Posted on 04-19-2012
HOPE students confident and college ready
By Heather O’Mara and Ruth Márquez West
HOPE School Counselor Kristie Richardson enjoys the rewarding challenge of helping future first generation high school graduates apply for college. To accomplish this, Ms. Richardson travels to HOPE Learning Centers throughout the Denver Metro and outlying areas, teaching middle and high school students how to create an Individual Career and Academic Plan, better known as ICAP.
ICAP is a student roadmap to success. As its name implies, it is all about career, education and the individual. At Hope Online, students are guided by Ms. Richardson and classroom mentors in exploring their individual interests, aptitude, experiences and career options to prepare for their own distinct future achievements.
Among the growing number of HOPE college applicants is Alex, a student from Action Learning Academy in Aurora. He and his classmates are learning a lot about themselves through ICAP.
The sequential milestones that students meet as they complete their individual plans keep them on a path toward continued education following high school graduation.
After taking an interest and skills assessment at CollegeinColorado.org, the official organization and website affiliated with ICAP, Alex realized that his ability to organize, as well as his sense of responsibility and outgoing personality, could be useful in a career. As part of his ICAP exploration, Alex is writing a resume which requires stating a specific career objective, an item not quite so easy as he anticipated. Thoughtfully developing his resume will help Alex further assess if he has the background and passion to become a talent agent – one of his interests – or if his character strengths and aptitude are better suited for a different career path.
“They are just beginning to embrace thinking about college,” shares Action Learning Academy Manager Rose Bunton about her students. “I took our students to the Auraria Campus recently, and I could see that the doors of their minds were opening in new ways. Most of them had never been on a college campus. It is exciting to introduce them to these options.”
Areli and her friend, Jesenia, both HOPE high school students at Action Learning Academy, are other students whose interest in college is growing. They find it humorous that they were ushered toward similar careers after they took their online surveys. They encourage each other to accomplish future ICAP targets, including crafting their own resumes, applying for jobs to earn money for college and establishing personal budgets to fortify the personal discipline needed for long-term success.
“It is wonderful that our students’ thinking is shifting from ‘I can’t go to college’ to realizing that there are actually resources to help them get there,” notes Ms. Richardson, echoing Ms. Bunton’s point of view. “Having a plan with steps and goals makes all the difference.”
Unique, a student at Hope Online’s Hillcrest Academy in Denver, found numerous avenues for financial assistance that encouraged her college search. “Finding scholarships is the best part of ICAP,” she points out with her classmate, Lonesha, nodding in emphatic agreement.
“These exercises help students envision a next step,” comments Action Learning Academy mentor Jason Kinkelaar. “I see our students getting more locked into the larger picture instead of just seeing today.”
Ending the day’s ICAP session, Ms. Richardson inspires students with a story about overcoming obstacles similar to those they face. She, too, had few resources and little hope of ever going to college when she was in high school, and yet, she followed her dream, worked hard and not only earned her bachelor’s degree but, eventually, a dual master’s degree as well.
With a bright smile and reassurance to her students through her own account of success against the odds, Ms. Richardson spreads hope and fosters self confidence among HOPE students. She promises to do all she can to help Hope Online students not only develop a plan, but act on it, for a better future with education as a priority.
For further information on HOPE Online Learning Academy, call 303/989-3539, Info@HopeOnline.org, http://hopeco-op.org.