the benefits of career awareness opportunities.”  He states that career based field trips allow students to see how the academic skills they are learning are used in various careers and also enables them to experience a variety of work environments available to them after high school.

The collaboration between the teachers and staff has been na applaudable effort as it serves as yet another way to foster social and emotional development of the students at Hoosick Falls. Students begin exploring who they are and what their interest may be as adults through this thoroughly designed plan. As young students they actively engage through the learning activities that help them to discover what college and careers are all about. They learn to set goals and articulate their desires and interests. The build awareness of the possibilities that exist and as high school students and young adults they establish themselves in the industry of their choice and prepare themselves  through teamwork, learning leadership skills and conflict management.