“We can make ripple effects, and often change occurs outside of what we’re able to see. But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, and that possibility can exist far beyond what we ever know.” These words from our guest, Nichola Fulmer—College and Career Readiness Program Facilitator for Renton School District—reverberate throughout this episode and reinforce the difference that we can make in the lives of our students. Each student comes to us at a different point in their journey, but if we make a safe space for them and listen openly, we can help guide them on their career and personal pathways.
During this episode, Nichola helps us unpack the topic of transitioning out of high school and how we can support our students on this journey. We discuss what it means to prepare for life after high school and what teacher support might look like in practice.
It is absolutely still possible to make a difference.
Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States
The following resources are available on AVID Open Access to explore this topic in more depth:
- Understanding FAFSA and the Financial Aid Process (podcast episode)
- What Is FAFSA, and Why Do I Need to Complete It? (article)
- What Is Involved in the Financial Aid Application Process? (article)
- What Do Parents Need to Know About FAFSA and Financial Aid? (article)
- Financial Aid Myths and Realities (article)
- FAFSA and Financial Aid FAQs (article)
Supporting Students Where They Are
As educators, we need to hold a safe space for students to explore their dreams and life goals. We can help them answer the question posed by our guest: “When you hope and dream, free of all barriers, no limitations, no one telling you that you can’t do anything, what do you do? Who are you?” If we listen openly to our students and support them without judgment, we can help them successfully navigate their way through the twisting paths of probing questions, cultural identity, unique family situations, and future dreams.
Throughout this episode, Nichola offers many insights into this process. She reminds us that students begin developing their career identities starting in early elementary school, and that while these dreams might get stifled along the way, we can “breathe back opportunities” at any time and support them on a renewed journey toward their dreams. We can encourage them to imagine a future without boundaries by asking them one of our favorite questions from this episode: “Who were you…when you were dreaming?” Here are a few highlights from our conversation, which was packed full of quote-worthy moments:
- Connecting the Dots: A big part of preparing students for graduating is to help them connect the dots between the experiences they’ve had in school and the world beyond high school. Part of this includes seeing how different classes in school fit together and complement each other. Another part is to help them see how these experiences prepare them for life after graduation.
- Finding a Path: We can help students become aware of the multiple pathways available to them after high school. Some of these include attending a 4-year and 2-year school. Others include attending specialized schools, engaging in national service, and directly entering into the workforce.
- Engaging Students in Conversation: We need to begin this dialogue by developing trusting relationships with our students. We then need to invite students into conversation about their futures. By listening to them and engaging them where they are at, we can help them explore their dreams and aspirations.
- Engaging All Students: We can’t pick and choose with whom we engage. We need to engage all of our students. Nichola notes that we can “not allow students to opt out of preparing for their future.” We owe it to each and every one of them to guide them on their journey.
- Engaging Families: Families play a critical role in the life journey of our students. To empower them to support their children, schools must consider cultural backgrounds and experiences and offer targeted services to support them. This may include hosting financial aid information sessions, providing opportunities in multiple languages, and allowing families to lead the conversation and ask the questions they have.
- Providing Targeted Invitations: Nichola reminds us that not all students will seek out the support they need. She says, “The student who maybe doesn’t show up to an event is the student who needs to be invited to the event.” By intentionally matching students and families to specific events that match their needs, we can help them get the targeted information that will best serve them and their unique situation.
If you are listening to the podcast with your teaching team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:
- What college and career pathways are available to the students in your district?
- What programs are in place in your district to support students in pursuing their pathway of choice?
- What can individual teachers do to support students in discovering and pursuing their dreams?
- What unique cultural or community values may impact the career choices of your students?
- How can you and your school engage families in supporting the post-high school plans of their children?
- What barriers may be preventing your students from pursuing their dreams, and what might you or your school do to help them overcome these barriers?