College and Career Readiness Programs Paying Off

College and Career Readiness Programs Paying Off
Forest Hill Students

January 19, 2016 – Last school year Caprock High School took an innovative approach to getting students excited about college, by working with each senior student until 100 percent of the Class of 2015 had applied to a post-secondary education program. This school year, Caprock and other Amarillo ISD campuses are expanding their reach to not only get students applying to post-secondary education programs, but actually registering them for classes and making sure financial aid has been applied for, so students have the best chance to achieve success beyond high school.

As the lead counselor at Caprock, Whitney Chapman sees the potential in students from their first days in high school. Chapman was a main driver behind the “After Caprock Comes College” application push last school year and continues to work with campus staff and community organizations increasing the number of students achieving higher education success.

“Caprock has made a huge out-of-the box approach with Amarillo College to get our students transitioned to AC before they graduate high school. They will have their fall schedule in hand before they graduate,” Chapman shared of encouraging students to go beyond just submitting an application. “We have also set up a college fair for students to get plugged into organizations, as well as hooked up with a mentor. We know students who get involved in their school are more likely to attend and stay.”

Before these students ever enter the halls of high school though, teachers like Isabel Ramirez, fourth-grade teacher at Forest Hill Elementary, are instilling in students goal-setting and how opportunities open themselves up to students when good grades, high attendance and leadership behavior are first achieved.

“I truly believe from the bottom of my heart the earlier we get a mindset about college the more likely they will go,” Ramirez shared. “As I grew up, I only saw it important to finish high school, and when I decided to enter college, I went in with tons of fear. I want my students to know what it takes to get into college and begin to think about it now.”

Students in Ramirez’ classroom are shown examples of real college materials including applications, acceptance letters, transcripts and diplomas to make these abstract documents real for them. Throughout the spring, these fourth-grade students build their own resumes and take part in peer-led interviews where they answer tough questions about their work ethic and strengths in preparation for future job interviews.

“I always tell my students they have two choices: the road to success or the road to failure and difficulty. From the get-go, I let them know regardless of their choice many times they will find things difficult, but if they face it with bravery and perseverance they have nothing to fear,” Ramirez shared.

More students than ever in Amarillo ISD are choosing the road to success through post-secondary education. According to the Texas Academic Performance Report, the district is averaging about 58 percent of students enrolling in an institute of higher education upon high school graduation. Guidance and Counseling Director Tracey Morman expects to see this trend continue to rise as the momentum for students to define their career paths is emphasized.

“In the past, I think assumptions were made students knew what their plan beyond high school was. Now we are helping ensure there is a plan, and providing ways to assist students achieve,” Morman explained of an increase in college and career readiness programs. “As we continue to see students graduating with endorsements, many of which end with an industry certification, our goal is for students to continue with post-secondary education.”

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