By: Gabrielle Eisenhower on April 29th, 2022
Career Services at a Cyber Charter School
Career preparation is more important than ever in our competitive, dynamic economy. In this blog post, Field Placement & Career Services Manager Gabrielle discusses the PA Virtual Career Services program, its goal, and how it prepares our students for bright futures!
For high schoolers, the future can seem daunting!
They hear about job market outlooks, college requirements, and more. Some may attend university, others join the workforce, and others may attend a vocational school or join the military.
Some cyber schools, such as PA Virtual, have developed career and college programming specifically aimed at providing students with resources to help them on their journey — including internships, job shadowing possibilities, and more! In a cyber charter school, we work diligently to prepare students for whatever their next steps might be, and to help instill the confidence to turn challenges into opportunities.
Today I’ll share more about the PA Virtual Pathways to Purpose program, and how it can prepare YOUR student for success.
A Touch of History
PA Virtual launched its career services program in the summer of 2021. The launch of this program was developed from the educational expertise of our leadership team, feedback from our students and families, and data — both from students and the workforce at large.
A recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute notes the drastic changes we are about to encounter in labor, stating that “the transitions will be very challenging — matching or even exceeding the scale of shifts out of agriculture and manufacturing we have seen in the past.” As the workforce continues to modernize at a rapid pace, so must our career preparation for students.
Additionally, a survey published by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation reports that “84% [of students] feel they are receiving the skills needed to succeed in college, yet only 60% felt like they have the skills required for the workforce.” Students and families alike are seeking the development of employability skills and early job training as a part of the high school experience.
Our high school uses the Naviance platform to help students on their career journey.
Career Services at PA Virtual
Pathways to Purpose takes a whole-school approach. This method utilizes the strengths of several departments and staff members, driven by the idea that career readiness is developed in many different settings. This includes vocational exploration through presentations and one-one-one support from our school counselors, connections to career planning in general education courses, and specialized support from our career services manager. Additionally, career courses, including Reaching Your Academic Potential, College and Career Goals, and a capstone graduation project, are now offered synchronously, allowing for more support from both teachers and classmates.
Sophomores learn essential academic skills in Reaching Your Academic Potential, while juniors identify aptitudes, skills, and explore careers in College and Career Goals. .Through these courses, students also gain practical experience in job and college applications, resumes and cover letters, and job interviews.
Additionally, all seniors complete a capstone graduation project, a longstanding tradition here at PA Virtual. Projects are student-driven and based on career and academic interests. Students learn the skills of planning and conducting research, developing and paper, and presenting it to a staff committee.
From grades six through 12, students explore colleges, careers, and more through the Naviance platform. Naviance offers skills and aptitude testing to match students with viable careers, as well as provides college and scholarship connections individualized for each student. School counselors support the work of Career Services and provide additional layers of support through individual and group sessions in addition to course advisory and scheduling.
The Career Services program builds on this foundation and takes students further on their career journey. It provides a highly individualized approach that considers student interest and strengths.
A Staff That Invests in Student Success
April Astorino - Career Educator
Ms. Astorino earned her M.Ed. in counselor education and K-12 school counselor certification from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, but also possesses a bachelor’s degree in communications media with a dance minor. She currently teaches the College and Career Goals course, which helps students explore career options for life after high school. They also receive practical experience in essential skills such as searching and applying for college, securing financial aid, writing a resume and cover letter, and interviewing for a job. “I am super excited to assist students in gaining career path clarity and progressing towards their next steps,” Ms. Astorino writes.
Maggie - Career Educator
A passion for education combined with healthcare and technology skillfulness shape the persona of Margaret “Maggie” Major. Maggie is a registered nurse with an educational specialist degree in educational technology. Her experiences include teaching in post-secondary and K-12 environments, educational administration, and hospital nursing. Currently, she teaches the Capstone Graduation Project course, which guides students in exploring postsecondary interests and completing the PA Virtual requirements for graduation. Maggie’s persona is reflected in her favorite quote “It is fun to do the impossible” (Walter E. Disney).
