Impact on Education pilots Career Readiness Academy

Monarch High sophomore Raul Ayala was considering a career as a car mechanic, but then decided he would rather own his own business.

Wanting to continue exploring his options and learn new skills, he signed up for a new, afterschool Career Readiness Academy.

“I want to be well prepared for what’s coming in life and what I can do in the future,” he said.

Impact on Education piloted the Career Readiness Academy starting in January, holding eight workshops with 20 high school juniors and seniors. The sessions were designed to teach students workforce readiness and leadership skills to help prepare them for success after graduation.

Sophomores and juniors were recruited through high school counselors and classes for first-generation college students. About 50 students applied for the program, while 20 students were chosen to participate.

Impact on Education Executive Director Allison Billings said the foundation plans to offer the academy again next school year and is looking at expanding it to include more students.

Billings said the workshops were designed to provide skills that students may not learn in school or from their families, even something as simple as how to shake hands and look someone in the eye while talking.

“We want to help kids get those soft skills they will need,” she said.

Students started the academy with exercises to help them discover their purpose, guiding them as they explore career options. Guest speakers then led lessons on a variety of topics, from personal finance to professional communication, including best practices for emails, phone calls and texting.

At the last session, Technical Education Center Assistant Principal Ming Scheid shared the district’s Grad Plus plans, while Steve Carr of Premier Credit Union talked about budgeting and saving.

She said the plans include work opportunities for work experience and internships, as well as opportunities to take college level classes to earn college credit or to earn skill-based certificates for the workforce.

“We want this to be available to anybody who wants to participate,” she said.

Carr talked about compounding interest, telling students that if they start saving early, they can earn more than if they wait until later. He urged them to “pay themselves first” by dedicating a percentage of each paycheck to savings.

“Small savings really add up,” he said.

Adriana Aguirre, left, and Osvaldo Garcia Barron listen to a lesson during Impact on Education’s high school Career Readiness Academy on Thursday at the Boulder Valley Education Center. (Amy Bounds / Staff Writer)

Several students said the most helpful session was a round robin of interviews with community volunteers who work in human resources at local companies.

Boulder High junior Osvaldo Garcia Barron said the mock interviews were “a little bit intimidating,” but also a good skill to practice. Plus, he said, they gave him an opportunity to network with those working at area businesses.

He added another favorite was hearing about the higher education experiences of people who also were first-generation college students.

“These are skills you do not get in school,” he said. “It’s allowing me to expand my education and employment skills and learn new things.”

Adriana Aguirre, another Boulder high junior, said she signed up to learn new skills, as well as to be better prepared for college.

“My parents haven’t gone to college, so it will be new to me,” she said. “I like school, so I want to further my education and go to college.”

Classmate Josue Hernandez Guerrero wanted a jump start on learning professional skills.

“As a junior, it’s really important for me to be involved in my future,” he said.

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