Salina South High School junior Paul Hawksworth has known since about eighth grade that he wants to study math and economics.
He’s always been interested in analyzing numbers and graphs, and interpreting what they mean in a way others can understand.
As part of this growing interest, he was elected to take courses that fit his interests through the USD 305 Individual Plan of Study, often referred to as “IPS” in the district.
“It’s been able to help me figure out… what classes fit best for what I want to do for a career,” Hawksworth said.
But even students who aren’t sure about their interests or not already dedicated to a career can discover what might be a good fit for them through a program in its second year of use at Salina Public Schools.
Discovering career opportunities through interests
Xello, a software that provides career development opportunities, has been at the forefront of helping SPS students discover their unique paths toward academic success. The program offers a plethora of services which aim to help students realize their passions and abilities, in hopes of positioning them for success upon high school graduation.
The software helps students plan their course schedules, communicate with their counselors, and compare colleges, trades and various career options. It also provides quizzes on personality styles and career interests.
“Those can be really helpful when they don’t know what electives to take or if they’re looking for a certain kind of class,” said Megan Bulleigh, junior counselor at Salina Central High School.
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Based on their unique personalities, skills and interests, Xello makes recommendations to students for career fields they might find fulfillment in.
Of course, what students are interested in as Freshmen might change come senior year, but the program takes that into account, too.
“Students document their journey as they build self-knowledge, explore post-secondary options, create plans, and continually reassess as they take in new knowledge, skills, and experiences,” the Xello website says.
A wholistic approach to career readiness
Director of Secondary Education at USD 305 Curtis Stevens said a lot of schools have been utilizing Xello for its ability to seamlessly help students throughout their K-12 journey.
As of this year, Xello is only offered for grades 6-12 at USD 305, but they plan to eventually provide it to elementary students, too.
Since the state of Kansas requires every student in a public school to have an individual plan of study, online programs such as Xello have grown in popularity.
One thing that makes Xello so popular is that parents and teachers can also access student profiles to see their progress and results of personality and career assessments.
Through the assessments, Stevens was able to see that his daughter was a creator, artist, helper and auditory learner. Her career assessment matched her with 10 careers that might be a good fit. A few of them were elementary school teachers, website designers, school principals, audiologists and physical therapists.
“When you look at that initially, you may say ‘well those are pretty broad areas,’ Stevens said. “But what are some things that you can stand back and see? It really matches these kinds of things – she wants to work with people and help others. Those are transferable skills.”
Mapping out an IPS for each student, Stevens said, opens the door for whatever opportunities they may be interested in, including internships, AP and dual credit courses – which typically provide students cost-effective savings to earn college credit while in high school.
And since careers look less like ladders and more like a web, general interests are good to pursue, Stevens said, because it still prepares students with skillsets and transferable knowledge.
More than just academics
Salina Central junior Adia Peck said Xello and the IPS can be about more than just academics. One tool she found important was the ability to encourage and track student volunteerism.
“I really like that I can keep track of my volunteer hours,” Peck said. “It makes me really look, like if I haven’t done a lot in a certain period of time, that I need to start reaching out to places and get myself out there more.”
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Peck, who is interested in pursuing a career in business marketing and management, said he enjoyed the class offerings provided at USD 305. When he took the career quiz, it was recognized his abilities in the career he was already interested in.
“I really like the confirmation that I was headed in the right direction,” Peck said.
Azbey Peckman, another junior at Salina Central, said she enjoys the course planner and how it allows students to plan out their future years of high school.
“I have a lot of great support here… I just can’t think of a lot more I’d want that I don’t have,” said Peckman, who is interested in English secondary education.
Both Peck and Peckman are looking into the University of Kansas to further their respective educations after high school.
This article originally appeared on Salina Journal: Salina students discover career interests through personalized studies