McKenna N - Career Educator
Mrs. Nagle earned her B.A in psychology with a minor in public health from Muhlenberg College. She then went on to pursue her M.S. in school counseling from Kutztown University. She has worked as a student assistance program liaison, school based clinician, and a high school counselor. She currently teaches the ninth grade career elective, Digital Citizenship, and the 10th grade career course, Reaching Your Academic Potential. Both courses support students with executive functioning skills, learning more about their skills and interests, and ultimately beginning to prepare students for life after high school. The career/college piece has always been Mrs. Nagle's favorite aspect of school counseling, and she is excited to transition her experience here to PA Virtual's career team!
Gabrielle Eisenhower - Field Placement and Career Services Manager
Ms. Eisenhower works as our Field Placement and Career Services Manager, connecting students with job training and experiences. She studied both math and English education at West Chester University and previously taught high school English courses here at PA Virtual. Additionally, she has a background in democratic education and takes a student-centered approach in any endeavor. Her favorite part of working in Career Services is getting to know each individual student and helping them to forge their unique path.
Connecting Students with Their Potential
PA Virtual has partnered with local and statewide organizations to provide students with job shadowing, internship, apprenticeship, and employment opportunities. Examples include earning industry certifications online, securing an internship in a field of interest, or finding a job in a specific geographical area. Students have the option to meet with our career services manager to discuss goals one on one and may earn independent study credits for their experiences.
Our independent study program was launched in the 2020-2021 school year, allowing students to pursue their passions while earning school credit. We currently have students utilizing this program to pursue everything from theater and dance, to electrical work, to college-level math.
Pathways to Purpose is also building partnerships with local businesses, trade schools, online resources, and more to offer students real-world career opportunities. Providing students time and school credit to be learning or building a portfolio while in high school helps give them a head start in the workforce.
Sisters Olivia and Kathryn, both members of the Class of 2022, perform in their theater and dance internship.
The PA Virtual Career Fair
In March of 2022, PA Virtual hosted its first annual Career Fair. This event is designed to expose students to a variety of careers by connecting them with business partners and community members. This event is intended to inspire students to explore new fields, provide a realistic picture of the workplace, and aid in the career planning process.
Business partners and community members from across the state were invited to speak with small groups of our 9-12 grade students. Speakers shared presentations regarding a day-in-the-life at work, their career milestones and obstacles, educational background required for the role, and more. Students then had the opportunity to ask questions and chat with classmates with similar interests.
We hosted community members working in government, healthcare, YouTube content creation, banking, archeology, and more. When asked for feedback regarding the event, students shared the following responses:
- What I enjoyed about this Career Fair so far is that it's so interesting to get a closer look into the fields.
- It was nice that students are still able to participate and learn from career fairs, especially as an online learning student.
- I enjoyed it! The Career Fair was extremely helpful in helping me consider potential careers that I wish to work towards. … I'm grateful that PA Virtual offers these opportunities to learn something new.
- I enjoyed the short but information packed sessions because they didn't take up a lot of time but they were informative.
The future looks bright for PA Virtual Pathways to Purpose! We continue to build and expand the program, offering more opportunities to students while pursuing partnerships with additional businesses and organizations.
A key component of the program is partnering with our alumni. We love to hear about our PA Virtual graduates’ successes! We are lucky to have had alumni sharing their expertise at our Career Fair, and we look forward to future alumni involvement.
Preparing high schoolers for the workforce, college, military, and more is more important than ever, as we face an increasingly dynamic (and sometimes volatile) job market. Vocational exploration and job searching shouldn’t be done alone! By providing the resources and support that students need to consider their future, we offer a wide array of options — and walk with them through their first few career steps out of high school.
Is your child considering cyber high school? Check out some good alternatives to traditional high school, and learn more!
NOTE: This blog was originally published in April 2022, and has been updated for accuracy of content.
About the Author: Gabrielle Eisenhower is the field placement and career services manager at PA Virtual.
Images courtesy of Magnet.me on Unsplash; PA Virtual; and student-submitted photos.