When I was a sophomore at Arapahoe High School, I took a law course because at that time I was interested in becoming a lawyer. Our class had a number of different experiences including visiting the federal prison in Canon City. One of the most eye opening experiences was participating in a mock trial at the Arapahoe County Courthouse. I remember serving on the defense team and winning our case. I was given a small taste of what it would be like as a lawyer and decided against seeking that career path.
That experience was so important for my development and saved me from spending a lot of money on a law degree. How do we create experiences and classes at the high school level to allow students to explore possible career options before they graduate?
One of the innovative ideas in the Jefferson Plan for reorganizing Jefferson High School as a 7th-12th grade school is the idea of a multiple pathways school. We know that each student is unique with different skill sets and dreams for the future. Knowing the uniqueness of each student, how do we design a school with this in mind?
Joplin High School in Missouri experienced the terror and destructiveness of an EF-5 tornado destroying their school and their community. Through this tragedy, they were able to design a new school for the 21st century. At Joplin High School, students can pick one of five career paths (Human Services, Business and Information Technology, Health Services, Technical Services, and Arts and Communications). Within these career paths, there are 34 different career pathways where students are exposed to actual job skills and education needed for these careers.
This approach to multiple pathways to a career is even integrated into the whole K-12 system:
This is not just a high school program. Students at Joplin Schools are introduced to Career Paths beginning in elementary school where they focus on career awareness. At the middle school level, students explore various career opportunities so that when they reach high school, they will have a better understanding of their strengths and areas of interest. When they enter high school, they will be prepared to choose a Career Path but also have the opportunity to change their minds and pursue different paths without the risk of losing credits or the foundational knowledge needed to reach graduation. (from Joplin High School website).
What can we learn from Joplin High School’s approach to multiple pathways? How could this approach help our local students succeed into a great career?
We have an opportunity to dream big in this Jefferson Plan. Let’s create an educational environment that embraces the uniqueness of each student and exposes them to what is possible in a career after high school and college.