Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 22, 2013

Closing the deal in Lawrence

Students prepare for life after high school

Mike James
The Independent

LOUISA — A year ago, the lieutenant governor and assorted dignitaries were at Lawrence County High School to kick off its Close the Deal program to prepare seniors for post-secondary education.

This year, Abramson didn’t make the trip to Louisa, so only the important people were there  — 140 seniors who are poised to take the giant step into life after high school.

On Monday, the seniors met and talked with local businesspeople, some of them Lawrence County graduates, to discuss college plans and career paths.

They also met with college officials from Morehead State University, Ashland Community and Technical College, the University of Kentucky and Alice Lloyd College to learn more about admissions applications, financial aid and college life and expectations.

The goal is to encourage the seniors to maintain focus on their higher education goals through their final year in high school.

“The emphasis is on post-secondary education and setting goals early,” said guidance counselor Luanne Finley. “We don’t want them to have to scramble around in May.”

Although not there in person, Abramson spoke via a prerecorded video. The program was created when Abramson was mayor of Louisville and saw many students didn’t know what they would do after graduating.

That was the big question for Haley Diamond, who said, “We just want to find out what life is like after high school. We’ve been babied since day one.”

“I want to know about affordability, scholarships and grants,” said Lydia Fann. “Everyone is going through rough times and it’s my No. 1 concern.”

The importance of planning can’t be overestimated, Finley said. Financial aid applications, for instance, have January deadlines and need to be completed early.

The program also can be useful to students who anticipate being the first in their families to attend college because the process is complex. “There’s a lot of paperwork and I don’t know how to fill it out,” said Christy Adams. She gets some help from her parents, but the process is new to them, too.

 Lawrence County was among the first contingent of schools to adopt the program when Abramson took it statewide last year and it apparently has worked well, Superintendent Mike Armstrong said. About 96 percent of last year’s seniors were accepted into either college, trade school, the armed forces or another kind of post-secondary education.

Lawrence County has increased its college and career readiness rate — a top priority in Kentucky’s accountability system — and Armstrong anticipates further improvement.

The small-group discussions with area professionals was a key component, he said. The groups were more personal and less intimidating and made it easier to keep focused.

Heath Preston, a school board member who manages a heavy-equipment business, said he could provide insights into successful job interviewing. “I’ve had more than 1,000 employees and seen all aspects of kids entering the workplace, so I can tell them what employers look for,” Preston said.

Also participating in the program this year will be Greenup County High School, which will have its event today. Abramson is scheduled to attend, district spokeswoman Scarlet Shoemaker said.

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