Looking ahead: seventh-graders plan for future

Sheri Byrd, Story and photo
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***Seventh-graders at Kaiserslautern American Middle School are planning the first steps toward their adult careers. Working with KAMS counselor Paul Harbison, the students have just completed their 6-Year Plans, making tentative career goals, and making concrete plans toward those goals. The plan has the 120 seventh-grade students completing a worksheet of courses they intend to take through the rest of middle school, and even through high school.

Before the plans are completed, students are required to undertake weeks of research into careers, their own aptitudes and interests, as well as high school and college graduation requirements.

“It’s a three-step process,” said Mr. Harbison. “First they complete an interest inventory and personality profile that help them learn more about themselves. These can point them in the general direction of certain careers.”

Students also review their standardized test scores, indicating their academic aptitudes.

All of these factors are carefully balanced before finalizing the plans.

“I also encourage them to discuss plans with parents,” Mr. Harbison said. “However, I also remind them: This is your plan, not your mother’s plan.”

Finally, if students still require help completing the plan, Mr. Harbison meets with them one-on-one to answer their questions.

Graduation requirements are similar at most American high schools, so even students who transfer to U.S. schools can take their plans with them, and may have to alter them only slightly, Mr. Harbison said.

For many seventh-graders, high school and beyond is still unknown territory, he said, something they may not have thought seriously about. The 6-Year Plans are the first step to making the process of career education and training more comfortable and familiar.

“Plans can also change,” Mr. Harbison said. “Students may discover particular directions are not as interesting, or as suited to their aptitudes, as they had previously imagined.”

Eighth-grader Antoinette Dent said during her 6-Year Plan review session, “I just found out that the high school offers cosmetology, so I want to put that on my plan.”

The 6-Year Plans are incorporated with the Business Enterprise course required of most KAMS eighth-graders. As part of the course, students research colleges offering their desired degrees, download applications, and complete them as if they had already finished their 6-Year Plan.

“By the time they meet with counselors in April to register for high school, these kids are very familiar with the direction they want to take, and why,” Mr. Harbison said.

Often, Mr. Harbison finds that parents of his students are approaching their own career changes as they near military retirement. “These resources are something many kids have been able to pass on to their parents, looking at furthering their own educations.”

This is the second year the 6-Year Plan has been required for all Department of Defense Dependent Schools middle schools.