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OP-ED: From the WOCCISD Superintendent: Helping prepare students for the next phase of life

Dr. Rickie R. Harris

College and career readiness is a multifaceted and integral part of a high school curriculum. An effective program consists of hands-on opportunities to help students explore different skills and tap into their interests. After high school, the student will gain confidence, skills, and knowledge to transition smoothly into their next phase of life. At West Orange-Stark High School, we provide many opportunities to help students along this path, and we offer it with no financial burdens. WOCCISD pays for all college credit and testing programs.

West Orange-Stark High School collaborates with Lamar State College-Orange to offer dual credit options free of charge. Students who enroll in dual credit courses can earn college credit before they leave high school. These courses prepare students to become critical thinkers and problem-solvers, giving them essential skills to succeed in a college program. Advanced Placement courses give students the chance to tackle college-level work while in high school classes earning college credit through AP Exams.

West Orange-Stark Early College High School program offers students an additional opportunity to earn up to 60 college hours or an Associate’s Degree at no cost. Upon entering 9th grade, students take ownership of their interests by selecting an endorsement area that aligns them with their career goals. Our Career and Technical Education Coordinator, Jenny Morgan, is responsible for developing and implementing our CTE curriculum and is crucial in developing innovative instructional programs. Students can earn an Industry-Based Certification in every pathway with the program like Certified Nursing Assistant and Construction Management.

West Orange-Stark High School collaborates with SchooLinks, a college and career readiness platform. This platform helps prepare students for life after high school. Students can explore schools through virtual tours, career plans, discover job opportunities, make course selections and scholarship matches. Additionally, this platform allows transcripts to be sent electronically to their applied college, study for the SAT/ACT, and directly message the counselors for guidance.

Lastly, several college readiness exams are available on our campus at no cost to the students. The TSIA (Texas Success Initiative Assessment) is designed to help students determine if they are college-ready. Our students can take the assessment on our campus instead of scheduling an appointment with a college or university. We also offer the PSAT and SAT during the school day for our students. This provides comfort to our students to test in familiar surroundings and the convenience of not worrying about locating or getting to a testing site on the weekend. By consistently offering these college readiness exams, we are cultivating a college-going culture. Students that would not likely test have the opportunity to test and gain access to higher education. We also offer the ASVAB on campus for anyone interested in serving in the military. The ASVAB is not only a military entrance exam but also a thorough career exploration program.

At West Orange-Stark High School, we strive to offer our students the best education possible and provide every opportunity. Our goal is to have students take personal ownership of their education and goals. Students will leave high school with the confidence to achieve their post-secondary goals. It is a great time to be a Mustang!

Dr. Rickie R. Harris is the Superintendent at West Orange – Cove CISD