By Tracy Zanitsch, December guest blogger
What would you do if someone said, “Create a way for all of our students to be college and career ready; and develop ways to engage our families and the community in this process”? That is sorta the situation I stepped into when joining the Saint Paul School District’s Office of College and Career Readiness in 2012. With a background in postsecondary education, corporate project management and strategic meeting management — of course I started with a list! It was not until much later that I learned I should have started with a DREAM.
The research on other programs was done. College Connector Training was completed. Feedback from staff collected. Shoot, I had even helped coordinate a way for our office to collect feedback from over 1,000 families and students face-to-face. I was ready.
So I started to write, even wore some grooves into my keyboard as I wrote and re-wrote what my plan would be. The goal was to deliver a simple and well-structured plan of action to my co-workers, when they arrived in August.
The plan was too complicated.
The plan relied on too many entities cooperating with each other.
The plan had no dedicated funding.
The plan was simply a dream. A silly, silly dream.
Or was it?
With the assistance and hard work of many wonderful colleagues, it became clear that the plan might be off track, but the Dream of having our students’ college and career ready upon graduation was very much alive. Here’s how I know:
- Our families and staff are opening up conversations with their elementary students about what they like to do and exploring different careers.
- Our staff is collaborating with other offices to create and publish what has become affectingly known as the “coloring book.” This is a publication that blends activities and information for our elementary families to use with their children to support college and career exploration.
- More than 5,300 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students can be seen out and about in the community wearing shirts that have their future graduation date on it. (Yes, it’s those little green and yellow t-shirts with either 2026 or 2027 as a graduation date on them.)
- Two-person teams from the Office of College and Career Readiness have or are in the process of “adopting” all of the district-wide parent groups.They are starting and nurturing new relationships with our families and their communities, to insure that we learn what is needed and the best ways to deliver information and services.
- The Postsecondary Ambassador Program was developed through the support of the Saint Paul City’s Mayor’s Office. It is made up of local college students who are trained and then strategically placed within our schools and rec centers, to allow our families and students to see, interact and learn from someone like themselves.
- “It’s Never Too Late to Graduate” campaign has been created and provides support services to students who did not receive their high school diploma.
- The Career and Technical Education Program can jump start a student’s career by preparing them for postsecondary education and training for high-skill, high-wage and high-demand occupations, while they are still in high school.
- The opportunity to earn college credits while in high school, via the College in the Schools classes and the Postsecondary Education Option, is alive and well.
But as you know, there is much more work to be done. Even though my plan initially went off track, with the assistance, support and laughter of colleagues from across the district...the Dream is alive and moving forward.
My next post will share some of the things I learned and how the program plans to move forward. If your organization has a college and career readiness program, please post a comment to share your experiences.