2007 September - Career Fuel2007 September - Career Fuel

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Issue:  September 2007
In This Issue:

Back to School Success Strategies
Questions for Your Counselor
Skills that Last a Lifetime
Chief Cook in Training
Resource Corner

Back to School Success Strategies

The first week back to school can be a culture shock after the summer siesta: pages of homework assignments, stubborn locker combinations and that mystery meat in the cafeteria on Wednesday. And as soon as the chalk-filled haze clears, you're faced with the inevitable: you're going to be spending a lot of time here in the next nine months. Might as well make the best of it.
        How, you ask? Career Fuel turned to one woman with lots of perspective to answer that question. Julie Staats, a longtime teacher and writing specialist at Amsterdam Elementary School in Hillsborough, a part-time student in the reading specialist program at The College of New Jersey, and the mother of three recent high school and college grads (ages 20, 22 and 24), shares what she believes are students' five essential guidelines to surviving and thriving in high school and beyond.

  • It's BODY, mind, spirit. Take care of your health. Everybody's mother says this, but it really is important. Teenagers are notorious for staying up late. You need to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep-otherwise you'll be useless.
  • Knowledge is power. OK, so it's a cliché-but there's no better way of saying it. Try to enjoy learning even if you can't yet see its relevance to your life. It's so important to have knowledge and a positive attitude toward learning. Just think, once you're out of school you'll never again have this kind of access to five experts in their fields teaching you what they know. If you have a strong knowledge base, it makes your world and the world a better place.
  • Pride doesn't start with an "F". Do your best work. Show your teachers what you know. Often in the process you end up showing yourself what you are capable of. If you really work hard at an assignment, you can surprise yourself.
  • Chess, anyone? Don't sign up for activities just to put them on your college resume, sign up for them to learn what you love to do. Too many kids now are doing anything they can to look good on paper and get into college. They're lacking purpose. You have to find your passion and high school is a great place to start.
  • BFF. High school has so many distractions and social pressures. Be true to yourself and try to nurture genuine friendships. It's tempting to try to get in with the cool crowd in high school, but you often end up betraying who you really are. Nurture the friendships that let you be you. You can access this article online by visiting www.njnextstop.org and clicking on the Show All feature in the Lifeline column.

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Questions for Your Counselor

What does your school counselor do?
A. Maps out a plane's flight path.
B. Helps guys learn how to dance.
C. Gives you information about your future.
D. Teaches fifth period study hall.

The Answer: If you said "C"... well done! School counselors are one of the best resources you will have in high school as you plan for your future. From college preparation and admissions tests to school-to-work programs and career fairs, they've got the answers to your questions. You may luck out with a guidance counselor who is the most accessible person on the planet, but many are super busy juggling a thousand students, so it's up to YOU to take the initiative and TALK to your guidance counselor. Here are some questions to help get the conversations started.

School. Am I on track for graduation? Where do I rank in my classes? Can I see my transcript? Will I have enough math, science and language classes for college? Should I take advanced placement (AP) classes?

Military. What are my options if I'm interested in joining the military? Will recruitment officers be visiting the school to talk about the different branches?

Tech. What do I need to do if I want to attend a vo-tech school my junior or senior years? And how does this transition happen? If I have a particular interest, can suggest which tech school or program might be best suited for me?

Tests. What are the dates for the SAT and ACT this year? Is our school a testing center? Does our school offer prep classes or study materials? How many times can I take the SATs?

Work. Does our school offer job-shadowing programs or school-to-work programs with local employers? What employers in our area offer on-the-job training for high school graduates? Where do you post job or internship openings sent to the school from employers? How can I find out about apprenticeships that let me learn a trade while I earn money-and earn college credits?
        Before you leave his or her office, make sure you ask, "How best can I work with you as my counselor? Do I always need an appointment to see you or can we share information on the student/counselor portal found on www.njnextstop.org?"

