More high schools today are being tasked with ensuring students are both college and career ready.
In 2015, California received over $119 million in Perkins funding to support college and career-readiness programs. But what exactly does “college and career ready” mean? According to the Massachusetts’ Department of Education, “being college and career ready means that an individual has the knowledge, skills and experiences necessary for success in post-secondary education and economically viable career pathways in a 21st century economy.”
So who is responsible for these types of programs at schools? Previously, counselors existed to provide academic and emotional support. Then, they were asked to take on the career-readiness component as well. While many schools still (over)task their counselors, others have actually created dedicated positions to promote interest exploration, leadership, and career-readiness. These positions have varying titles, but lots of similarities in work.
Let’s see how those dedicated personnel spend their day. In this piece, two types of high school personnel will be showcased:
- A high school administrator who develops career programs full-time
- A high school administrator who incorporates career-readiness programming within her primary role
Dr. Laurie Looker serves as the Director of Career Programs at Westlake High School in Thousand Oaks, CA. She has been in this role for eight years, building out successful career programs for Westlake.
Her day starts early - she’s out of bed by 5:30am and in the car by 6:30am for her 30 minute commute. She starts her day with a to-go mug of coffee (but not before feeding the cats - they take priority!). She’s in her office by 7am.
Laurie’s first hour is spent with her email and telephone - she responds to the emails and voicemails from the people she interacts with the most: students, parents, and business partners.
At 8:00am on most mornings, you will find Laurie out of her office. She’ll likely be in a classroom of 9th graders, helping them discover their interests. She spends her mornings ensuring students know they have access to resources, helping them research career options and activities to get involved with that promote interest exploration. She hosts many of those activities herself, like CTE (career technical education) field trips and job shadows, so she’s the perfect person to raise awareness for them.
As soon as the bell rings for Nutrition/Recess, Laurie speed races back to her office. There’s always a student waiting to speak to her. Students typically come to pick up forms relating to the career programs they’re in at the school, or ask questions about what they can get involved with, or simply to chat (Laurie’s great to chat with! Especially since she’s built out most of the programs herself!)
The same pattern continues at lunch, when there is always a steady stream of students needing Laurie’s attention. Twice a month though, the students have to wait, because Laurie is busy facilitating lunch meetings for the high school FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America). “I see what FBLA does for the kids, so even when it requires a lot of my free time, I’m passionate about doing it,” says Laurie.
When Laurie is not facilitating a class, she spends her time in her office. She splits her time between students and administrative work. Most days, she has a few one-on-one appointments with students and often, their parents. “A young man came in the other day and we ended up talking for 45 minutes - he was interested in job shadowing and interning so we discussed all the programs he might be interested in.” Fortunately for these students, Laurie organizes career field trips that ANY student can go on - they are not restricted to students in the CTE career pathways. Laurie ensures that students are connected to the larger community of work.
To make sure these opportunities are available to students, Laurie spends a big chunk of her time planning for and creating those opportunities. When she’s not with her students, she is working with district personnel and teachers.
At the district level, Laurie works with a team to map out courses for career pathways, oversees four CTE budgets, and ensures that CTE funds are being used wisely and reported appropriately.
At the school level, Laurie spends her afternoon working with the California Partnership Academy teachers - they all have common planning during sixth period. This is when Laurie and the teachers are able to discuss student progress, and how different programs implemented by the school, like Skillify, are impacting students. Laurie is consistently able to provide teachers with professional development resources and the most relevant information to best support students.
She’ll spend some evenings hosting business tours to connect students to the business community. Other evenings, you can find her attending Chamber of Commerce and Rotary meetings to connect with professionals. She’s constantly hunting for job shadow sites and internship resources - she’s raising awareness for her programs within the community so students and mentors can have more access to each other.
But once she’s finally home, Laurie says she “leaves work at work.” Her 30 minute commute allows her to decompress and her one-hour workout after coming home allows for self-care. She’ll wind down by catching up on news and personal emails. And if it’s a Friday night, she’ll head to bed for weekend festivities - usually filled with FBLA events where she volunteers her time to work towards preparing more students for success in the working world.
Christy Godinez serves as the Director of Student Inclusion, Leadership, and Civic Engagement at Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco, CA. Similar to Laurie, Christy spends the majority of her time with her students, and helping them become leaders on campus and in the community. Her schedule varies tremendously; some days, she’ll wake up at 6am to be at school from 7am - 4pm and on other days, she’ll sleep in because she was at school until 10pm the night before and the day’s schedule requires her to be at school from 9am - 6pm. What do those days look like?
Well, her mornings start in one of two ways. Either she’s got a handful of grocery bags as she walks into her office because she had to make a morning snack run for the events she will be hosting that day, or she’s traveling to meet with a non-profit to discuss civic engagement opportunities for her students. She lives an hour away, so her morning commute allows her to prepare for her busy day.
Christy’s high school is on block schedule, which means students are in each class period for 90 minutes. In between periods, students have tutorial and lunch - these are their only “non-class” times. These are also the busiest times for Christy, because students flock to her office for a variety of reasons while they break from their classes. “I always have to figure out how to be in multiples places at one time,” Christy says. “I’m usually double or triple booked during these times.” Students walk into Christy’s office with questions regarding internship opportunities, field trips, service projects, diversity events, etc. Students tell her news about new internship acceptances as well, like at the Arthritis Foundation at Stanford. Christy updates these on the school blog.
While students are in classes, Christy is working on administrative planning work but is also available for student appointments. She meets with the student leaders on campus regularly and serves as their sounding board. She helps students organize school events like the annual Diwali and Dias de los Muertos celebrations.
When students are not in her office, Christy spends her time doing outreach to relevant organizations. For example, she partners with Skillify and the Young Women’s Summit to ensure students have access to a variety of leadership opportunities. In February of 2017, she hosted a career-readiness and interest-exploration conference, where her high school juniors and seniors learned how to network, attended a networking event, built a LinkedIn profile and college-level resume, and participated in mock interviews. She’ll be hosting this conference again in 2018. During this planning time, she creates flyers and emails to raise awareness for these opportunities among parents, students, and the educators at her school.
Christy also works with adults - she routinely serves as a translator for Spanish-speaking families at College Counseling meetings to ensure they leave confident about their children’s futures. She has a team that she connects with regularly to ensure the best support is being provided to them, and in turn, to her community. They will then travel together to the big event being hosted on campus, either by the Center of Civic Engagement or by the students of the school.
By the time Christy is done with her jam-packed day, she’s exhausted (usually in a good way). Unfortunately, she still has a commute back home...which usually takes over an hour in Bay Area traffic. Similar to Laurie, Christy chooses to leave work at work. “If I promote self-care among my students, I need to promote it within my team and for myself,” says Christy. “I do significantly better work for my students when I come in with a refreshed mind, and that is important.”
What These Career Administrators Have in Common
Christy and Laurie may have different titles, but their goal is the same: ensure students leave high school with the “knowledge, skills and experiences necessary for success in postsecondary education and economically viable career pathways in a 21st century economy.” They are making sure students are college and career ready by promoting leadership, interest exploration, and civic engagement opportunities across their entire schools.