By Susan Riddell
Districts across Kentucky participated in Operation Preparation last year for one week. This year, when the event returns in March, it will be a monthlong initiative.
“We can’t wait,” said Katherine Kidd, the 21st century coordinator for Wayne County Middle School. “We know this is really preparing our students for the future.”
When Operation Preparation began last year, schools worked closely with community partners, who met with 8th and 10th graders across the state to talk about college and career planning and options.
Kidd said the Wayne County school district tried to make the 2011-12 event insightful for students, and also fun. She said this year’s participants can expect more of the same.
“We wanted a meaningful event, and we felt it would be more memorable if it was fun, too,” Kidd said.
To kick off last year’s program, Wayne County schools held a big pep rally in the gym, which was decorated with streamers and college banners, to get students excited about the notion of college. A student-made video was shown that featured students “operating” on another student. The “patient” given a dose of better attendance and “more rigor” during the pretend surgery. When the patient woke up, he was prepared with what he needed to succeed in high school and beyond.
On the second day, teachers wore college shirts or hoodies from the college they attended.
“We wanted to springboard conversations about college,” Kidd said. “We also blew up a map of Kentucky and pinpointed everywhere in the state where there is a place of higher learning.”
Wayne County rounded out the week with counseling and breakout sessions. Special rooms were designated for different entrepreneurs and students who were deemed on the fence regarding college and career were targeted with one-on-one sessions. Kidd said of those 25 students chosen for the personal counseling, only one said afterwards they weren’t sold on going to college.
“We had some very successful people come in and talk to our kids,” Kidd said. “I think we did a good job matching them up. If we had a kid who liked to be outside, we paired him up with a forest ranger, for example. We really focused on the interests of the students.”
Franklin County school district Superintendent Chrissy Jones said her district – like Wayne County – embraced the Operation Preparation experience a year ago, and looks forward to the opportunity to participate again.
“The focus for 8th graders was on preparation for high school whereas the focus for 10th graders was preparation for college and/or career,” Jones said.
High school sessions centered on: advising time with community volunteers; 21st century job skills; a panel of high school graduates and educators from Kentucky State University (KSU); and preparing for postsecondary life (college, technical school or military.)
Jones said that preparing for postsecondary life included student-selected sessions on college fair/admissions; financial aid at the KSU office; and a testing center booth.
Middle school students attended mentor sessions with community volunteers and a panel of former high school students.
“The life after high school panel featured a diverse group of high school graduates who shared what life was like after graduation, mistakes to avoid and what they wish they’d done (differently) in high school,” Jones said.
Kentucky State University’s Career Center offered a session on soft skills, problem-solving skills and communication skills to 10th graders.
Jones said her district was very thankful for assistance it received from community volunteers and KSU.
“We have a strong relationship with KSU, and I feel that Operation Preparation strengthened the partnership,” Jones said. “KSU was instrumental in making this happen for our students. I cannot begin to say how much I appreciate all they did and continue to do.”
Last year 122 districts, the Kentucky School for the Blind and the Kentucky School for the Deaf, as well as 10 youth detention centers participated in Operation Preparation, according to Sharon Johnston, program consultant in the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) Office of Next-Generation Learners.
“We are hoping to have more schools participate this year, particularly since we have new statewide partners – the Kentucky Masons and the Kentucky Area Health Education Centers – who will serve as advisors in local schools,” Johnston said.
The KDE website has a host of resources and toolkits related to Operation Preparation, the Individual Learning Plan and college and career advising.
Feedback from Operation Preparation 2012 led KDE to add new resources to the Operation Preparation toolkit including a video on using Individual Learning Plan data to match students with advisors, Johnston said.
Sharon Johnston, firstname.lastname@example.org, (502) 564-2106, ext. 4517
Chrissy Jones, email@example.com, (502) 695-6700
Katherine Kidd, firstname.lastname@example.org, (606) 348-6691