Guidance counselors have been working to create programs to prepare high-school Seniors for life in the post-secondary world. Many states have already created programs that move beyond academic assessments to programs that focus on personal fulfillment and life skills. Two leading voices behind the push for programs that address personal fulfillment and life skills are Janice Dreis and Larry Rehage. As guidance counselors, at New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, Illinois, Dreis and Rehage noticed that the majority of high school classes and programs did not prepare students for the real life challenges of the post-secondary world, challenges that bring high school Seniors a great deal of anxiety. “They’ll soon be transitioning into the real world, and there can be a huge amount of anxiety, but schools rarely address this. We wanted to create opportunities to engage seniors in this final year that should be a capstone year.”
Dries and Rehhage champion programs that can help ease the anxiety of Senior year and create a supportive school environment. The programs range from volunteer projects, to senior seminars and leadership programs. Rehage and Dreis travel around the U.S. encouraging the creation of similar life programs in the nation’s high schools. They do not force any specific program on schools; instead they encourage teachers and administrators to talk to students to see what programs they would find beneficial and helpful.
Three programs of specific interest are the Year Long Service Learning Project, Senior Instructional Leadership Core program (SILC), and campus based seminars. The Year Long Service project is a community based project that helps develops problem solving and communication skills. It also provides a way to give back to the school community. The Senior Instructional Leadership Core program places students in classrooms to help assist teachers with class instruction. The on campus lectures are a way to bring in speakers who give helpful presentations on preparing for college, stress, and time management.
Many students have reported that these programs have been helpful. Senior Brittany King of Chartiers Valley High School in the Chartiers Valley School District in Bridgeville, Pa., volunteered for her school leadership program. She was an assistant to a classroom for special needs students. Participation in this program helped clinch her career choice. She now is majoring in Special Education at West Virginia University. When reflecting on the program she stated “I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile, and it helped me figure out what I want to do”
Kudos to Dreis and Rehage for their commitment to raising awareness for these programs. In addition to increasing academic demand, the post-secondary world is full of non-academic challenges and it’s good to see counselors work to prepare students for both.