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Skills that Last a Lifetime

Vocational/Technical training-think cooking, cosmetology, building trades and more-prepares you if you choose to go directly into the workforce, or if you continue on after high school to a two-year college, four-year college or some kind of apprenticeship, which is the chosen path of many vo-tech students. In fact Jason Helder, supervisor of student information services at Salem County Career Technical High School's Academy for Culinary Arts & Hospitality Program, says the benefits to current technical education are enormous. Here's why:

FOCUS: You begin focusing on life after high school while still in high school-vo-tech is a mixture of academics and practical skills-based training like cosmetology, retail, marketing and cooking. Decide you hate hairdryers and despise dicing and chopping? Well, aren't you happy you found out now, instead of wasting money on further education and time heading down the wrong career path? You may also have discovered the very best path for a career you will love!

ACCESS: Most vo-tech schools have agreements with colleges and universities that enable you to earn up to as many as nine college credits toward your degree before you even get to college.

EDGE: The practical experience you earn as a high school vo-tech student will put you in demand with employers, ahead of other 18-year-old grads who haven't learned a new skill. For those going on to further their education, you may have an advantage getting into the best post-secondary schools because your technical education provided you with two years of actual work in the field. This may be especially true in such areas as culinary, graphic/commercial arts, automotive technology, engineering, or architecture where you gained specific advanced knowledge that regular high school grads would not have received.

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Chief Cook in Training

During her freshman year of high school in Pennsauken, Deanna Carter was restless. She was a great student, but wanted something more than academics to fill her days. She had always loved cooking with her mom, so why not spice her skills up a notch? Deanna moved to Upper Pittsgrove to live with her father and begin her sophomore year as a full-time student at Salem County Career Technical High School's Academy for Culinary Arts & Hospitality program. As the year progressed, things for Deanna just got bigger and better. "In culinary, they teach us that it may look great, but it has to be practical. Basically, you have to be able to make a batch of 500 out of it," explains Deanna, now 16 and a junior. "We make soup a lot for the teacher lunchline. We make the soups in 5 to 10-gallon batches. When we say big batches, we mean it!"
        Deanna, who would like to combine her love for the kitchen with her strong math and management skills, plans to become a food and beverage manager-after she goes to college to continue her culinary training. Deanna has learned more than how to make her famous triple chocolate mousse cake, which, by the way, took third place in last year's Chocolate Competition. She has been empowered to succeed in any career through practical training:

  • Time Management: "It's so important, especially in the kitchen, to be able to juggle making a starch, a vegetable and a meat at the same time and get them out at the same time," explains Deanna. "We learn that managing your time properly is important in all you do."
  • A Half Cup, Doubled: "Our teachers put a big emphasis on working with money and breaking down recipes and make them bigger. We constantly use basic math like multiplication, division and percentages. They are such important foundations of any career you pursue."
  • Be Organized: "Lots of times we pile the dishes in the sink and are racing around to clean at the end of the day," says Deanna. "They teach us to clean as we go."
  • Never Doubt Yourself: "This is a biggie," says Deanna. "If you set a goal for yourself and believe you can reach it, then you will reach it. If you believe you can do it, then you will."

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Resource Corner

  • For more information on preparing for the SATs and other counselor-related questions, visit the College Board at www.collegeboard.com. www.njsca.org for professional resources and information.
  • Go to the New Jersey School Counselor Association at
  • Access the NJ Next Stop...Your Career counselor portal, where counselors can work virtually with students, at http://www.njnextstop.org/PortalLogin.asp
  • Learn how apprenticeship in a participating NJ building and construction trades union can lead to a college degree at www.njplace.com.
  • To learn about the Skills USA organization, a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to make sure America has a skilled workforce, and the various career and technical education programs it offers, visit www.skillsusa.org.
  • Contact Jason Helder, supervisor of student information services at Salem County Career Technical High School's Academy for Culinary Arts & Hospitality Program, at (856) 769-0101, ext. 374,or e-mail: jhelder@scvts.org.
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