Getting college and career ready in middle and high school

Student Angelina DiGiovanni  discusses a scholarship essay with Ramona High School College & Career Center Coordinator Lisa Filice. Sentinel photo/Pixie Sulser
Student Angelina DiGiovanni discusses a scholarship essay with Ramona High School College & Career Center Coordinator Lisa Filice. Sentinel photo/Pixie Sulser

Part 2: This is the second of a two-part series about college and career readiness in Ramona schools. Part 1 focused on elementary schools.

By Pixie Sulser

As students move from elementary to middle school, the focus on college and career readiness increases.

“OPMS is a marvelous example of a middle school which has taken college preparedness to heart,” said Dr. Robert Graeff, superintendent of the Ramona Unified School District. “With combined efforts of NJHS, ACE classes, AVID, collegiate flags on campus, college T-shirt days, campus video programs, and the principal’s strong leadership in this area, our middle school students are receiving a daily dose of collegiate vocabulary which is truly remarkable.”

Each leadership group on the OPMS campus has a significant role in involving students in activities outside of the classroom. The National Junior Society (NJHS) makes college awareness its goal. Two years ago the group purchased a college flag for each classroom and office.

“The idea is to expose students to as many universities as possible even if just by name,” explained NJHS co-adviser Ingrid Forbes. “Staff members regularly share facts and bits of information about their adopted colleges on OPT (the school’s daily broadcast)”

NJHS also presents college information sessions to classes, sharing with all students what kind of courses should be taken in high school, what the SAT and ACT actually are, and making college a viable option.

“It’s all about the students constantly seeing and hearing about college that takes the mystery and sometimes, the fear, out of the idea,” said Forbes.

The AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program at OPMS also promotes college awareness as well as study skills. AVID instructor JJ Sclar said, “Students in the program not only learn information about future careers or how to get into college, but they are learning the skills to dominate in college.”

Students who participate in the program in seventh and eighth grades tour all five main San Diego universities.

“Just as our testing data shows great strides in achievement in the elementary level, our data shows convincingly that students are entering high school far more prepared for rigorous college-prep coursework than ever before,” said Graeff.

“My own goals in the preparation of students,” continued Graeff, “include a hope that we will continue to increase the rigor of our academic instruction and eventually move to the place where high school graduation and college entrance are very close mirrors of each other.

“At the high school level, we are experiencing a true revival in preparing students for college. Ramona High School recently restructured its entire counseling office and counseling assignments to better support the college readiness mission.”

RHS counselor Tocarra Best shared that a College and Career Center is now open for students through the Bulldog Connect program. “In the center, students may research colleges or careers, receive help in completing financial aid forms, search for scholarship opportunities, or take career surveys to help focus their skills.”

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Ramona High students, from left, Silvia Corona, Raymundo Rojos and Jennifer Perez research college and scholarship information at computers in the college and career center. Sentinel photo/Pixie Sulser

The counseling department also created a publication targeted for RHS students titled Ramona High School: College & Career Guide. It provides tips for college applications, scholarship searches, financial aid, vocational and technological institutions and career explorations.

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