Deciding which type of school to attend, whether a university or a community college, or whether to jump straight into the workforce – one path isn't better than the other. Rather, it's about finding the path that is best for each graduate, said Pamela Keese, career and college adviser at Lynnwood High School.
"It's like a shoe -- if it doesn't fit, it will start to hurt," Keese said.
Her approach involves getting to know her students and which fields they are interested in pursuing. This way, when a scholarship or event presents itself, she has students' faces and names in mind to nudge them to go after these opportunities.
Keese reassures students there are hundreds of scholarships, from annual gifts from the local Kiwanis club to quirky ones challenging applicants to create something out of duct tape.
After winter break, Keese will focus on students looking at community colleges and trade schools. "Four-year schools aren't for everyone and there's a place for everyone," she said.
Some of the students' challenges include language barriers and tight finances, obstacles she helps them overcome.
"Those are the students I want to get to before they slip through the cracks," she said.
With help from an EdCC staff person, Keese will offer help to those who want to attend a community college. Together, they'll walk students through the necessary steps.
"They don't think they can do it and it gives them hope," Keese said.
Keese has taken a head start with one student, Diego Lopez, 17. Together, they have applied for scholarships and decided that attending Edmonds Community College to study accounting is the comfortable choice for Lopez. He's already received the Washington College Bound Scholarship, which promises to pay for state tuition rates.
"My mom will cry when she sees me graduate (from high school)," Lopez said, smiling. "I'll be the first male in my family to graduate on time."
Keese also is working with teachers and other counselors to identify 45 students to introduce to the University of Washington Bothell's Dream Project. This outreach program is designed for capable and motivated students who might think college isn't a possibility because of the cost or because they're the first in their family to attend college.
Dream Project coordinators work with students during their junior and senior years and help them apply to universities and secure financial aid and scholarships.
"I want every student to know there's a place for them," Keese said.
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