Guest post by Ryan Rismiller
With so much going on in education policy these days, it’s easy sometimes to lose focus of what matters most—students. At Graham High School, we are using a program we call Career Gears to provide relevant opportunities for our students district-wide. Working with stakeholders throughout the community, we create relevant experiences that can help students identify their career interests and build professional skills and relationships for the future.
The focus for Career Gears started with a district mission: “Success today, prepared for tomorrow.” This mission led to critical board work that created policies of service and shadowing district-wide. In other words, all students in our elementary, middle, and high schools receive experiences that encourage them to dream about their futures and open doors for many opportunities. Career Gears started its initial rollout in August 2016. Our administrative team and staff work closely with our career centers, universities, and community stakeholders to find and coordinate service and shadowing experiences for our students.
Some of the opportunities that we have brought to students include a district-wide service day and various internships and services projects with our community partners. Students at the high school have interned with the United Way, health care facilities, local offices, farms, the Board of Education, and more. Our middle school students participate in hands-on lessons to develop an energy bike. And during our district Tour Day, our elementary students serve in various leadership roles to promote their building.
In cooperation with the Champaign Economic Partnership, our district participated in Manufacturing Day on October 6, 2017, which let students explore the manufacturing industry through visits to local facilities. Our students learned firsthand about modern manufacturing and technology, and asked questions about career opportunities in this sector. Another unique experience for some of our high school students is training and receiving certification in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) equipment that identifies the location of wastewater utilities such as fire hydrants, valves, sewers, and storm drains.
In addition to these relevant experiences, Career Gears also supports students in the growth of necessary skills and knowledge for work and life outside of the classroom. Students utilize Naviance, a computer application that provides tools for college planning and career assessment. This program helps students identify career pathways in which they may be interested. We also offer students opportunities to receive college credits or industry credentials/certifications for demonstrated competencies. In general, our district supports career growth through various K–12 programs and coursework that build career and college readiness skills like communication, teamwork, collaboration, problem-solving, creativity, and more.
Career Gears has already made a positive impact on students in our district. Through the various service opportunities and district-wide service day, we have promoted unity as a school system and within the community. Students who have visited local manufacturers realized that exciting career opportunities exist for them in their home county. And some of our students have turned unpaid internships into paid positions. We are hopeful that Career Gears will help pave the way for more of our students to receive opportunities and experiences that are relevant to their futures.
Think about what programs you have to expose students to potential career pathways. Is your district doing this at every level, K–12? How could you work with your fellow school leaders to design a long-term strategy for students to explore career interests and develop skills in partnership with community stakeholders?
Ryan Rismiller is principal of Graham High School in St. Paris, OH. He is the 2017 Ohio Assistant Principal of the Year.