Windham High School will have a full-time college counselor for the next four years, and pay just a third of the cost.

Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, an Augusta-based nonprofit, has hired three college and career pathway specialists to help high school students create plans for landing the jobs of their choice.

Winslow and Brewer high schools also are participating in the four-year pilot program.

Each high school will split the cost of its counselor — $60,000 per year, including professional development, travel and benefits — with Jobs for Maine’s Graduates and the Melmac Education Foundation, also based in Augusta.

At most schools, giving college and career advice is one of many duties for overburdened guidance counselors, said Craig Larrabee, president and chief executive officer of Jobs for Maine’s Graduates.

The specialists will be dedicated to that one duty, and will be armed with the latest information about what jobs will be available when the students are ready to start their careers, Larrabee said.

He said the specialists will inform students about career opportunities based on their interests and show them what kind of high school classes, internships and post-secondary education they will need to get there.

Nicole Sturgis, the former adult basic education coordinator in Gorham, was hired as the specialist in Windham.

Rebecca Lambert and Sarah White, who were working for Jobs for Maine’s Graduates as classroom specialists, were hired to work in Winslow and Brewer, respectively.

After training with Jobs for Maine’s Graduates earlier this month, Sturgis moved into her office at Windham High School on Wednesday.

She said she expects to spend the next few weeks getting to know the school before starting to meet with students individually to create career plans.

“I feel like I hit the lottery. It’s my dream job,” Sturgis said.

Her overarching mission is “helping kids see that high school is not the end of their learning,” she said.

Windham High School Principal Chris Howell said he hopes the program will help students figure out earlier in their education what they want to do for work, so they don’t waste time and money on post-secondary schooling that won’t help them reach their goals.

Larrabee said many high school students don’t have a good idea of the range of jobs within a sector.

For example, a manufacturing job might conjure up an image of banging metal in hot warehouse, he said, but in reality, “you’re talking about aerospace, you’re talking about laboratories.”

Howell said the program will help Windham High form relationships with businesses, where students might be able to visit or work.

Sturgis will also arrange college tours, Howell said. The goal is for every high school junior to visit at least one school.

Overall, the information that students get — from forums on financial aid, mentoring from Sturgis, and firsthand experience with companies and on campuses — will help them develop a realistic picture of the pathway to the working world.

“So they know, when they pick a field, it’s going to be a good match,” Howell said.

Larrabee said part of the pilot includes tracking students after graduation and analyzing data, such as the number of students entering and completing post-secondary programs, to determine whether the additional planning makes a difference.

If it does, he said, the program could be replicated in other schools.

 

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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