Last updated: July 31. 2014 10:22AM - 158 Views
Coriá Bowen Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky

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MOREHEAD – A group studying how education can lift the economy of Appalachian Kentucky has several ideas, including a “counseling for careers” approach that would begin for students no later than middle school and continue through high school.

The program would be modeled after the Kentucky College Coach program that places mentors in high schools for individual support and college coaching, according to discussions in the Education and Retraining Working Group of the Shaping Our Appalachian Region initiative.

During the group’s fifth meeting, last Thursday at Morehead State University, Stephen Lange, associate dean of MSU’s School of Public Affairs, said “one-on-one support” has been lacking at high schools in the area. Counselors “do a good job of general coaching and testing and things like that,” Lange said, “but when bringing in a student and looking at careers, it doesn’t happen.”

Thursday’s listening session focused on discussing core recommendations gathered from a survey created and launched by the group members.

The 40 people present were invited to rate their top five recommendations from a list of 18 recommendations – gathered from the survey that can be accessed on the SOAR website (www.soar-ky.org).

Nine posters hung around the meeting room with two recommendations on each one as people stuck five colored tabs underneath the recommendations in their personal order of importance.

“I’m anxious to step back and look at all the results from the surveys,” Jeff Whitehead, the chair of the group said in an interview, “I think we’ll see some common themes across the region.”

This method of rating recommendations has been used at each of the education and retraining listening sessions, and consistently one of the “most important” recommendations is the “counseling for careers” approach.

Other ideas brought up during Thursday’s meeting included: Funding should be made available for student internships for authentic workplace and job site experience; and more emphasis should be placed on math and science education, because skills from both disciplines are transferable in several different industries and both subjects are benchmarks of intellectual rigor.

“When they (students) graduate from high school, they should be ready to take college classes,” said Joe Odicta, an Army veteran and local soup-kitchen volunteer. “They should be ready to go in and take real math classes instead of remedial classes. That depends on the high school to get them ready for that.”

Each of SOAR’s 10 working groups will make a report to the SOAR Executive Committee, which will sport through the ideas and draft a plan for implementing them.

Each Education and Retraining Working Group listening session is conducted by several members of the group. For future meeting times, locations and other group announcements, visit: http://www.soar-ky.org/ or the SOAR Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ShapingOurAppalachianRegion.

The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is providing independent coverage of SOAR activities with funding from the Rural Policy Research Institute, which is providing SOAR staff support. For more information: Al.Cross@uky.edu.

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