Planning to Get Ahead • by Kathryn McBroom
Photos by Angelina Bellebuono
Post-secondary planning a big deal at MCHS
It’s that magical, long looked forward to period in a teenager’s life: spring semester of their senior year of high school. Only 90 school days until they will walk across the field at Bill Corry stadium and be handed the diploma it took them years to earn.
To help them prepare for that euphoric moment and the hectic months that will follow it, Morgan County High School counselors Brian Cook and Leslie Smith will spend four years with each student help them plan for their post-MCHS life.
Over the past few years at MCHS a series of subtle, but important changes have occurred in regard to post-secondary planning and academic tracks. In addition to the established International Baccalaureate [IB] program and the Math-Science Academy, which is comprised of Advanced Placement courses, students now have the option of studying certain “career pathways” in the hopes of choosing classes that will aid them the most after graduation.
“This is going to become a lot bigger in later years, with a heavier emphasis on career technical pathways. Students are able to focus their attention in one direct area. We have the cosmetology classes, culinary arts, and we have an agriculture pathway, etc,” said Smith.
Smith said the career pathways were created in the hopes that no matter what their plans, all students graduating would be prepared for what lie ahead.
“Not all kids are going to lie in the IB and Math-Science realm. We want to offer something for everyone. Everybody needs to be prepared and if they can kind of gain some experience doing things that they enjoy, it will help them figure out what they’d like to pursue as a career, rather than just taking classes here and there and graduating with a wide spectrum of classes but not knowing whether any of those experiences was a good fit for them,” said Smith.
Beginning as early as a student’s sophomore year, Cook and Smith begin working with students to form a plan of action for their remaining years at MCHS and their post-secondary education. In addition to a spring career fair, the counselors often hold “special learning days” wherein members of the Morgan County community drop by to discuss their careers, how they came to choose their current occupation, and answer students’ questions.
As a counselor to all of this year’s juniors [and freshman] Smith will meet individually with every junior this spring to discuss their plans for their upcoming senior year.
“We try to meet with them early and see what their progress is and see exactly where they stand in terms of graduation. We talk to them about where they want to go to school, future plans, and how we can get them there,” said Smith.
As advisor to sophomores and seniors, Cook held individual meeting this past fall with each senior. Among the topics covered in each meeting were current academic standing, the student’s ongoing college search, financial aid opportunities, test scores, etc. While they want each student to feel at ease with their decisions as the ready themselves for life after MCHS, Smith acknowledges it isn’t about marrying yourself to a set plan.
“Our main goal is that as they become seniors, they have a plan that’s a good fit for them. We don’t expect everyone to have it figured out-I didn’t have it figured out when I graduated high school-we know that people’s minds change,” said Smith, adding, “When you declare a major as a freshman in college, you could change it many times, but we would like for you to have some sort of direction as to where you want to go. The more you know yourself, the better fit you’ll have at whatever you do outside of Morgan County High School.”
Cook also noted the overwhelming importance of parents being informed and involved in their child’s planning. It isn’t enough to just be a passive spectator in the process.
“Talk beyond the basics of what they want to do and what that means. How does their choice fit with their personality and their work ethic? Parents know their kids better than anyone else and it’s an important time for students to have in depth conversations with their parents,” said Cook.
Printed in the February 17th edition.