With many college students and young adults still struggling to find their professional roles in society, Cazenovia High School Counselors Bob Oldfield and Britt Zumpano are giving eighth-graders a jumpstart. Last week, the counselors began meeting with small groups of students to review their ACT EXPLORE exam results and introduce them to Bridges Career Explorer, an informational career website geared toward young students.
“Even if they don’t know what they want to do after high school, which is perfectly acceptable as they are only in eighth grade, it’s a good starting point to think about what classes and/or electives they will pick for next year, as we start the scheduling process,” said Oldfield. “Because we know standardized testing won’t be going away, we like that [the ACT EXPLORE exam] exposes students to it in a non-threatening way, and that they can use the results with their parents to get better.”
Earlier this school year, 117 eighth grade students completed the ACT EXPLORE exam, hoping to get a better idea of what career paths might be best for them to follow. The nationally-administered test consists of 72 questions in four multiple-choice sections of English, mathematics, reading and science.
After the results are mailed to the homes of students, the counselors, as well as the children and their parents, are able to use the scores to pinpoint areas that individual students may need help in. An “interest inventory” is assigned to each student, offering a suggestion of what profession they may be best suited for, out of 26 career areas.
Once the results were returned to the school, Oldfield and Zumpano began meeting with about 11 students at a time; returning their original test packets, explaining how to translate the scores and offering encouragement to those students whose test results did not reflect the professions they had in mind.
“Right now it’s more about just being interesting data for the children and parents to look at. It is a juxtaposition of their interests and values as well as the careers and majors they may be interested in, with where they stand academically,” Zumpano said. “We like every part of the test. Even if the results aren’t accurate in their eyes, it is a jumping-off point for them to explore what classes they might like to take and ultimately do after high school.”
Also helping the students to get a head-start on finding their preferred career is the Bridges Career Explorer website, which every student has access to through the high school’s section of the district website. Upon signing in, students are able to explore thousands of professions, using a personality quiz and search engine to learn about jobs ranging from an aboriginal elder to zookeeper.
They are given a synopsis of the job, a description of the education needed to attain the position, average pay rates and a transcription of an interview with an actual professional in the field. Students are given the opportunity to create a portfolio, and save information they come across while exploring the site. Using either the school-wide login or their personal portfolio, the 13-year-olds are able to access the website whenever they want, at home or while (they’re allowed to) at school.
When the students are sophomores in two years, they will take the ACT PLAN exam, which is essentially the same as the EXPLORE test. The PLAN exam effectively gives the counselors, teachers, students and parents another in-depth look at the child’s academic profile, their strengths and weaknesses.
For more information on the Bridges Career Explorer website, and other comprehensive career resources, visit the Cazenovia Central School District website, at caz.cnyric.org.
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.