LAUGHLIN — The culture is changing at Laughlin Junior Senior High School, with more students looking to college or other higher education and training post graduation.
“Last year’s sophomores and juniors have become very passionate about going to college this year,” said counselor Tracy Brey, who is in her second year at LJSHS.
A year ago, Brey had nine or 10 students who’d be part of the college and career readiness course, she said.
This year, she’s seeing about 40, with the classrooms often becoming standing room only, Brey added.
“They’re all coming and they’re listening and they’re excited and they’ve done a lot of applications,” said Brey.
Numerous colleges have spoken with the kids and students went to Grand Canyon University for a tour, she said. There are also plans to visit Mohave Community College in Bullhead City.
There’s been a lot of interest in college and career readiness, said Brey.
“At this point, I’d say a good 80, 85 percent of my seniors have some direction where they want to go,” said Brey. “Which is a big step from last year because last year I was new, they didn’t know me.”
Getting that level of success is about changing the students’ way of thinking in regard to higher education.
Brey said some students may be first generation high school graduates let alone college graduates, so it comes down to helping parents.
“Imagine a parent trying to steer their kid to college when they don’t have any idea how to start it,” said Brey. “So we start that conversation for them.”
Recently, Brey held a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA, workshop.
While there was a small group, those who showed up needed the extra help so it worked well, she added.
“It’s my job to communicate with parents so that’s what I do,” said Brey.
She is slowly developing the program and making it stronger.
Her plans include bringing in employers in the spring as the follow up to all the colleges this semester, she said.
College may not be for everyone but trade and skilled positions require preparation as well and students need to know how to plan for those jobs too, said Brey.
LJSHS saw a 100 percent graduation rate in 2016, but not all move on to college. Some have opted to join the military while others chose to go to community college, including Mohave Community College.
“It’s a difficult decision to make and there are so many moving pieces that it’s so hard for them to identify especially in a smaller school,” said Estes. “Just that thought of leaving school is a big step.”
The schools recently added in the Advancement Via Individual Determination system and part of that program is to help encourage thinking about moving on to some type of higher education.
“It’s never too early to introduce those (career and college readiness) skills and to instill in students a belief that it’s really our own determination, our own perseverance, that growth mindset that if we believe it and we set the goals and take the steps to reach it, we can be successful,” said Estes.
Rapid changes in technology have brought incredible change and there’s no way to identify what the workforce will look like in 20 years, said Estes.
What educators do know is one skill sets they need to give tomorrow’s employees is the ability to adapt to change, she continued.
School staff has often seen students go to college for the first semester or year but end up dropping out.
“In some ways they can be very sheltered and so we realized we need to give them that confidence in themselves that it doesn’t matter if you’re from small Laughlin, Nevada, you can still compete on the world stage,” said Estes. “AVID gives them that self-confidence and again those learner behaviors that say ‘it doesn’t matter where I started, it’s where I finish and I’m in control of my destiny.’”
Which ties in with what Brey said about making college seem possible.
Part of the FAFSA workshop was about getting students to realize that college isn’t as daunting as it seems, there are a lot of scholarships and grants available for a lot of different things, said Brey.
Dixie State University, with a 100 percent acceptance rate, visited students this year. They are a smaller school and out of state but very budget friendly, she said.
“I’ve got a lot of interest in that (school),” said Brey.
She is always reminding students that it doesn’t matter where they get their education, at the end of the day they are educated and trained for the profession they want.
“I tell kids, if you’re a nurse you’re a nurse,” said Brey. “If you got a nursing degree at MCC or at UNLV, at the end of the day you’re still a nurse.”
Right now, incoming med-school students can get educated for free at UNLV as long as they commit to staying in Las Vegas for six years, said Brey.
Once they become a physician they have to stay in Las Vegas for a period of time but that helps so many students, she said.
“I got my kid out of ASU without debt,” said Brey. “It is possible. It’s simply a matter of knowing how to do it.”