When Joan Holliday and I wrote our book, “The Story of Kennett”, we discovered how important it was to the community that the kids are prepared well for life. We found that everyone can make a difference in a child’s life, but some make a bigger difference than others do. We all want to send our kids off into the world, ready to launch into the 21st century, and there is a small team of people that contribute to that success, far above their numbers.
I went through Penn State’s College of Engineering on a Navy scholarship and on my Second Class Midshipman’s cruise in 1966 I went to Little Creek, Virginia for three weeks of Amphibious Warfare Training. This included UDT (Underwater Demolition Team) training, which had been part of my family tradition. At that time, UDT was morphing with the SEALs. We went from preparing the landing at Omaha Beach to liberate Europe from the Nazis to taking down Osama bin Laden to avenge 911 with these small teams of skilled warriors.
So who are the UDT/SEAL teams of the war today on creating successful careers with well-prepared students to launch into the 21st Century? I found that answered by a commencement exercise a number of years ago of a class of sixth graders from the “hood” of Philadelphia.
A man and his wife decided that they had to do more than a speech about the platitudes of hard work and opportunity. These were really lies to these kids in their demographics, as most of them would not finish high school and very few would go on to college.
What the couple said was basically; “You won the lottery. If you finish high school, we will pay for your college education.” That changed the life of these kids dramatically and I think we learned a lot about what it takes to win this war on making America great. Because it sounds simple but it is not.
What I learned first, was the saddest thing; by sixth grade it is already too late for many of these kids. Those kids, which were not kindergarten ready, and were only learning about 60-80 percent of what they should every year are coming out of sixth grade at a third or fourth grade reading and math level, three years behind their peers. To make that up during middle school is almost impossible and it just snow balls.
The second thing was children having children. By graduation, the class had 23 babies. That sabotages a couple of dozen young budding families and fifty lives are a terrible thing to waste. If you aren’t angry about what is going on about family planning resourcing in our country today you are not paying attention.
Politics is getting in the way of funding Planned Parenthood, which is not helping these children of children. The third thing is the answer to my question of who are the SEALs that make this dream come true. This class needed its own School Counselors just to get the kids through middle school and high school. There are so many roadblocks for the kids that they need to have someone help them chart their course.
The modern School Counselor is a renaissance professional that is the catalyst that makes the system work. Their work provide the students counseling in careers, academics, college and post high school education, social situations and mental health issues.
They are at the heart of supporting standardized tests, grief counseling, Individual Education Plans (IEPs), and all the problems that a dysfunctional home life brings to school. When our son Wesley was bored with math, they got him into the University of Delaware’s Calculus for Engineers class, which prepared him well for Chemical Engineering at Penn State.
Our family has an award that goes to the most creative and innovative graduating Senior each year and the counselors lead the team that picks the most qualified student for the award. This matchmaking is remarkably powerful in providing an extra boost at graduation.
Not all of the kids will get a BS/BA but all need to continue to build their knowledge and skills. My Honda Accord has more lines of software code than the Space Shuttle so don’t tell me that preparing these kids isn’t rocket science
In the last few years, a new mandate (unfunded) is in place in Pennsylvania schools that requires each student to achieve a career readiness standard. For Kennett, asking four counselors in their spare time, to help 1,350 students understand what they want to be when they grow up is a lot to ask.
This includes training in one-on-one and group situations with career days, how to write a resume, entrepreneurship, and how to get a job. At 16 a student needs to understand the process of becoming all they can be. If they know exactly what that is, it is probably someone else’s life they are trying to live.
So thank you for your service to all the Kennett Student Counselors past and present, elementary school, middle school and high school. Thank you for making it possible for our troops to get where they are going, to be the best they can be.