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Help available for career paths

With the dawn of a new year, letters of acceptance along with scholarships for universities, colleges and technical schools arrive at high school seniors' homes and are gleefully taken to school counselors. 

Graduation is on the horizon, raising exciting expectations of the future for some and uncertainty for others. Come March, those uncertain seniors will be found asking for help in their school counselors' offices.

"What we find with seniors is they are having a good time their first semester and, along about March, reality sets in. All of this is going to be behind me in two months and then what am I going to do?" said Mark Mattingly, Lawton Public Schools Student Services executive director, adding that a student will tell the counselor that he or she wants to go to college, but when asked what career path they want to pursue, the student may not have a clue. 

Mattingly had all of the school district counselors put their heads together to answer the question: "What are the responsibilities of the parents, the students and the counselors."

"We did some brainstorming and wrote down everything we could think of," he said.

"All the mechanisms are there, it is just a matter of taking advantage of them," Mattingly said. 


The bottom line is that ultimately each student's future is his or her own responsibility, but students don't have to go it alone. Students should get help, interest and encouragement from their parents and counselors, with both the students and their parents taking active interest in and advantage of what school counselors offer. 

"The counselor is a resource. ... If I (as a parent) say it's the counselor's responsibility, I'm not going to get the results I want," he said. "Every parent has a few students to be responsible for, while every counselor has at least 340 students every year to be responsible for, but as a parent I can help my three children a lot more than that counselor."

All throughout a student's school years, counselors are available and career path exploration opportunities are offered. Each fall, the counselors hold a senior seminar within the first five weeks of school to give students a list, resources and timeline of what they need to do if they want to go to college, tech school or get monetary help. 

Some take advantage of the information, others don't. 

"I can promise you, if a parent calls and ask questions or say, 'can you help me with this scholarship application (or attending technical school or Cameron University while in high school),' the parent and student will get help," Mattingly said. 

One key is to start early, and the first step for students, parents and the counselors is finding out what a student is interested in. 

That can start early in a student's schooling and start building an Individual Career Achievement Plan, or ICAP, using to learn a student's interests and complete a skill survey as they mature. The program is being piloted across Oklahoma and at two schools in the district, but students and families can already access OKCareerGuide. Starting with school year 2019-2020, it will be mandatory for all ninth-graders to develop an ICAP.

Meanwhile, families can go online and utilize the website to help the students and parents alike to take skills and interests surveys and search for careers. It is free to any Oklahoman, he said. They can also make an appointment with a school counselor and find out other resources and opportunities for students to learn about other career pathways. 

A myriad of opportunities available

Thanks to a partnership with Great Plains Technology Center  beginning in fifth-grade with Discovery Zone, in eighth-grade with Tech Know Zone, and then as high school sophomores looking into two or three vo-tech career programs  students can visit Great Plains and get some hands-on experience in career fields they may not have even known existed. Those who meet certain criteria can attend Great Plains in their junior or senior years, or both, concurrently and tuition free. That can allow them to graduate with enough training to go into certain careers or give them a big head start on education for other careers. 

The Lawton Constitution

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