Local schools help students prepare for college

ESCANABA — Although the thought of college and applying for scholarships may sometimes be stressful, there are many helpful resources available in local high schools to help guide both parents and students in the next step towards college and a career.

According to Bark River Harris School Guidance Counselor Jan Hood, college talk at Bark River begins as early as eighth grade.

Hood explained staff conduct inventories with students, asking them what they like and what they think they are good at to start thinking about careers. When junior and senior year hits, Hood said she and another part-time counselor dive into the search and application process for the right college with students.

Available resources at the school include FASFA night, which helps students and parents organize financial aid, different colleges visiting Bark River, and students attending job and college fairs. Hood said she and the other counselor are there every step of the way with students, answering any and all questions.

“We want everyone with a plan when they walk across the stage at graduation,” said Hood, adding whether that may be to attend a university, college, workforce, or trade school.

At Escanaba High School, ­Principal Darci Griebel said the school also starts college and career awareness early by providing various activities that encourage “college preparation and career exploration.”

During the fall of the school year, a senior parent night is held that ­provides information about the different choices available to students after high school, explained Griebel. Along with senior parent night, three financial aid help sessions are provided.

Students can also meet with the school’s guidance counselor, noted Griebel, who is crucial in giving tons of information on college and career readiness.

Located in the school’s library is a college career corner, said Griebel, where students can go to reference any book related to the subject. On top of the many resources provided by the school, Griebel said Escanaba students can dual enroll while in high school to build a base of college credit. Dual enrollment allows high school students to take college courses while still in school, to gain a head start with college credits.

At Gladstone High School, Principal Brady Downy said the main goal is to build the base of the “college culture.”

Downy said if a student is attending a four-year, two-year, or trade college each step in guidance towards those goals is individualized, adding each student is given the opportunity to visit a four year college such as Central Michigan University (CMU) or Northern Michigan University (NMU) along with the local community college in Escanaba, Bay College. For students looking into a option such as trade school, they have the opportunity to visit those institutions, including the Jacobetti Center at NMU, which focuses on trades such as culinary, mechanical engineering, aviation maintenance, and cosmetology.

“We want to make sure we’re providing opportunities for our students,” he said, adding another of the school’s goals is to make sure they are doing everything they can for their students.

Along with exploring academic and career opportunities, Downy said Gladstone also helps students with the financial portion of college, seeing what universities or trade schools the pupil can afford. This sit-down process involves looking into scholarships and what state financial aid the student is eligible for, noted Downy. But Downy said regardless of what the student is looking into, building the “post secondary education” base is what Gladstone strives to do for students.

“It’s all valued the same,” said Downy.

Guidance counselor at Gladstone, Dave Florenski, said along with tours and creating a base of information, the school also provides career lunch seminars, that allow people in the community to come and speak to kids who are college and career ready. Each speaker pertains to each student’s interests, said Florenski, making the process very individualized.

Job shadowing is also available, said Florenski, giving the students an ample opportunity to find out if they “truly have a passion” for their career choice.

Florenski also encourages his students, along with others from districts around the area, to visit his Weebly page at florenski.weebly.com for more information regarding state colleges, tuition rates, scholarships both local and national, along with a transfer guide, which shows which dual enrollment classes transfer to what colleges or university.

According to Jessica LaMarch, director of admissions for Bay College in Escanaba, the first step in getting ready for higher education is figuring out which school is best and will meet the needs of the enrollee. Students can base their choice on size of school, whether they wish to attend a big university or smaller, community college, along with knowing the cost of each type of schooling.

One big factor LaMarch encourages seniors who are interested in college is to visit the campuses. According to LaMarch, by doing so, it gives students a feel for the campus and if it feels right for them.

For juniors, LaMarch encourages students to dual enroll while still in high school. LaMarch said this can make the transition from high school classes to college classes much easier.

“A lot of the stress goes away with a dual enrollment student,” said LaMarch.

At Nah Tah Wash PSA, Guidance Counselor Scott Brant said they begin career and college preparations as early as fourth or fifth grade.

“This year we formally initiated those conversations with students in 4th and 5th grade through class discussions and web-based career exploration sites,” said Brant.

Brant explained Nah Tah Wash is unique because there are many staff members who are solely dedicated to working on higher educational opportunities for their students. This includes Brant, guidance counselor, Anna Larson, higher education director, and a shared counselor from Bark River Harris School District, Jeff Spangenberg. Another staff member involved in starting the college and career talks early is Rebecca Spreitzer who helps with youth employment programs that are available for eligible tribal youth and descendants until they graduate.

Along with providing information on the academic end, Hannahville also informs their students about the possibility of joining the workforce. Brant said this is important and gives the students more variety to chose from when looking forward to the future.

“We also want students to be aware and realize the steps to enter the workforce,” said Brant. “We work with all of our students to enhance their workforce development skills who have decided to enter the workforce immediately after high school.”

The school provides tours to various workforce facilities including Midwest Truck Driving School and the M-TEC center located on Bay College’s Escanaba campus. Along with tours, the school provides course offerings in construction careers, which Brant said has been successful.

“From a curricular standpoint, We have also initiated class offerings. One example is our construction careers class. Although currently in transition, that class has been very successful for a number of, not only our students, but even includes students from Carney-Nadeau schools, establishing a positive relationship with their district.”