Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

October 23, 2012

Close the deal

Program encourages seniors to continue pursuing educations

LOUISA — Derik Robinette wishes he could meet his 18-year-old self to explain a few things about life after high school.

The 2007 Lawrence County High graduate has a good job as an electrician and pipefitter, thanks to his associate’s degree from Ashland Community and Technical College. But it took him more than four years to earn the two-year degree, in part because of his indecision about what to do.

Robinette can’t go back in time, but what he can do is offer some words of experience to a new batch of high school seniors who soon will have to decide where their own career paths lie.

He was among a couple of dozen local businesspeople, most of them Lawrence County graduates, who joined Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, commissioner of education Terry Holliday and college representatives at the high school for what Lawrence Superintendent Mike Armstrong called the first in what will be an annual initiative to keep seniors on track for continuing their educations.

Called Close the Deal, the event was patterned after a successful program Abramson launched in Jefferson County when he was mayor of Louisville. His idea was to make college, or at least some kind of post-secondary education, the goal of all seniors.

“We’ve got to get kids to aspire to higher education. That’s the name of the game,” Abramson said.

Lawrence County is one of three schools piloting the program, Holliday said. The others are Campbell County High in Alexandria and Bullitt Central in Shepherdsville.

Next year the program will expand to 30 schools statewide, he said.

Part of the job is unraveling the complex and often-confusing maze of career choice, college admissions, financial aid, and college life.

That is where the college and local business reps came in. All 136 seniors attended the program and sat in small groups where they were joined at 15-minute intervals with adults ready to offer guidance on navigating their way through college and into a career.

The student groups were arranged by interest and aptitude, principal Lonnie Cook said.

Following the table talk sessions there was a college fair, with several Kentucky and regional institutions offering information.

Close the Deal has shown measureable results in Jefferson County, Abramson said. Schools where percentages of students pursuing higher education had been stuck in the 30s showed jumps into the 60s, he said.

Bullitt County officials have told him they are so excited about the program they want to use it in all three of their high schools in 2013, he said.

The goal at Lawrence County, where 77 percent of the most recent graduating class went on to post-high-school education or training, is 100 percent, Cook said.

The stakes are high because the era of good jobs available with a high school diploma is over. Fully 90 percent of the fastest-growing jobs, and about 80 percent of all jobs, require training after high school, Holliday said. “High school is just the first part of your trip,” he told the seniors.

 “This is a great opportunity for students, because going to college is a scary prospect,” said Kayla Meade, an area massage therapist and Lawrence County graduate who led one of the table talks. “The table talks are more one on one so the students are more comfortable asking questions,” she said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.

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