Back to School: Create a culture of college completers - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Back to School: Create a culture of college completers

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Kathy Bareiss is the Mesa Public Schools organizational lead for Mesa Counts on College.

Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2012 7:03 am

As the first day of school approaches, parents of tweens and teens are busy loading up on notebooks and mechanical pencils, buying jumbo packages of lunchtime snacks, shopping for just the right clothing and filling the family calendar with concerts, practice and game dates.

Add one more item to the list: college. It’s time to begin planning for your child’s success after the diploma.

Research suggests that a student who identifies a career early is more committed to education. So, encourage your child to consider the many possibilities.

In October, Mesa Public Schools’ eighth-graders will take the ACT EXPLORE and 10th-grade students will participate in the ACT PLAN. Both tests will provide helpful information in mapping a post-high school education plan.

Results will assess college and career readiness in English, reading, mathematics and science. Your student can work on skills improvement or look at education and career options that match achievement.

The tests also have a career interest inventory to identify a range of potential careers based on your child’s responses.

Becoming a medical doctor, for example, requires a high aptitude in science. A student who enjoys science but scores low in that area may want to consider other options in the health care field.

Education for any career could be a certificate program, a community college degree, a four-year university degree or graduate work.

By 2025, when our young people are in the job market, employers will need 60 percent of working-age Americans to have a high-quality degree or credential, according to the Lumina Foundation.

Enter Mesa Counts on College, an initiative to increase college completion among Mesa’s youth. This is a partnership among the City of Mesa, Mesa Community College and Mesa Public Schools with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A young person with a degree or certificate is more likely to be working and will earn more money. An educated workforce helps Mesa attract more businesses with higher-paying jobs.

Mesa Counts on College can begin the conversation, but it will take all of us – parents, students, educators, businesses and non-profit organizations – to build a culture of college completion in Mesa. There is no magic program or project. To make an impact, we must change the way we do business.

Start with your own children. Talk with them about possible careers and the importance of education.

Even if your child has not started ninth grade, there are many planning resources available on the high school counseling websites. Learn about college costs and financial aid – it is never too early to begin saving for tuition.

In Mesa Public Schools, junior high students have access to the Kuder Navigator career planning system. This online password-protected system allows you and your child to outline the four-year high school coursework that will lead to college. District staff will soon introduce a six-year plan that will also incorporate the first two years of post-secondary classes as well.

Encourage your eighth-grade or 10th-grade student to take the EXPLORE and PLAN assessments seriously. Talk with them about the results.

On Jan. 29, Mesa Counts on College will again sponsor Explore What’s in Store! Because of last year’s successful attendance, the event will be expanded. You and your student can review career options indicated by the assessment data.

Participants will include Mesa Public Schools, the East Valley Institute of Technology, Mesa Community College and Arizona State University. Educators will be grouped by career rather than institution, allowing students to view educational pathways from high school through college.

If your student is nearing high school graduation, add the high school counseling website to your Internet favorites. Learn about post-secondary entrance requirements and registration, scholarships and financial aid. Mark your calendar for the annual Op Shop, Oct. 15 at Red Mountain High School.

Parents are a child’s first teacher. Demonstrate your commitment to education by taking an interest in classroom work and attending school activities, beginning when your child is in elementary school.

The strong foundation you build with your child this year will support success in post-secondary and beyond.

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