Getting students college ready

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SCHS receives a grant from AmeriCorps

By Mallory Bilger

Spencer County students could be graduating from high school a bit more prepared thanks to a AmeriCorps grant received by the Kentucky Campus Compact organization that will benefit dozens of school districts in the state including Spencer County.

Board of Education members moved Monday night to create two college coach positions at Spencer County High School, made possible by the district’s partnership with the KCC’s college coaches program. The positions will largely be funded with grant funds secured by the KCC but require a $6,500 match. The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, which is hosting Spencer County’s program, has provided the $6,500 match for one of the coaches, making it possible for the district to afford another.

Although the program’s funding will be reassessed yearly, board members have hopes that local high school and even middle school students could benefit greatly from two people at the high school focusing solely on secondary education opportunities available to students. Those opportunities could be in the form of technical schools, two and four year colleges and universities or any type of secondary training.

“It will help target some kids who are first-generation college students,” said SCHS counselor Darylyn Gray, who with the help of principal Jocelyn Lyons and counselor Linda Goldey, will be in charge of overseeing the program. Gray continued, “Sometimes we’re handling so many different things that we don’t get to every kid the way we’d like to.”

According to the KCC’s website, schools which fell below the state’s 66 percent average college attendance rate or that were identified as being underserved in college readiness were chosen to participate.

College coaches are designed to focus intensely upon 50 students determined by Gray and Lyons as kids who might not otherwise have access to information on secondary education. But because the board voted to place two coaches in the district, more students will be able to be served. The coaches will also help plan school-wide financial aid workshops, parent nights and campus visits.

One of the school’s two college coaches will focus on the needs of seniors and preparing them for the immediate issue of life after high school. The other will work with underclassmen and might even formulate programs at the middle school level to encourage students to think early about what career paths they might be interested in and how they should pursue those paths.

Board members and Lyons agreed that too many SCHS students graduate wanting to pursue secondary education but aren’t aware of the opportunities available or the requirements needed to access those higher learning institutions. Gray said that she works with students as much as she can on college preparation, but that with her other responsibilities as a counselor, it is tough for her to address each student’s individual questions and needs. She said the college coaches will allow for students to meet one-on-one with the coach.

Lyons was excited about the program and how it could affect the students.

“I think kids really need to have somebody there to coach them through that so we can really make sure they are ready,” Lyons said.

Gayle Hilleke of KCC worked on obtaining the AmeriCorps grant on behalf of the state. She said more than 70 high schools and area technology centers across Kentucky will benefit from the grant.

Although it’s not certain that the funding will be available for the college coaches next September, the board members agreed any additional help the district could receive in this area was needed.