College and career advisors help guide students to their futures
There are thousands of colleges and thousands of different paths to a career. And in all of the county’s seven high schools, there’s a college and career advisor who helps guide students toward the options that best fit each one.
“We provide resources to help students with their college and career paths,” Janet Malherek, college and career advisor at St. Charles High School, said in a news release. “No matter what they plan to do, they need to prepare for their future.”
Each high school houses a college and career center and in it, an advisor who has information about what it takes to get into college, the military or to start a career. The centers have computers, literature and other resources which advisors use to keep students on track or bring them up to speed.
Students should get familiar with the college and career centers — or at least know that one is there — early in high school. Colleges look at a cumulative GPA from freshman, sophomore and junior years, Malherek said. By the time senior year rolls around, buckling down academically won’t guarantee a college will take notice. “They are looking for well-rounded individuals,” Malherek said. “Clubs, organizations, volunteering. Students should take advantage of all the opportunities offered to them.”
Ava Morton, Thomas Stone High School’s college and career advisor, came to the school in 2014 after a career spent as a corporate recruiter working in human resources. She’s been on both sides — recruiting and building a resume that will get someone noticed. She introduces herself to students, “Nice to meet you. What’s your plan for the future?” When she runs into seniors, there’s no time for pleasantries. “What’s your plan,” she asks. Morton and the student then get to work.
“I’m here to help them achieve that goal whether it’s college, a career or going into the military — I give them all the options they have after high school,” she said. Thomas Stone freshmen visit the center to get their feet wet and understand they are starting to lay a foundation for their future. By the time junior year rolls around, it’s time to put in the legwork, Morton said.
“Research now,” she advises eleventh graders. “You’ll be ahead in the fall of your senior year and you can hit the ground running.”
Kennedy Hundley, a Thomas Stone junior, is weighing her options. She is leaning toward studying communications and journalism at Hampton University where many of her relatives attended, but her stepfather — a Howard University alumnus — is making a case for his alma mater. Hundley is doing her research with the help of college center resources. “Without all of this, I would be floating,” she said, adding that Morton keeps her on a timeline and advises her what to look for when it comes to finding the perfect college for her needs and what scholarships will pay for it.
Advisors help students arrange for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test for those wanting to enter the military after graduation. For students looking to join the workforce, advisors have resources on vocational schools and apprenticeships. For others, there is tough love. “We have a lot of students living in the land of undecided,” Morton said. “At some point, you’ll have to make a decision.” She has stopped asking students what they want to do; she now asks, “What problem do you want to solve?” It helps focus students and starts the conversation that leads to a plan.
College and career centers are open to parents and hold information nights about financial aid and other important topics. Each high school’s college and career center has its own page on the school’s website under the Academics tab. Many publish monthly newsletters to keep parents and students up to date and arrange college fairs or guest speakers to better engage students.
For information about the Charles County Scholarship Fund, visit www. ccboe.com/community/students/collegeinfo.php.