Charles County Public Schools help seniors

St. Charles, MD –  Charles County Public Schools class of 2017 is in the homestretch of their educational career as high school students. Soon, the more than 1,900 seniors will face the future they have spent 13 years planning. Those plans may include entering the workforce to start a career or continue at a job they may have landed while in school. Others may seek to enlist with the Armed Forces to learn how to serve and protect. For some, the desire to continue their academic studies leads them on a path to applying to college.

To support all students in their efforts to plan for life after high school, Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) hosted the Maryland College Application Campaign last week. The goal of the campaign, launched in 2014 by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), is to educate high school students on the college application process, how to research financial aid and scholarship availabilities and learn how to prepare for their future after they graduate. While the campaign targets all high school seniors, activities focus on educating first-generation and low-income students in how to successfully research and complete the college application process.

To support all seniors, CCPS focused last week’s campaign efforts on each senior submitting at least one application to a college, university or technical school, developing a post-secondary educational plan, researching trades or job fields and exploring the process of enlisting in the Armed Forces.

“Our goal is for every graduating senior to have a plan for their future after they graduate. Whether this is attending college, entering the workforce or attending trade school or military training … we want them to leave high school as prepared for their future as possible,” said Alicia Jones, supervising school counselor for CCPS.

In preparation for the campaign and graduation, staff at all high schools work with students to prepare them for their senior year. As juniors, students begin to prepare portfolios about themselves that include letters of recommendation, examples of community service, academic accomplishments, achievements earned through participation in extracurricular activities, and essays describing their future plans, goals and aspirations. Students also complete college fit worksheets as a graded assignment which requires them to research colleges, list their extracurricular activities and include any valid test scores needed for applications.
Representatives from the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) have already visited several schools and worked with students during their junior year to complete an application. Seniors who did not already complete a CSM application, which is free to submit, submitted their information during the campaign last week.

College and career advisors at all schools, along with senior class school counselors, coordinated activities to highlight the campaign, which included inviting volunteers to school to help students with their applications, connecting students with resources to learn more about applying to college and planning for their future, and hosting financial aid nights in which parents could attend with their children and learn about financing college and plans after high school.

St. Charles High School took a unique approach to the campaign by incorporating a trivia game activity for students to learn about local colleges while supporting school spirit. During their lunch shifts, all students were invited to participate in the game in which they had to answer five college trivia questions for a chance to be included in a drawing for a Spartan spirit t-shirt. The questions included naming Ivy league schools, identifying college mascots of schools in Maryland, describing the difference between a college and university, identifying what the acronym HBCU stood for, as well as explaining the level of degrees and certificates a student can earn in college.

Janet Malherek is the college and career advisor at St. Charles and said the game was a way for students to learn about college while having fun and working together. St. Charles participates in the school system’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program, so students were able to use their personal devices during lunch time to research their answers. “The kids are really having fun with this activity and exploring more about colleges,” she said.

Incorporated into other campaign activities at St. Charles were college facts, which were included in daily announcements, and college minutes, in which staff members were asked to start each class period by sharing their personal college experiences with students. St. Charles seniors Michael Wathen and Arianna Hebner said the trivia game and other activities highlighted last week were fun and made learning about college interesting.

“The trivia game was a fun, spontaneous activity for us. The questions were not too difficult and it was cool that we could use our devices to answer the questions,” Wathen said. Both he and Hebner participated in the trivia game during their Oct. 20 lunch shift and used their cell phones when needed.

Prior to the campaign, Hebner had already researched her colleges of choice and narrowed her favorites down to Stevenson University, George Washington University and Virginia Wesleyan College. She wants to study psychology and said she planned to submit her applications to her top three schools by the end of last week. She also enjoyed the trivia game and said it was something different, and fun. “This was a fun, educational activity. I liked being able to use my device as part of a BYOD activity too,” Hebner said.

This was the school system’s second year of participating in the statewide campaign and first year for the campaign to be highlighted in all seven high schools. At the end of the week, the school system met one of its campaign focal points – every CCPS senior either submitted an application to CSM or were in the process of completing their application.