The Farmington High School Career Steering Committee met Sept. 20 to provide an update on the various programs the high school is implementing to set graduating students on the right path for their future careers.
Brian Reeves leads the committee and introduced Josh Johnson as the new rootEd advisor for the school.
“We’re excited to have this program because it’s going to allow for a lot more meaningful one-on-one conversations with students,” Reeves said. “Mr. Johnson comes from an administrative position in the Central School District.
Johnson explained that rootEd is a program designed to help expose rural students to their options after high school and to help them plan a smooth transition from high school to a career.
“I meet students one-on-one, all day, every day,” he said. “There are 307 seniors, so I started with the Aces and went down.
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“Every student – before the end of this year, before they graduate – will have a post-secondary education plan,” he said. “Part of that is also a financial plan. If they haven’t already, it starts with researching a career or college. Specify what you want to do and then if there’s some education to that, make sure that’s on there as well.
“The hope for this is that students will be involved in – if not college – at least some sort of post-secondary education. These jobs tend to pay a bit more. Not all students will need a four-year degree for what they are going to do, but many will need a two-year or even a one-year education, depending on the program they are entering.
Johnson said the student’s next step is to apply to a college or trade school and then apply for federal student aid and Pell grants.
“Then, whatever university they choose, by seeing if there are merit scholarships or academic awards, they can make it happen,” he said. “Then looking at independent scholarships like local scholarships here or national scholarships offered by philanthropic groups.”
Johnson can also help students secure student loans and work-study programs.
“We don’t want finances to prevent a student from getting an education and doing the job they want,” he said.
Making a decision on where to go to school based on the cost of various colleges is another part of Johnson’s advice.
“Some colleges cost a lot more than others,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of students who wanted to go to a four-year college right out of high school, and I talk to them a bit about what that school costs.
“For a year, $20,000 for tuition, another $10,000 for room and board, which they kind of forget. It doesn’t take long to think about going to another university. Maybe that they have to take advantage of the A+ program and get two years essentially free while eating mom and dad’s food.
“People may want to go to a great school but don’t have the academics to get into it. Let’s make a backup plan so that if you can’t get into the University of Washington, there are other schools that offer This program.”
Johnson tracks his meetings with the students because there is simply too much information shared in a 30-minute meeting for them to take in everything.
“I email them with links to FAFSA, ACT, and links to academic and professional research information,” he said.
Johnson noted that rootEd Alliance found that about one-third of high school students came from rural areas, with only about one-third of those students attending any type of post-secondary school.
“But 80% of jobs that pay middle-class wages or better require a post-secondary school,” he said. “Students from rural areas – Farmington is a bit different – don’t have the exposure to different industries that may exist in the big cities where these students can tour jobs.
“We have a student here who wants to be a chemical engineer. I talked to Jost Chemical in St. Louis to let this girl come over and observe the work for a day or two.”
Launched in 2018, rootEd started with eight schools. In Missouri, it’s a philanthropic partnership between rootEd Alliance and Ozark Technical College in Springfield. According to Johnson, only 8% of education funding goes to rural students.
“They had some success and scaled it up to about 56 schools over the next few years,” he said. “They found that rootEd schools increased post-secondary enrollment by 7% while the rest of the country decreased by 9%. These students stay at a 2% higher rate than the rest of the country. They’ve found that success and partnered with the Department of Education, and there’s a massive injection of funding.
“Now Farmington has one, North County, Fredericktown, Bismarck, Arcadia Valley – all of those schools have installed rootEd counselors. We have a sort of intermediate section of rootEd directors. Michelle Dane works at Mineral Area College. It helps to provide resources and opportunities. She meets with me once a month to make sure everything is going well. RootEd itself offers several $12,000 scholarships. I hope this is kind of the start, that for all rural schools, a rootEd counselor will be a known thing, just like a high school guidance counselor.
Mark Marberry is a reporter for Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629 or [email protected]