Gallatin County High School sophomore Brooke Dossett enjoys playing basketball and has hopes of a career in sports medicine one day. She is already taking an anatomy class with that in mind.
It never occurred to her, however, that a psychology class also might come in handy or that she might want to look into volunteering at her local YMCA.
“I hadn’t made those connections before, but when Mr. (Terry) Holliday made those suggestions, I knew it was good advice,” Dossett said.
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday was one of numerous community volunteer advisers who spent time last week sharing college and career advice to 8th- and 10th-grade students during Operation Preparation.
The voluntary, statewide program was a joint effort of Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and the Department for Workforce Development.
“We want to help students realize their potential, maximize their academic preparation and stay on track for success during and after high school,” Holliday said.
College/career-readiness is one of the measures on which schools and districts will be judged as part of the state’s new Unbridled Learning: College/Career-Readiness for All assessment and accountability system.
College and career plans for each student are identified in their Individual Learning Plans (ILPs).
During their meetings with students, volunteer advisors talked to students about required education and training, whether the student is on target to meet his or her goals and whether the student is taking the courses recommended to prepare him or her for the future.
More than 100 Kentucky public school districts participated in Operation Preparation,
The districts decided on how to best implement Operation Preparation, but the goal for all was to connect learning now to college and career readiness in the future.
Holliday spoke with several students at Gallatin County High during one-on-one sessions. Sophomore Alex Kearns, who will interview for a spot at the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky, located at Western Kentucky University, later this week, said the commissioner gave him good advice regarding online learning.
“He was very helpful,” Kearns said. “If I don’t get in to the Gatton Academy, he advised me to look for more online (Advanced Placement) opportunities. He’s someone very important, so it means a lot to get advice like that.”
Dossett said the commissioner made several suggestions and comments that she has heard before from her parents and teachers, and their discussion served as reinforcement to the advice she’s already been given.
“Parents and teachers tell you all the time what you should do, but I think students might listen more when it comes from someone else that you’re not really connected to,” she said.
While volunteers like Holliday met individually with students in Gallatin County, other districts made the most of a variety of approaches to Operation Preparation.
The Franklin County school district partnered with Kentucky State University for its sessions. Students from Franklin County and Western Hills High Schools and Bondurant and Elkhorn Middle Schools attended sessions at KSU.
Volunteers weren’t required to complete the online training modules recommended by KDE, but were required to complete an hour-long training the day of the sessions. They were given information prior to meeting with students on course offerings, minimum high school graduation requirements, testing benchmarks and suggested questions and discussion starters.
The Dayton Independent school district combined Operation Preparation with an already-scheduled College Signing Day event.
Dayton High School guidance counselor Jennifer Glass began this effort last June.
She chose a March kickoff because of the usual student excitement over college basketball.
“At the beginning of this year, we were named a low-performing school due to our state test scores, and we went through a state audit,” Glass said. “Needless to say, morale was not at its peak. I felt this was a great opportunity to help turn this school around.”
While Dayton High 8th and 10th graders participated in Operation Preparation, activities related to college and career were planned for all students in grades 6-12 with seniors taking part in College Signing Day.
College Signing Day was similar to athletic college signing days in which top athletes often participate. The difference was that students had to complete five requirements before they were allowed to participate in College Signing Day.
Students had to:
- attend a senior conference with Glass
- apply to at least one college by Christmas break
- make a college visit with a representative of that school by the end of January
- take the ACT at least one time in addition to when they took the test as juniors
- complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form by mid-February
Of the 50 seniors at the school, 37 completed all the requirements, and more than 25 of those will be first-generation college students.
“This speaks volumes about what we want to accomplish at Dayton High School,” Glass said.
College Signing Day participants earned a special breakfast and lunch, received T-shirts from their college choice and were honored in an assembly, at which time they signed their letters of intent.
“Students not only learned about the whole college admissions and decision- making process but they also had deadlines to meet,” Glass said. “Many schools hold these events for athletes, but I wanted to focus the attention on academics and the decision to further their education beyond high school.”
As far as Operation Preparation goes, KDE is planning for it to become an annual event. Staff members will collect findings on how effective the week-long event was and make recommendations for any needed modifications to it in the near future.