Friday, October 6, 2023

WHS counselors create four-year plans for students to guide them to success

By Kaysa Jalbert

It’s hard enough being a three-sport-juggling, chess club-playing, my-mom-can’t-pick-me-up-so-I- need-a-ride teenager, so the last thing most high school students want to stress about is life after high school, and that’s why Windham High Schools counselors focus their efforts in working with students from before they enter high school, to create a plan that shapes their current goals and guides them to a future of success.

Members of the Windham High School
Counseling Department are, from left,
Steve Ginn, Kerry Kowalczyk, Christa
Haberstroh, Megan Fleming and 
Building a path to a promising future starts in the eighth grade when students first meet with both their middle school and soon-to-be high school counselors where they start the process of registering for courses. Before this, students are given presentations and meetings to discuss the importance of high school, and the different courses offered for college and career paths they can explore.

Freshmen students begin meeting with their counselors discussing topics such as what they look forward to in high school, what they might want to accomplish as a student and what are their professional aspirations now.

“We preface everything to say that as a 14-year-old, changing your mind a million times is normal and expected and that’s part of what is the fun of being in high school is finding interests and passions and we want to encourage that,” says Meghan Fleming, the School Counseling Director at Windham High School.

In the meetings with first-year high school students, counselors aim at developing a four-year plan with students that is based on their current future aspirations. Fleming repeated that it is normal and encouraged for students to change their mind over the course of four years, but the plan helps maintain students on a track that will keep them interested in their courses and meet requirements to graduate.

The WHS Counseling Staff works with college and career specialists to develop programs for students throughout the school year. Students also have access to a variety of tools to explore their post-secondary options. A program called Naviance is one of these tools that helps align students’ strengths and interests with post-secondary goals. Students are first introduced to this tool as freshmen to start making informed choices about their futures.

In the spring, sophomores take part in college and career fairs and field trips to introduce themselves to different options available to them and their futures. They also view vocational presentations and take tours of the vocational centers in the winter.

During junior year the plan gets more in depth, said Fleming. Students and their families are invited to junior meetings that begin in January, where they discuss future goals, how to prepare for the college application process, building resumes, and other post-secondary goals.

“The goal at this time is to typically have a plan,” says Fleming. “We don’t want to pressure one way or another about college or career training or two-year or four-year schools, but rather just making sure each kid is working on a plan that works for them so we can support that plan however we can and need to.”

Building the plan to follow your dreams is just the first step, but the biggest concern for many of these students and their families is the financial aspects of executing their plans, that’s why Windham High School works with the Finance Authority of Maine to put their costly concerns at ease.

“Being cost conscience is always the goal,” said Fleming. “Since community colleges are now free, a lot of students are now seeing college as more of a possibility, or even post-secondary training is available at some of those schools. Our goal is just to make sure students and their families are aware of their options.”

During a student’s senior year, counselors and college and career specialists work closely with students on college applications, or meeting the requirements of military, apprenticeship, and training programs.

Tuesday, Oct. 3 was financial aid night at Windham High School where students and their families discussed the new financing guidelines and the steps that they will need to complete applications. The college-bound student uses net price calculators to help them figure out how much a school might cost them. Fleming says this can be helpful tool especially for lower income families to prepare for how much colleges might cost and explore their more affordable options.

Windham High School’s College and Career center grants students the opportunity to talk and work with college and career specialists that help guide them through the college search and application process, financial aid, military enlistment, career exploration, job shadows and apprenticeships, job search, application, and interview help. <

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