A diploma—now what?

Bennie Foster Jr., Rashida Davis, Des Potier, Hal Wilkerson and Lakeside guidance counselor Adrian Israel hosted Summer Transition Centers at Lakeside High June 6, 13 and 20. Photo by R. Scott Belzer

DeKalb high schools offer transitional training throughout June

Each year, some high school students have unanswered questions about continuing their education or starting a career after graduation.

How can I pay for college? Where can I learn a trade? Are my grades good enough? What are my options?—these are just some of the questions that recent high school graduates may have.

Beginning June 6, professionals at 19 DeKalb County School District (DCSD) high schools will address such questions at Summer Transition Centers. The centers specialize in helping students who want to take the next step into the armed forces, college or entrepreneurship.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” said Bennie Foster Jr., a postsecondary transition specialist for DCSD in Region 2. “We have a need and this is [the county’s] pilot program.

It’s not just about getting students into a postsecondary situation, it’s about making sure they are successful in that option they choose, whether it’s Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, local college or out of state. We want them to be successful.”

According to Foster, DCSD is combating what many education professionals refer to as “summer melt,” in which 10 to 40 percent of college-intending students—particularly from low-income backgrounds—fail to enroll in college within six months after graduation.

Factors such as financial aid, being a first-generation college student, missed deadlines and language barriers often affect students’ ability to make a smooth transition into the next phase of their lives—even when they have every intention of making a transition, Foster said.

“It’s usually for small reasons,” said Foster. “Sometimes it’s students who feel like they missed out. We have tried to cover everything: placement tests, financial aid, documented and undocumented students—we have people on hand to answer any question. With the criteria that we’re putting out, hopefully students will come here knowing we have a solution and that we can provide a solution to them.”

Des Potier, director of Georgia State University’s Learning, Income, Family Transformation (LIFT) program, as well as Hal Wilkerson of the Georgia Student Finance Commission are available at Lakeside High School throughout the month of June.

 

Bennie Foster Jr., a postsecondary transition specialist for DCSD in Region 2 said students need help and guidance to successfully transition from high school to the world at large. Photo by R. Scott Belzer

Bennie Foster Jr., a postsecondary transition specialist for DCSD in Region 2 said students need help and guidance to successfully transition from high school to the world at large. Photo by R. Scott Belzer

Potier is on site to educate parents and students about Georgia State’s Decatur campus, which offers two-year programs to students and up to 60 college credit hours. He said Georgia State can offer such incentives as its Perimeter Academy program, which supports and monitors student progress for a full year.

“My goal is to let students know Georgia State’s perimeter campuses are a good option,” Potier said. “You can start out by getting your associate’s and go all the way to obtaining a Ph.D. We’re cost effective. This is a great gateway.”

Wilkerson said his main goal at the Summer Transition Center is to educate students and families about opportunities after high school, as well as how to plan, apply and pay for education opportunities.

“Hopefully, by the time students are done interacting with me, they have more knowledge on how to pay for their education,” Wilkerson said. “We can teach you how to apply for HOPE, how to fill out a FAFSA—we want to remove those barriers.”

Potier said a challenge that many students face deals with momentum. Students are often burnt out or so glad to be finished with high school that options after high school are rarely considered.

Army Staff Sgt. Rashida Davis also will be at Lakeside throughout June to tell students about options available in the Army. She said students are often curious about completing a tour in the Army for free college tuition, but that the Army also offers other opportunities.

“A lot of students like to travel, get out of the area and make a way for themselves,” Davis said. “We offer stability, 30-days paid vacation, full medical, dental and pay tuition assistance. We teach trade skills. We have over 150 career opportunities in the Army and we’re investing in them upfront.”

Davis recommends students consider the armed forces a first option rather than a last.

Upcoming Summer Transition Centers will be available at the following schools during the following dates:

Thursday, June 15: Cross Keys (noon to 4 p.m.), Tucker (noon to 4 p.m.), Stephenson (8 a.m. to noon), Arabia Mountain (2 to 6 p.m.), Southwest DeKalb (1 to 5 p.m.), Towers (8 a.m. to noon), Columbia (1 to 5 p.m.)

Tuesday, June 20: Cross Keys (8 a.m. to Noon), Lakeside (8 a.m. to noon), Stone Mountain (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), Martin Luther King Jr. (8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), Miller Grove (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), Redan (1 to 5 p.m.), Cedar Grove (8 a.m. to noon).

Wednesday, June 21: Cross Keys (Noon to 4 p.m.), Druid Hills (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), Stone Mountain (1 to 5 p.m.), Martin Luther King Jr. (8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), Southwest DeKalb (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), Redan (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), Columbia (8 a.m. to noon).

Thursday, June 22: Cross Keys (noon to 4 p.m.), Tucker (noon to 4 p.m.), Stone Mountain (8 a.m. to noon), Martin Luther King Jr. (2 to 6 p.m.), Miller Grove (1 to 5 p.m.), Redan (8 a.m. to noon), Cedar Grove (1. to 4 p.m.).

 

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