Meridian Technology Center received the 2022 Gene Bottoms Pacesetter School Award during the Southern Region Educational Board’s (SREB) Making Schools Work Conference in Grapevine, Texas.
Using best practices in the areas of engaging instruction, aligned curriculum, career pathways, systems of support and continuous improvement, the SREB works with states and educators to improve education at every level, from early childhood through postsecondary education.
The Pacesetter award recognizes successful school and classroom practices that result in student success in graduation rates, demonstrated career readiness, and attainment of career credentials using one of SREB’s Making Schools Work school improvement frameworks. Meridian was recognized for the school’s Career Planning Center efforts to establish systems and processes to support a culture of continuous improvement in the school’s efforts to provide guidance and advisement to district residents whether or not they attend Tech.
“Students can enroll in one of Meridian’s 20-plus career training programs as sophomores, but we want to be a resource for students and parents long before it’s time to apply to Tech,” explained Jeanie Zagar, Executive Director of Career Planning and Career Development.
A Comprehensive Approach to Career Exploration
The Career Planning Center coordinates college and career counseling with prospective students in surrounding districts as early as eighth grade to plant the seed of career-mindedness early. Examples of these efforts include Discovery Day, a time for eight graders to learn about the types of career choices they have within the district, and customized publications that provide students and parents with resources on how students can plan their schedule to be able to attend Tech and prepare for college. The school also holds a summer camp for eighth graders that allows them to participate in an on-campus experience and be exposed to various potential careers.
Career Development Specialists offer ninth graders an array of career assessments to determine their interests, aptitudes and talents, then works with them and their parents and guardians to create a career profile. Tenth graders participate in an in-depth campus tour that allows students to interact with current students, instructors and program-specific equipment and tools. Prospective students also receive individual one-on-one interviews with a career development specialist.
Once students are admitted to Tech, they dive into Elevate U — career readiness courses that help students better understand their responsibility in being prepared for the workforce, finding a career and sustaining that career.
Zagar acknowledged that these efforts have paid off regarding student recruitment, program placement and retention.
“The career exploration Meridian provides to students throughout the district is designed to help them better understand their likes and interests. Once they recognize those elements, we can work with them to connect their passion with a career,” Zagar stated. “As an organization, we’re intentional about helping students find the right program or another educational pathway that matches their career goals. We’ve seen firsthand what happens when students are in the right program for the right reasons; they are more engaged in their coursework and more focused on mastering the skills they need to enter the workforce. That’s what’s best for the student and their future employer.”
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