These eighth graders at Logan Middle School in La Crosse are already preparing for life after high school graduation.
“We have been hearing for a long time that students are going to college and they're not necessarily ready,” said Lisa Buley, Logan Middle School counselor.
Counselors at Logan Middle school are trying to get their students ready by starting a conversation about each student's post high school interests and goals.
“Our district is really pushing for college and career readiness,” said Buley.
So, whether students are interested in a military career, going to college, or finding an apprenticeship, the School District of La Crosse wants to help students start thinking about their future.
“That's our ultimate goal,” said Buley. “For every student to graduate and continue on and find something they're good at, and find a career or a job that they can get into right away.”
“And contribute to society in a successful way,” said Meredith Tomesh, Logan Middle School counselor.
To do that, many middle schools and high schools around the country have partnered with institutions of higher education like Western Technical College through a nation-wide initiative called "Career Pathways."
“Because students need to be thinking earlier about their future,” said Deb Hether, manager of K-12 relations at Western Technical College. “I can't say as early as 8th grade they're going to know what they want to be or what they're gonna do, but they're gonna understand what's out there.”
In Wisconsin, career possibilities are explained to students through the state's Career Pathway model which categorizes potential careers that have a set of common knowledge and skills into 17 career clusters.
“One example that works really well is the health science cluster,” said Hether. “Kids think that to be in health care you should be a nurse or a doctor, and there are so many different aspects of being in health care.”
Eighth grader Trey Davis has learned this first hand.
“I want to be a surgeon,” said Davis. “I want to work in the medical field. I've always been interested in that.”
But after working with his school counselors and learning about all of the different possibilities within the health science career cluster, Trey says there is another possible career that has sparked his interest.
“Yeah, like a physical therapist,” said Davis. “I didn't know that was in that cluster.”
And now that he does... Trey has opened himself up to new possibilities and a deeper understanding of how the learning that takes place now will impact his future.
“They start to understand the connection between what they're doing now and academics and reaching their dreams. That's exciting,” said Buley. “And to see that every kid has a dream. They want to do something. It's just what is it. And we're getting them excited about that and getting them thinking about what could I do after high school and how do I get there.”
“I like this process because I like learning about all the clusters and my cluster in general,” said Davis. “And find out all the careers that are in my cluster. It's just been real fun.