H-F’s Career Pathways program will help students explore careers

Homewood-Flossmoor High School is gearing up for Career Pathways, a new initiative that is aimed at helping students explore options for future employment and careers after college.

The Career Pathways program, led by Hope Stovall, director of the Career and Technical Education department, will focus on several of the categories selected by the Illinois Board of Education’s Illinois College and Career Pathways Endorsement system. It is being designed as a means of preparing high school graduates for postsecondary education and future careers.

Stovall told members of the District 233 planning committee on Sept. 14 that H-F will focus on several endorsement programs. The first endorsement, possibly in culinary, will be available to students by 2027, with two more endorsements added by 2029. 

There are 13 endorsement areas recommended by the U.S. Department of Education. Illinois has selected seven of those specialties: 

  • Finance and business services.
  • Health sciences and technology.
  • Agriculture, food and natural resources. 
  • Information technology. 
  • Manufacturing, engineering, technology and trades. 
  • Human and public services.
  • Arts and communications.

Stovall said to earn an endorsement on their diploma, H-F students will complete an individual plan, professional learning, career-focused instruction, and show academic readiness. 

Each student over their four years at H-F, regardless of whether their path is employment after graduation or college, will complete a career goals plan. This will include college planning linked to an early understanding of career goals, financial aid, résumé and personal statement. Freshmen will need to complete two exploration activities or one intensive experience. Also, during their four years at H-F, students will complete two team-based challenges with adult mentoring. 

In their junior year, students seeking the endorsement will need 60 hours of paid or volunteer work and six college-credit hours. Stovall said District 233 is working with Prairie State College and Lewis University to approve courses that will earn both H-F and college credit.

Stovall said the experiences will help students gain essential employability and technical competencies in their chosen field. H-F has a number of technical courses, including in automotive, welding and culinary.

Students also must show they have reading and math competencies.

Board member Michelle Hoereth asked how this new program will help students understand their path at H-F.  She wondered if this effort should begin in eighth grade, before the student arrives at H-F.

Jen Hester, director of curriculum, said freshmen will develop a relationship with their H-F counselor who will present options, and teachers will connect students with work-based learning experiences. 

The Class of 2027, now freshmen, weren’t informed of this new strategy, so H-F will work to bring them up to speed, Hester said.

Superintendent Scott Wakeley said even students geared toward college could use this program by shadowing doctors, lawyers and others in the professions. He said college students often change their majors. This program could help them better understand what’s expected in a chosen field.

The Career and Technical Education Department will need to develop advisory boards for specific areas of specialty. Board member Chris Riedel said he knows of several people in the community who would share their insights. 

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