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Life After High School: Getting There Remotely

Life After High School: Getting There Remotely
Posted on 04/23/2020

At Jeffco Public Schools, our mission is to provide a quality education that prepares all children for a successful future. So as we edge closer to the end of the school year, thousands of students get ready to leave us and move on to new adventures. For many, this means post-secondary education, for others it means work and community engagement. Our graduates come from many backgrounds, experiences, and situations. Here is a glimpse of how Jeffco staff meets the needs of a widely varied senior class.

Dropout Prevention and Re-engagement

photo of group meeting online
Photo: Members of the Dropout Prevention team meet online.

Headed up by Student Engagement Specialist Jolee Mann, the dropout prevention team supports students through attendance case management. This team of five student engagement advocates, two AmeriCorps attendance support members, one intern, and the Truancy Diversion Navigator from the Jefferson County Juvenile Assessment Center supports students from kindergarten through young adulthood.

Some students needing their support are identified by attendance reports; others are referred by schools, other district departments, and outside agencies. Attendance case management typically involves a weekly meeting (now remote) with the student and/or a combination of student and parent/guardian/teacher - sometimes a whole team comes together for a student - to provide support, which looks different for each student.

Case management may consist of grade and attendance checks; helping students keep track of assignments; providing advocacy around classes, assignments, schedule modifications; connecting students to supports and resources within the school/district/community (such as mental health, physical health, work, Community and Family Connections referrals, special education support, food banks, etc.); and goal setting, future planning, and navigating different school options.

In our new remote learning environment, advocates are taking referrals through a new central referral form, which is completed by schools when they have students who have not engaged in remote learning. Then, the team reaches out to families to find out why they have not engaged and attempts to remove barriers like access to technology or lack of basic needs. Team members have picked up hotspots and laptops from schools and dropped them off at homes, and some have stopped by Jeffco's Grab-and-Go Meal locations to pick up food to then deliver to families who are unable to get to those locations themselves.

Advocates also work directly with their assigned schools, collaborating with them on methods for tracking attendance and engagement to better support students and work towards developing consistent messaging around attendance/engagement.

School to Work Alliance Program (SWAP)

photo of online meeting with a student
Photo: SWAP Specialist, Michele Kopchik, and a student virtually explore careers using Virtual Job Shadow.

Managed by SWAP Coordinator Jessi Behnke, the School to Work Alliance Program (SWAP) is designed to provide employment-related assistance to youth with disabilities, who are experiencing mild to moderate barriers to employment. SWAP provides opportunities for youth to practice and improve workplace skills, consider their career interests, and obtain real-world work experience that will lead to competitive, integrated employment.

SWAP is a collaborative initiative between the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and local school districts/Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), and is supported by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE).

Because schools have switched to remote learning, Jeffco's SWAP specialists are also getting creative with how services are being provided, supporting students through virtual meetings and by phone. They are providing pre-employment transition services like career assessments and exploration, workplace readiness skills, creating resumes, and mock interviews. Normally, services are provided in 1:1 settings or in small groups but our team is in the process of creating virtual trainings that can be presented in a live virtual meeting or shared with students to review on their own time.

SWAP has also been collaborating with our community partners and business partners to explore ideas of how to replicate our Summer Safari career exploration program in a remote way.

For more about SWAP please visit our website.

High School Counselors

photo of counselor working online with student
Photo: Suzanne Mentlik, counselor, works with a student virtually on a scholarship search.

Our high school counselors are preparing our students for postsecondary workforce readiness in a variety of ways. They are connecting with students and families in real time through video conferencing, screen sharing, emails, and phone calls. They also provide ongoing information and resources through recorded online tutorials, newsletters, career and college platforms, posting online professional presentations, and virtual classrooms.

On any given day, our counselors may be having individual or small group meetings with current juniors to help them navigate the career and college process for the next school year; providing students with ACT/SAT virtual test prep resources; engaging in individual calls and/or emails with students and parents/guardians; connecting students to college representatives; or posting online presentations for seniors to help them understand financial aid and award letters.

Suzanne Mentlik, a counselor at Jeffco Virtual Academy, recently collaborated with one of her students on a scholarship application. The student shared her scholarship essay virtually with Ms. Mentlik, who then provided feedback and suggestions digitally on the document. After a few phone calls spent fine-tuning and finalizing the application, the student completed her submission and won her scholarship.

BUILD Internship and Apprenticeship Program at Brady High School

photo of students in online meeting
Photo: BUILD class members meet online to discuss their project.

The BUILD (Brady Utilizes Independent Learning Directives) Internship and Apprenticeship Program is a unique program Brady High School offers students to prepare them for the workforce or higher education before they graduate. As a project-based learning school, Brady encourages all their students to graduate when they are ready, which includes having work-ready skills and a deep understanding of professionalism and responsibility. The mission of BUILD is to provide our students with the tools they need for stability and success after high school.

BUILD is a comprehensive, for-credit program, designed so all student participants will emerge ready to take on the responsibility required to succeed in the workforce. Students complete boot camp, where they learn work-ready skills and are matched with a partner in a career of their choice. They complete a 50-hour internship, then present what they've learned at the BUILD Summit.

A remote learning environment can be challenging for many project-based, or hands-on style, educational programs. But BUILD Program Director Shere Walker has found an alternative for ensuring success for this year's students. They are working on a special project from home called BUILDing Up Our Community. With a focus on Jeffco's Generations Skill Civic and Global and Engagement, the students are working on a video with their employers and school staff to reflect on the changes in the world, their life at home, and what it's like as a BUILD student. This project consists of creating an e-portfolio along with other important artifacts to show students can still connect with their community even from home and that we are all a family despite the situation.

Project SEARCH: School-to-Work for Students with Disabilities

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Photo: Project SEARCH teachers meet with students to talk about work preferences.

Supported by Jeffco Transition Services, and conducted in partnership with Children's Hospital Colorado, University of Colorado Hospital, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and Easterseals Colorado, Project SEARCH is a unique school-to-work program for students with significant disabilities. During this one-academic-year program, students learn work skills through two different internships, with the goal of students having eventually gained competitive employment.

But in this remote learning environment, students could no longer intern at Children's Hospital and University of Colorado Hospital, so staff and students quickly switched gears to continue building the skills they had already gained during the year.

Led by Project SEARCH Teachers Renee Salvi and Tricia Maybaum, students are continuing to develop the social and communication skills necessary for employment through daily virtual class meetings. Students are also honing their vocational skills by building resumes, practicing for interviews, and completing mock job applications on Google Classroom. They are using their independent living skills by helping out more around the house doing chores and helping cook meals. During class discussions, we compare chores they are doing to employment opportunities in the community. Through Google Classroom activities, students are practicing money management and healthy living skills in order to be successful in all areas of their personal lives after graduation. They are also preparing for our virtual graduation celebration by creating end-of-year presentations to share their future goals and what they have learned during their year with Project SEARCH.

Guest speakers from community partners and local businesses are joining our virtual meetings to keep us connected to our community and to discuss work skills employers seek. We are still focused on helping our students find jobs by meeting virtually with them to discuss work preferences and begin the job search process.

Project SEARCH staff are so proud of the dedication and commitment of their students to continued hard work during remote learning!

Read more about Project SEARCH in this news story from 2019.

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