“What’s next?” As a school counselor, I get the privilege to ask that question a lot. I get to have conversations frequently with students in the MS/HS about what’s next for them. Sometimes it has to do with what's next after a crisis, but most of the time it’s what’s next after high school. The vision for after high school can influence the classes, activities, and volunteer opportunities students want to participate in to enhance their resume for their next chapter in life.

 Here at Benton Community MS/HS we start in 7th grade talking about careers and “what’s next?” for our students. Every student in middle school will take a 30 day class on careers in both their 7th and 8th grade year. These classes are designed for the student to really explore the careers that they are interested in as well as providing a learning opportunity of what will come after high school. Yes, we talk about college options, but we also talk about on-the-job training, apprenticeship, trade school, and military. We want our students to know that there are a lot of options waiting for them after they graduate. In middle school, it is all about making the learning as general as possible so students really have an opportunity to explore the careers that sound the most interesting to them.

 In the middle of their 8th grade year, we start talking about high school classes. It is at that point that 8th graders are able to start signing up for classes that might help them learn more about the careers they are interested in. The goal is for them to experience some classes similar to their career so they can decide if they like it or not. I should note that we do not lock students into a career path, they always have an opportunity to change their schedule if they change their mind about their career goals. As our students advance through high school we meet with them yearly to talk about their career goals. We continue to give them different opportunities to explore a variety of careers. We also give them time to update their 4 Year Plan so that their class choices continue to reflect the path they would like to pursue.

 One thing that has really been evident over the years is how different students can be from each other. Some students have a plan about their career before they even start middle school, and they stick with it. Other students are still undecided as they cross the stage for graduation, and of course everything in between. There is no right or wrong way to get to your career destination. Here at Benton, we do our best to provide quality education, opportunities, and resources for all of our students. We hope that by providing them with the information, they have the resources they need to make that decision when the time is right.

 I look forward to the many more opportunities and conversations that lead me to the question, “what’s next?”