Operation Preparation deploys in GEAR UP Kentucky schools

March was Operation Preparation month in Kentucky and GEAR UP schools across the state participated in a variety of ways to engage and advise students about college and career readiness. Operation Preparation, a joint effort with the Kentucky Department of Education, is designed to bring trained volunteer community advisors to meet one-on-one with 8th and 10th grade students for an advising session about their college and career goals.

Operation Preparation looks different all over the state, as schools design advising activities to best meet the needs of their students and the involvement of their local community. Here are some great examples of Operation Preparation at work in GEAR UP Schools.

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Maurice Bowling Middle School

At Maurice Bowling Middle School in Owenton, Kentucky, the school hosted a series of 39 speakers/advisors who talked with 8th graders about a wide range of careers. Every 8th grade student met with a volunteer community advisor to discuss their career aspirations, the education/ training requirements of those careers, and whether the student is on target to meet his or her goals. Advisors also discussed recommended courses that will prepare him or her for success during and after high school. Seventh graders got in on the action on March 15, joining the 8th graders to participate in College Day where students heard presentations from the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, followed by a student panel of four current college students and one high school senior.

Trimble County Middle Schools

In Trimble County, Operation Preparation was a collaborative effort of schools, providers, parents and community members to focus attention on planning for college and/or career after high school. Trimble County 8th and 10th grade students in Bedford, Kentucky, rotated among specific stations focused on their top three career choices where they spent 20 minutes in interactive sessions with advisors. These sessions were designed to provide both information about specific careers and inspiration for the students to achieve college/career-readiness.  Community partners from our local area covered all areas of interest to the students in attendance, making this an all-inclusive community event.

Leestown Middle School 

In planning for Operation Preparation activities, Leestown Middle School surveyed students to learn their specific career interests. A number of local community representatives within these career fields were then invited to come speak with students throughout the month of March. On March 13, Lexington fire chief Keith Jackson was the invited speaker. He met with groups of seventh and eighth graders who indicated interest in service careers. Chief Jackson’s theme was “Focus Is the Key.” He challenged the students to do three things: set goals, figure out how you are going to get there, and remain focused enough to get there.  

“I am here to tell you that you can do more than you have done,” Chief Jackson challenged the students. “You can do great things if you remain focused.”

Newport Middle School 

Operation Preparation activities kicked-off at Newport Middle School (home of the NMS Wildcats) in the first week of March with the “Guess What Wildcat” contest. Information was collected about the staffs’ college experience, then through a series of provided clues, students guessed the Wildcat. During week two, the school was supported by postsecondary, business, and community-based organization partners in completing ILP Community Advising Sessions. Volunteers attended a training session in preparation for 20 minute one-on-one student advising sessions, where they used the students’ ILP to discuss their career interest, high school course work plans, assessment data, and college interests.  The Adopt a College contest also took place in Week 2.  Under the leadership of their teachers, students researched information about Kentucky colleges that would help any student make an informed admission decision.  Students then used a range of creative media and a hallway/door decorating contest to present their work.  A team of independent judges scored Team UK as the Overall Winner, with Team NKU taking second prize for Creativity and Spirit.  Students explored their career interest further at Week 3’s Career Day.  Twelve local professionals volunteered their time to staff Career Day, and students rotated among their top four career choices to hear first-hand information about the skills, education, and the commitment needed in the chosen careers.  Professionals provided four 20-minute presentations and the careers represented included banking, medical technologies, engineering, military, nursing, psychiatry, journalism, veterinarian, and law enforcement. Operation Preparation concluded in week 4 with a visit to Cincinnati State Community and Technical College.

Calloway County Middle School  

In Calloway County Middle School in Murray, Kentucky, Operation Preparation rolled out in full force for the 8th grade on February 13. To start off the day, all eighth grade students experienced the “Reality Store” at Murray State University’s campus. In this activity, students experience “reality” by paying bills & buying necessities with their chosen career salaries. When they arrived back at CCMS, students participated in several special interest sessions including:

  • “Breaking Down the EXPLORE” – a deeper explanation and understanding of the EXPLORE test and their status on meeting college readiness benchmarks.
  • “Professionalism and Job Readiness” – an introduction to the professional world from Murray State University’s Career Service Center including tips on writing a resume, practicing interview skills, dressing professionally, and appropriate use of social media sites.
  • “My Career Research” – students continued to develop their Individual Learning Plan (ILP) to help them fully grasp the career field they desire for their future.
  • “Basics of Career Clusters” – students were introduced to the main career fields that are abundantly available in Kentucky.
  • “OP Mentor Sessions” – students were paired up with Calloway County and Murray community members to review their ILP information to deepen their understanding of the connections associated with career development, success in school, and high school and college class options,.

Clark County Middle School

Job shadowing was the theme of Operation Preparation activities at Clark Middle School in Winchester, Kentucky. All CCMS eighth graders had the opportunity to shadow a professional in their career area of interest for three hours during one school day during the last two weeks of March.  In order to participate in the Job Shadowing process, students had to develop a written proposal which required the use of their ILP to research their career interests. Based on their ILP research, students wrote a narrative about their chosen careers of interest including the educational requirements, the job locations, potential salaries, and other information. Parents were involved as they were to read and sign an agreement that their student could fully participate. Career interests in the proposals submitted covered a broad range of fields from medical professions to welding to fashion design. After the review process, 99 out of 234 eight graders were eligible to participate. Those students who were not eligible still had the opportunity to meet with community volunteers at school to discuss their future plans and their ILPs. 

School staff found placements throughout the community for all 99 students to Job Shadow with someone in their local community working in their career field of interest. Afterwards, the students wrote a reflection about what they had learned through their shadowing experience. CCMS found that this experience increased students’ excitement about learning and renewed their interest in their educational process. They plan to repeat this activity on an annual basis.

Monroe County Middle School

To kick off Operation Preparation, Monroe County Middle School students in Tompkinsville, Kentucky, visited Western Kentucky University on March 12 to tour the campus and learn more about the variety in majors available at WKU. A group of these students were also invited on a station visit of WBKO and were featured live on WBKO’s Mid-Day program.

Advising and awareness activities continued at MCMS during the last week of March, when all students were invited to participate in dressing up each day for College Spirit Week. Each day had a theme for students to dress to show off their favorite team, their future college, and their future career. All eighth graders participated in a Reality Store activity, which included the opportunity to talk with a community member working in their career field of interest.

GEAR UP Kentucky Northeastern Region

The 5 schools in this area (Robertson County Middle School, Verity Middle School, McKell Middle School, Wurtland Middle School, and Simons Middle School) kicked off the week with a College Scavenger Hunt and a college door decorating contest. The scavenger hunt required students to ask teachers and administrators where they attended college, research KEES award amounts, and find information about various Kentucky colleges and universities. The door decorating contest had teachers decorating their classroom doors and providing factual information about each college or university. The students and teachers also had days to show college spirit by wearing hats/shirts of their favorite college or university. Students also played the GEAR UP College Knowledge Jeopardy to learn about the GEAR UP Kentucky program, planning for high school, and college options available to them. During the week, students at Verity Middle School meeting all 4 college readiness benchmarks on the EXPLORE test received a specially designed t-shirt and those meeting at least one benchmark were awarded a congratulatory certificate placed on their locker. The week culminated in the area with students participating in individual career advising sessions and review of ILPs with community volunteers.

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