Muncy counselors working to prepare students for the real world

PHOTO PROVIDED Muncy students participating at this year’s Financial Literacy Fair to give them a perspective on real life spending.

The counseling department at Muncy School District has been reshaping its curriculum to better prepare students for the rest of their lives beginning as early as kindergarten.

Career readiness has always been a focus for the district’s counselors, said Erik Berthold, tenth through twelfth grade counselor. Jeanne Rogan covers grades seventh through ninth and Jean Daniels, kindergarten through sixth grade.

“When I first got here, we had a career program in place,” Berthold said. “I was co-teaching a class and would put career planning into that specific course.” But with a series of state legislative moves over time, career readiness became more of a conscious focus.

In 2005, the state’s Title 22 mandated a graduation project as a requirement for students to graduate.

“Our administration and counseling staff (like many others) decided to make that project an individualized career plan encompassing grades seventh through twelfth,” Berthold said. Sometime since, the project was no longer required, but Muncy kept it in place.

In 2015, the state added a requirement that schools come up with a comprehensive guidance program with career readiness being the central tenant.

“We had a lot of say in how we wanted to go about it,” Rogan said. “A committee got together and we wrote the whole thing.”

The 25 page document is an in-depth look at what the school is trying to achieve, how it plans to do it monthly and by each grade and general and specific resources for career development.

On the heels of the chapter adding that plan, the state recently added a program they call the Career Readiness Indicator for the Future Ready PA Index. Diluted, the index ensures that all students in the state are on track for meaningful post-secondary engagements, according to the state Department of Education. It also is a move to remain competitive in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The index is more legislation specifically on career development, but it requires school counselors to meet benchmarks organized by “bands” of grades. Kindergarten through third, fourth through fifth, sixth through eighth and ninth through 12th grades are the groupings in those bands. One of the major shifts to this new requirement is that the work begins as early as kindergarten.

Many of the activities simply include exploring interests and having a student list what they like and dislike.

By the end of a student’s time at the district, it’s the hope that they will have resumes to show and have experience with job shadowing, interviews, career speeches and powerpoint presentations.

Another continuation of the work Muncy already has been doing is the annual Financial Literacy Fair.

Every year, sophomores and juniors pick a career and go through the hypothetical, but realistic financial spending of the career they pick.

The counseling team has worked extensively with teachers at all levels to weave the meeting of these mandatory benchmarks into classes already offered, Rogan said. “That was the largest project was figuring out a way to do that beginning in kindergarten and going all the way to 12th grade,” she said.

Another new major aspect of the state mandate is the digital tracking of meeting each benchmark.

Each student will begin working on individualized career plans in kindergarten.

Each year, a student will have some career minded work placed in that plan. The plan is physically housed in a folder and links with the state system. “It’ll be a living, breathing and moving document,” Berthold said.

Although the work begins in kindergarten, the benchmarks are reasonable and require room to discover their passions over the course of years.

“It’s really neat,” Rogan said. “We have their initial career interests inventoried and their initial work and we can track how they change over time.”

The documents saved that early on also serve to better personalize each students’ counseling needs.

“My hope is that by the time they come to me when they’re seniors, they have those resumes and cover letters on the server,” Berthold said. “The more information I have on them and the more comprehensive the history on what they have done and how they’ve developed, the better we can help them begin the next step of their lives … We think the self-discovery and exploration through this is going to be a very valuable process.”