Ohio Appalachian Collaborative Blog

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College and Career Readiness – How did I get involved?

by | Feb 04, 2014
By Sean Hill,
College and Career Readiness Coach and Community Connections,
Crooksville Exempted Village Schools

During the 2012-2013 school year I was part of our district network team that helped build our College and Career Readiness (CCR) Strategic Plan. At this point I was still in the classroom teaching 8th grade math and co-teaching a 7th grade math cohort of Rural Ohio Early College High School (ROCHS) students. I was mentoring too, coaching MATHCOUNTS. Also, I was busy being dad to three daughters, a husband, horse owner, small business owner, high school alumni president, and you get the picture. Busy. But this CCR stuff really had my attention. It was speaking about all the “non-tested” pieces I believed to be so critical in education and life. I became passionate about wanting to incorporate these action steps we decided on into the district. So, you can imagine how excited I was when a two-year grant-funded position was posted at the end of the year to begin the following school year, exactly around making CCR in our district a reality.

Fast-forward to the 2013-2014 school year, and I am now the CCR Coach and Community Connections person at Crooksville Exempted Village Schools. I am using our CCR Strategic Plan to help guide my new position, and district support has been amazing. We have surveyed community and students alike and it’s driving where we are headed. And we are headed in the right direction. 

So enough background. I’d like to highlight one particular CCR event that happened at Crooksville High School on January 16, 2014 (after being postponed twice due to weather, surprise).

The Event 

The idea started at a high school BLT meeting, as I was talking about action steps we need to be looking at from the strategic plan. Our guidance counselor, Lisa, said, let’s “share our story” (action step 2 under Pillar 1, Academic Prep). The goal was really to help students make connections with educators, and realize that their teachers and school staff have gone through similar experiences and challenges that they are. We wanted to show the students that we have all overcame obstacles, and we entered in the field of education for the reason to help students just like them. Our principal, Casey, gave the go ahead to dedicate an entire school day to the Crooksville Winter Symposium. 

With help from our dean of instruction, kitchen and maintenance crews, we began to put the event together, including a schedule, menu, student survey, and volunteers. The staff was amazing in their support and interest in the activity. Our goal was to have 19-20 staff members, not just teachers, because everybody in the district has a story, and we would have about 20 students in each room at any given session. Luckily, we didn’t have any trouble getting volunteers. There were lots of questions as to what we wanted folks to share. It was up to them, we left it wide open. I just wanted it real, with our staff sharing their life experiences. 

We put together a list of presenters and assigned everybody a room. We had a couple staff that wanted to team up to present and that was fine. We redesigned the lunch schedule so that all would eat at the same time, staff included. The idea was that staff would mingle and eat with the students. We had to open the gym to get everybody a place to eat at once, and served everybody pizza. We put together packets that explained the experience, included the schedule, a list and locations of presenters and a hard copy of the survey. As we drew near the date of the event staff would advertise to students during our advisory period what this event was about and our expectations for them. 

Everything was set…anticipation…then the day of the event was a day away and it was decided to postpone, due to weather. We rescheduled and that date turned out to be another postponement due to weather. I was starting to wonder if it would ever happen. After cancelling TV and newspapers twice we finally had the event on January 16, 2014. The day started as planned. Students heard the plan and expectations and we turned them loose and WOW!  IT WAS AMAZING!  I am not kidding when I say we had 100 percent engagement. Students’ eyes and minds were locked on the presenters, I didn’t see a handheld device being used in any of the presentations. The power of these stories was more than I think any of us ever expected. Some of the staff had PowerPoints, old photos and yearbooks, videos, and one brought a guitar and an amazing voice nobody knew about. Themes were similar throughout the presentations but as unique as snowflakes because they were all personal stories of where they came from and how they got here. The students heard heartbreaking and heartwarming stories alike. They were given helpful hints about going on to college life, realistic versus expected. They realized staff and teachers are in education because they care about people and want the next generation to have a better life and world than they came from or to attain satisfaction they have enjoyed. They realized teachers don’t just want to share the wealth of knowledge they have about world history and equations. My eyes were opened as well.

The Impact 

I could write about feedback for a while. I had students and staff alike tell me time and time again “thank you!” for having this event. They told me it was the most powerful day in education they ever experienced. Survey results that asked about relevance and purpose, sense of appreciation and community, and desire to repeat the event were all in the 90 percent range. Powerful. There were no negative comments. Students were also allowed to write any personal thoughts they wanted to in the survey, here are a few:

  • “I’ve learned that many of the teachers went through things that I am currently going through.”
  • “So many people have been through so many things. Don’t judge, know their background.”
  • “That the smaller colleges are easier to get help at.”
  • “Teachers are people.”
  • “I was surprised to hear about the presenter’s college stories”
  • “I was surprised how much I relate to Mrs. ______ now.”
  • “It’s good to surround yourself with positive people.”
  • “How bad some of the teacher’s lives were.”
  • “That Mr. ______ was in special ed.”
These comments went on and on. The social media sites were full of comments after the event for days. Students commented how glad they were that they came to school that day, because thought about skipping because they thought it was going to be lame. Parents commented that they thought teachers might have gotten a little too personal, but the fact that they were having conversations with their children about school and life for the first time in a long time made it very valuable. We are definitely going to do this event again this year. I plan to coordinate the speakers to be all alumni of Crooksville. Some will be staff, some will be new grads in the work force and some in college, some will be successful community members. The idea is to continue to make connections to the students. I believe these activities help promote ownership for the students of their lives and school. 

Feel free to contact Sean Hill if you have any questions regarding the “Ceramic Winter Symposium." You can also connect with Sean on Twitter at @CvilleHill