We talked with Lori Batts, Supervisor of Counseling for Wicomico County Public Schools on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, to find out how school counselors in her district use Naviance to support their students and engage them in conversations about college and career opportunities before they reach high school.

Q. Why is it important for students to visualize their future before they reach high school?

A.  It opens all the possibilities to them. When they don’t have that, students become very limited and don’t make the right course choices, which limits them even further. If I have the big picture in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, when I start selecting my high school courses I’m going to get the courses I need in order to optimize my opportunities.  If I don’t have the big picture and take the bare minimum course load when I’m in 11th grade and I think I want to be a biologist, but I didn’t take enough science or math, I’ve stopped the opportunities before they’ve even started.

The bigger picture really helps kids key in on the classes and the things that they’re going to need early, rather than when it’s too late. 

Q. Which students are most negatively affected when they are not exposed to a range of opportunities in elementary school?

A. The students who are at-risk; your students from poverty and your first-generation college students, because they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t have examples near them. A lot of times they don’t have a support network near them. When we talk to these students about potential and college, they look at you and go, “Nobody in my family goes to college. I’ve been told I can’t go to college.” 

Their parents don’t know about financial aid and opportunities out there. We allow parents access to Naviance and try to get them involved. Those doors open through Naviance, by building lessons, and support, and showing them the way. I speak at churches and community groups anytime I can to get in front of parents to tell them how important this is and that it’s there for them, too.

But it has to start early. Otherwise, you’ve turned the switch off before students or parents had a chance to turn it on.

Q. Why are soft skills (time management, study skills, etc.) so important for students to learn?

A. The employers in our area tell us that they see some people coming to work without the ability to talk to their co-workers, to make it somewhere on time, or to see a job through to completion.

The curriculum that we’re working with through Naviance really helps students understand the importance of this. It uses college freshman to talk to them about the mistakes that they’ve made and what they realized they need later on to be successful.

Q. When do Wicomico County Public Schools students begin to use Naviance?

A. We start using Naviance with our students in the 6th grade. They start lessons about their learning styles, their interests, and their talents. We use the curriculum with them as well. They get 15 lessons within the year. Lessons are embedded in our computer science classes and are co-taught by our guidance counselors.

Q. Why do you start in the 6th grade?

A. If we can get students to understand that there are jobs out there that speak to what they love and this is how much money you can make, and this where you can go to school, they start keying in really early. You guys have caught the elusive error of self-motivation. The earlier you can capture that interest, the earlier you can start moving them toward the possibilities of jobs and colleges, and what they need in order to get into those colleges, the more successful they will be. 

Learn more by listening to our webinar, Why Elementary College and Career Readiness Matters, here.

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