Saturday, July 2, 2016

Reach Higher.... "It's a different world than where you come from."

First let me begin with a little WARNING: This will probably be one of many posts I publish about The First Lady's Reach Higher Initiative. 

If you don't know about this initiative, check out the website here: The First Lady's Reach Higher Initiative

The announcement of this initiative along with some fantastic sessions at the University of Georgia College of Education's eight annual UGA Counseling and Diversity Conference  inspired me to begin a "Reach Higher" week at my school. It was my first year in middle school and I definitely wanted to come in helping students make a connection to post-secondary education. My focus in connecting with students is so that I can connect them to their education while in middle school but also their future education in high school and beyond. I want my students to know all the fantastic options out there for them including the wonderful technical college system we have in Georgia.

I've pondered what it was that made me want to pursue my education after high school. I can't remember a specific moment that made me want to go to college. It was just always something that was going to be a part of my life. This is probably because both of my parents are college graduates...going to college after high school was the norm in our little family. 
However, I do remember a tv show that started when I was near the end of elementary school and continue through my sophomore year of high school... "A Different World."

Gotta love this theme song! :) 

 This show sealed the deal for me! I was definitely going to college after watching this show! (I've actually been watching old episodes of this show on Netflix recently.)
Hillman College was a fictional college but it didn't matter...I wanted to go to this different world where you were challenged and learned new interesting things and made an amazing group of friends!

But not everyone has that connection to post-secondary education and I want to make sure my kiddos are exposed to all the opportunities out there for them beyond high school.

At the UGA Counseling and Diversity Conference, I was able to attend a session by Christopher Bruton on the "College Attainment Journey of Students of Economic Disadvantage." In his research, Mr. Bruton found various themes that impacted pursuing post-secondary education for students of economic disadvantage. They were: 1)Resiliency 2) Desire to Improve Socioeconomic Status 3)Education as a Means to Improvement 4)The Presence of a Positive Influence (biggest theme in the study) 5)Feelings of Marginalization and 6)Demystification of Higher Education.
As a school counselor, I felt like it was definitely in my ability to create an environment that helps build resiliency in students, be a positive influence, decrease feelings of marginalization and help to demystify higher education for my students.

Another session I attended was with Alice Ann Bailey from the Southern Regional Education Board on "Next Generation of Student Supports: What "First in the Family" Students say about their Post Secondary Needs and Knowledge." Hearing things like 'many students have only a view of college based on middle school and high school where you just show up and they need guidance on how to apply and be accepted', makes me realize how much I can do to help begin connecting students to their post-secondary options and showing students that they ARE indeed college material!

Knowing not everyone grew up in a household like mine where post-secondary education was the norm and the crew at "Hillman College" where a weekly part of tv viewing, I knew I had the opportunity to allow my students to explore post-secondary educational opportunities and introduce them to higher education and so our "Reach Higher Week" was born.
In planning for Reach Higher Week, I started by seeing what was already out there.

Shout out to all the folks who I have borrowed ideas from... you all are school counseling super stars!

Check out these blogs for amazing info about post-secondary awareness and much much more fantastic information!

I plan on sharing even more from my reach higher week and other initiatives to connect students with their post-secondary education this fall as each year we add to our Reach Higher Week and other post-secondary opportunities through out the school,  but see below for information on our past reach higher initiatives...

My super duper friend and elementary school counseling extraordinaire,  Stacey Miller and I presented at the Georgia School Counselor Association Conference last November about how to promote post-secondary education at the elementary and middle school levels.
Below is a link & QR Code to our presentation and accompanying documents: