Easing the transition

High school seniors participate in a college and career conference.
Apr. 18, 2014 @ 05:08 AM

Over 300 high school seniors received information on finance, success, self advocacy and job skills during the College and Career 101 Conference at Isothermal Community College (ICC) on Thursday.

The event was sponsored by ICC, the Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation and Rutherford County Schools (RCS). Partial funding was provided by a grant through the North Carolina Appalachian Collaborative for Higher Education and the Appalachian Regional Consortium.

"We've been planning the event since January but we have been thinking about it for over a year," Monica Lee, executive director of the McNair Foundation, said. "Specific colleges will hold orientations but hopefully this will give the students knowledge about what to ask during those."

The day was open to all seniors in the RCS district and about 350 registered. In the registration the students expressed what they plan to pursue in the future and were broken up into groups accordingly. Students could choose the career track, the two-year college track or the four-year college track. Each track had mini-sessions throughout the day providing the students with information they need to succeed in their chosen path.

"Our main goal is to ease that transition and give them practical information that will ease them into whatever they want to do," Lee said. "This is our Jump Start program for college."

The career track included several speaker like Judy Toney, former director of human services for Rutherford County, who provided tips and skills needed to apply to and interview for a job as well as the behaviors needed to retain employment. There was also a business panel with Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce Director Clark Poole as the moderator.

"We have representatives from businesses in Rutherford County," Lee said. "The business leaders are telling students what they are looking for in employees."

For the career and two-year college track Dr. Johnny Smith, dean of learning support and retention at ICC, also talked with the seniors about training programs available at the college.

"Hopefully this will help a lot of students. If they can pick up on three or four nuggets of truth that stick with them, it will have been successful," Mike Gavin, director of marketing and community relations at ICC, said. "This has shortened the learning curve for students as they head off to college and will increase the chance of success for some of those students."

On the college tracks students heard Skip Watts, regional representative from the College Foundation of North Carolina and Jeff Boyle, director of financial aid at ICC, speak about money management, finding and managing financial aid and resources available to students. They also heard Shauna Sage, director of campus recreation and wellness at Western Carolina University speak on avoiding the lifestyle pitfalls that are common for college students. There was also a college student panel made up of 10 college students from around the area who offered tips and advice to help students adjust and be successful during their first year of college.

"We realized we had students who were experiencing difficulties is college and didn't know how to handle them. They were prepared academically but they weren't prepared to navigate financial aids and admissions. We have been talking about how we can ease that transition," RCS Superintendent Dr. Janet Mason said. "We want to see them be successful. This is a natural next step of growth for us as a school system and with our partners to help the students. It's a small step but I don't want to limit what we can do for the students."