The students at Graham High School in St. Paris, OH, participate in our Career Gears program. As I shared in a previous post, Career Gears aims to create relevant experiences that help students identify career interests and build professional skills and relationships for the future.

Our focus has been on advancing students towards enrollment, enlistment, or employment while attempting to build an understanding of the choices they make. Each year, we hold a ceremony for the graduating class called Signing Day, where we invite the entire high school, families of the graduating class, and partners to celebrate each student’s commitment to enrollment, enlistment, or employment.   

Although our entire school community is excited about Signing Day, our staff noticed an unintended consequence: Students were having great anxiety about making the “right choice” for their future. Instead of being proud of their decision, students worried that they didn’t make the “right” choice, and that if they make the “wrong” one, their postsecondary lives would be ruined.

How do you empower students to feel comfortable and confident in the choices they make? How do we build a growth mindset and encourage students to attempt and fail forward?

One way we have tried to address this issue is by expanding the Career Gears model into earlier grades, with variations for students at every level that use experiences in community service, job shadowing, and internships.

This year alone we have placed high schoolers with our Chamber of Commerce, Board of Education, YMCA, United Way, and numerous other internal and external opportunities. We have eighth-grade students who performed Ted-style talks in front of their peers and fifth-grade students working through Google Certifications. We have increased learning opportunities by expanding the number of languages we offer, adding computer science programs, and incorporating a military program using Cadet Core to develop an ROTC program in the building.

Our hope is that these offerings will help students get comfortable with making choices at an earlier age and, hopefully, help them realize that there are many different options and pathways. Our goal is to provide students with opportunities and help them find their life mission. At the very least, we want to assist them in discovering what they don’t want to do.

How does your school help students understand that making choices is a life skill? 

Ryan Rismiller is the principal of Graham High School in St. Paris, OH. He was the 2017 Ohio Assistant Principal of the Year. Follow him on Twitter @ryanrismiller.









Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *